African American representation in the law industry has slightly declined since 2011. According to The American Bar Association, roughly 4.7 percent of Black attorneys make up all lawyers. The same glaring disparity can be seen across the industry at large, with African Americans only accounting for 10.6 percent of the entire legal profession, Bloomberg notes. Poor retention and a decline in representation among other sectors of the industry may be the driving force behind the unfortunate reality.
The disappointing data serves as a reminder that the world of law still has much work to do to help cultivate diversity and visibility in and outside of the courtroom, from legal associates and attorneys all the way up to the federal judiciary. Luckily there are change-makers working to break barriers in the competitive industry.
Meet Rana Coleman, the founder, and chief executive officer of RSColeman & Associates, LLC a new staffing company dedicated to helping African Americans and other minorities find employment in the legal field.
During a recent interview with Black News, Coleman, who has nearly 15 years of legal expertise, gushed about the company’s mission of representation and equal rights.
“My initial thought process when I first started this company was to open the door for African Americans with getting into legal positions whether it’s being an attorney, being a legal secretary, a paralegal, a legal assistant, or someone coming fresh out of law school or out of undergrad,” the Flint, Michigan native shared. “I want to open the door so that we’re more represented because unfortunately, in my experience from the different positions that I’ve held, I don’t see us there. It’s not like we don’t have the credentials, the knowledge, and the passion for the field, we do, but we’re not being represented.”
Coleman received her bachelor’s and a law degree from the University of Detroit Mercy. With determination and grit, she worked her way up in the world of the law taking on a number of different legal roles, but as she climbed up the ranks, the passionate attorney began to notice that there was a lack of diversity across all sectors of the industry.
“At one of the major law firms, I had the opportunity to work for I noticed that there were only three African Americans working there out of a staff of about 40 people myself included. Seeing that really pushed me to get my company off the ground, because I could no longer ignore the need to find a way to create more employment opportunities for African Americans in the legal sector.”
While the industry has seen a tremendous amount of growth over the years, Coleman said she hopes to make an impact, especially among Black women, who are currently underrepresented in the field.
“Right now, 3% of attorneys are black women many choosing to walk away from the field because of lack of opportunity,” she noted.
Hopefully, that will change now that RSColeman & Associates, LLC will be providing aspiring Black legal talent with the tools they need to thrive.
Additionally, the Chicago-based staffing company will also team up with law firms and corporations across the nation to help them hire more diverse candidates and to create internship and legal positions for minorities.
“Diversity and inclusion shouldn’t be a trendy set of words, it needs to be put into action,” the entrepreneur added.
President Biden pledges to diversify the judiciary body
Thankfully, over the last year, the federal judiciary has seen some historic changes made by the President Biden administration to help diversify federal courtrooms and more recently the supreme court bench. In April, judge Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first African American woman to receive a Supreme Court bench seat.
As previously reported, Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, pledged to diversify the judiciary process with candidates from different ethnic backgrounds. In addition to Jackson, several other Black women were elected to serve in the federal system. Back in August 2021, former patent attorney, Tiffany Cunningham, was selected to serve as a United States Circuit Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals representing the Federal Circuit. Candace Jackson-Akiwumi was sworn into the Seventh Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals in July 2021.
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