MCLE Opinion 21

Diversity and Elimination of Bias

The MCLE Board recognizes the importance of promoting awareness of the need for diversity and the elimination of bias in the practice of law to ensure that the legal system is equally responsive to the legal needs of all people. The MCLE Board further recognizes that Principles of Professionalism, endorsed by the Virginia Supreme Court, instruct that a lawyer should strive to “avoid all bigotry, discrimination, or prejudice.“    

While the MCLE Board has in the past granted credit on the topics of elimination of bias and the need for diversity programs, the MCLE Board hereby emphasizes that promoting the elimination of bias includes educating lawyers on how to recognize and address implicit bias in the practice of law. An understanding of implicit bias will help ensure that the legal system becomes more equally responsive to the needs of all people. The MCLE Board further recognizes that a qualified professionalism course or component may include topics of elimination of bias and need for diversity pursuant to MCLE Regulation 101(t), provided that it otherwise meets the standards of approval reflected in Regulation 103.

Courses pertaining to diversity or bias may be approvable provided the presentation and written instructional materials are specifically directed to attorneys and the topics are discussed in the context of the following:  practice of law; the legal profession; the effects on the quality of or access to legal services provided to the public; or the administration of justice.

A presentation on diversity or bias, that otherwise meets the other requirements for CLE accreditation, may receive ethics credit only to the extent that the presentation and written instructional materials focus on the ethical considerations addressed in the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Topics that are primarily focused on the practice of law include, but are not limited to the following:  

  • Employment and recruiting decisions in the legal community
  • Bias and diversity as it relates to litigation (jury selection, legal ethics, and professionalism)

The following topics are generally not considered to be primarily focused on the practice of law:

  • Promotion of diversity and inclusion in general
  • Promotion of diversity for the purposes of marketing, or profitability or strategic business planning, Internal firm policies relating to diversity, including hiring and retention.
  • Employee morale and motivation bias in general (implicit, conscious, unconscious, etc.)

 

Effective 10/11/2021

Updated: Oct 12, 2021