Update on State Bar Activities Regarding Diversity and Inclusion Issues

By Abby Hammond

On Friday, Oct. 23, the N.C. State Bar Council met and unanimously approved for publication and comment a proposed rule change that would create a CLE requirement regarding bias, inclusion and diversity. The proposed rule change will be included in the Winter 2021 edition of The State Bar Journal.

NCAJ continues to monitor the State Bar’s activity regarding diversity and inclusion matters via an internal working group led by NCAJ Diversity Officer Stewart Poisson and NCAJ Legal Affairs Vice President Sonya Pfeiffer.

The proposed CLE requirement is among several changes the North Carolina State Bar discussed in recent months, including:

1) the proposed amendment to the Preamble identifying the avoidance of discriminatory conduct as a fundamental value of the legal profession, which was currently published for comment;

2) the creation of a subcommittee to study potential inclusion of anti-discriminatory language in the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct; and

3) the creation of a subcommittee to study the potential inclusion of a new comment to Rule 1.1 (Competency) stating that a lawyer’s competency includes awareness of implicit bias and cultural differences that can impact a client and the associated representation.

The proposed amendment to the Preamble was previously published by the State Bar and received significant comments. That proposed preamble change and the comments have been referred to a subcommittee appointed to study the proposed adoption of anti-discrimination language in the Rules of Professional Conduct.

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