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Black History Month in a Historic Year: Four Top Bar Associations, Including DRI, Led by Black Presidents

  • Published February 01, 2022
    Modified March 22, 2022

CHICAGO (February 1, 2022) — As the United States marks Black History month this February, a historic moment is taking place within the legal industry. For the first time ever, four of the country's top bar associations are led by Black presidents. This includes Douglas K. Burrell, president of DRI, The Voice of the Defense Bar, along with Navan Ward of the American Association for Justice (AAJ); Reginald M. Turner, Jr. of the American Bar Association (ABA); and Carlos Moore of the National Bar Association.

"This is a unique and groundbreaking moment in the legal profession," Burrell said. "Looking back, there have only been a few African American presidents in the decades that the major bar associations have existed. The four of us aligning as leaders in the same year shows that we are not anomalies, and that diverse leadership has become part of the fabric of our organizations."

For his part, Burrell hopes that this is a sign of more widespread change in the legal industry.

"This is significant for the future of our profession: It's an encouraging reminder that pursuing leadership, even at the highest levels of our industry, is open to anyone, regardless of the color of their skin."

Burrell noted that bar associations such as DRI have an important role to play in serving as places where diverse lawyers can network, learn new skills, build relationships and develop books of business.

"As a young Black lawyer, nobody ever just handed me a million-dollar client," said Burrell. "I had to go out and get that for myself and find ways to connect. DRI was crucial to that process because I received the tools I needed that, if I was willing to put in the work, would lead to success."

Though this year is a milestone for diversity in the law, Burrell knows he and his fellow bar presidents cannot rest on that success.

"Our job, now that we are leaders, is to make sure this continues," said Burrell. "There is still work to be done in advancing the careers of minority lawyers, women lawyers, and others who have been overlooked in this profession. This year, however, is a watershed moment and hopefully signals more to come."