The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and other people of color sparked a movement that has spanned the world. Millions of people demonstrated and stood in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. National awareness of systemic racism has spread.
And in its wake, the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance, or LFAA, was born.
The LFAA, a partnership between the Shriver Center’s Racial Justice Institute and the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, works to advance racial equity and reform a justice system geared against communities of color.
It all started with the signing of approximately 125 law firms in June 2020. Less than a year later, nearly 300 law firms – including more than a dozen in Michigan – have joined together as law firms. Alliance LFAA in a collaborative effort to combat systemic racism.
And thanks to the LFAA’s ongoing roundtables and summits, lawyers are equipped with new tools and resources to do their jobs.
The first summit, held at the end of July, brought together more than 500 participants. Racial justice experts spoke about the principles of anti-racism to help participants better understand the intersecting elements of systems that produce and perpetuate disadvantage for black and other communities of color, for the benefit of white individuals and communities. .
The second summit, held last October, brought together more than 600 participants and 70 experts facilitated sessions on substantive issues.
Earlier this year, the LFAA hosted a dozen regional legal services roundtables, including one for international organizations.
To do work
Criminal justice reform and law enforcement issues are among the main initiatives of the LFAA, but they are far from the organization’s sole focus. Rules, policies and practices that promote and perpetuate racial inequity are also in her sights.
The LFAA has created several working groups that focus on a single issue – from access to justice to education to housing and home ownership – to effectively allocate time and resources.
Cheryl Bush, a founding member of BSP Law, said her firm joined the LFAA last year.
“We have attended webinars hosted by the group and are working to expand our involvement with the organization through their working groups,” she said. “LFAA recently published a membership newsletter with pro bono opportunities for lawyers.”
Perhaps the most popular is the Voting Rights Working Group.
Wendy Richards, volunteer director of Miller Canfield, is the group’s co-chair and led the voting rights debate at the second meeting of the LFAA, which Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson attended with Myrna Perez, director of the Brennan Center and Alora. Thomas, Senior Counsel for the ACLU Voting Rights Project.
Michelle Crockett, director of diversity and deputy chief executive of Miller Canfield, said the group was one of the largest, if not the largest, with more than 130 members from more than 60 companies.
“As Co-Chair, Wendy regularly consults with national and local experts and stakeholders whose work focuses on the intersection of voting rights and racial justice. These discussions help shape the long-term goals of the working group, identify and formulate research tasks and projects, and consult with sub-committees of the working group on ongoing issues, ”said Crockett. “As a result of these discussions, the group is currently planning a large-scale research project to help document incidents of racial discrimination in voting.”
Khalilah Spencer, Inclusion, Equity and Social Responsibility Partner at Honigman, said the firm also chose to focus on voting rights last year and that its lawyers were among the volunteer polling officers at the TCF Center.
“Several attorneys are working on voter protection efforts, and we have had many volunteers helping staff the Michigan Voter Protection hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE from September to election day,” she said. “Volunteer attorneys provided Michigan-specific information to voters who had questions regarding election law and voting. “
About the LFAA
The goal of the LFAA is racial equity. The goal is noble and takes work. The main method to achieve this is to facilitate pro bono work. And law firms, when working together, are key to bringing systemic change and racial fairness to the law.
According to the LLFA, the events of the past year have underscored the need for action, and the responsibility of law firms must do more in collaboration with legal service organizations to identify and dismantle structural and systemic racism in the law.
If your firm wishes to become a firm of the LFAA Alliance, please click here.
Michigan Alliance Companies
Through the collaborative effort of more than 280 law firms, alliance firms have access to the LFAA Bulletin Board, a virtual community allowing them to identify and volunteer for pro bono opportunities that target the racial injustice in the law. Michigan alliance companies include:
Bowman and Brooke
Dinsmore & Shohl
Foley & Lardner
Frosty Brown Todd
A full list of companies can be found here.
SRLI working groups
the Legal inventory of systemic racism – or SRLI – is an evolving repository of research on the laws, rules, regulations and policies that the LFAA develops with the aim of providing resources to dismantle institutional racism.
Guided by legal colleagues and other experts, SRLI working groups develop and expand the group’s collective expertise on how best to help dismantle systemic racism in law. SRLI working groups also work with experts to develop meetings and other programs to educate Alliance firms on priority areas. In partnership with the LFAA Projects Committee, the working groups also contribute to the pro bono opportunities that the LFAA facilitates for Alliance firms.
Each of the working groups – made up of volunteers from Alliance law firm – focuses on the intersection of racial equity and a substantive area of law.
Access to justice
Prevention and response to armed violence
Housing and property
Right to vote