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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion



This page is designed as a resource for Bar members to highlight DEI efforts within the Association and to share relevant information about diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

On June 11, 2020, following an increasing call to action from bar associations across the country to prioritize diversity and inclusion efforts, the RIBA Executive Committee approved the establishment of the RIBA Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. The charge of the Task Force was as follows: “The Rhode Island Bar Association affirms its commitment to raise awareness and understanding among our members and others of the vital role diversity plays. In furtherance of this commitment, the Task Force will identify ways to advance inclusion and diverse perspectives in the activities, services and educational programs of the Rhode Island Bar Association so that all members have the opportunity to fully participate and succeed in the profession. In addition, the Task Force will propose steps to advance Association leadership opportunities to attorneys of diverse backgrounds as well as promote interest in the practice of law to diverse populations.”

After launching the Task Force, it was decided that the best way to begin to analyze the state of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession was to survey our membership. The survey was sent to RIBA members in the fall of 2020 and focused on members’ perceptions of and experiences with discrimination and prejudice within the practice of law. While the survey was anonymous, respondents were encouraged to only respond to questions they were comfortable answering. The full survey data report was accessible only to Bar Association staff and the members of the Task Force. The Task Force agreed to share a condensed version of the data with the Association membership as well as the Rhode Island Supreme Court, devoid of anecdotes and any potentially identifying information from respondents to ensure anonymity. Those results can be found below. The Task Force presented a Report of Recommendations to the Bar's Executive Committee in August of 2021 which was used to develop the RIBA's DEI Agenda, which also can be accessed below. 

RIBA Task Force on Diversity & Inclusion Roster

RIBA DEI Committee Roster

Rhode Island Bar Association DEI Efforts

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Pledge

For those who may be interested, the Rhode Island Bar Association’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force created this Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (“DEI”) Pledge and invites lawyers, law firms, legal departments, legal services, and law-related organizations to join RIBA in its commitment to increase diversity in the legal profession. Those who participate in the Pledge will be acknowledged on the RIBA website for their good faith efforts. For more information and to access the pledge please click here.

RIBA DEI Related CLE Programs

Click here to visit our library of DEI related CLE programs.

Leadership Opportunities

To support the Bar Association’s recognition of the importance of integrating diverse perspectives in our activities and programs and having attorneys of diverse backgrounds and from underrepresented identity groups in positions of leadership within the Association, a voluntary Action Plan Checklist is available to RIBA members here and is distributed to all leaders on an annual basis.

House of Delegates

Involvement in the activities of our Bar Association is a richly rewarding experience. One way to become familiar with Bar Association activities is by serving as a member of the House of Delegates. For those interested in becoming a member of the Bar’s Executive Committee and an eventual Bar officer, House of Delegates’ membership is a necessary first step. To learn more about Rhode Island Bar Association governance, please click here. Letters of interest are due annually at end of February. For more information on how to submit your letter of interest please click here. 

RIBA Committees

Robust and involved Bar Committees are the backbone of our organization. Service on a Rhode Island Bar Association Committee is one of the most important functions members may fulfill. Diverse membership and active participation in committees enables us to fulfill the Bar’s mission to improve the administration of justice and to promote professionalism within the practice. Please click here to view the entire list of Bar committees and sign up for a committee today!

Public Service Programs 

The Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service can be a significant business generator for your practice for just a few dollars a month, whether you are a longstanding member of the Bar or recently admitted. Don’t hesitate any longer to find out how you can profit from an LRS membership while expanding the public’s access to legal representation. With thousands of referrals made in 2021, don’t miss out on increasing your client base (would add) and visibility in the community in 2022. Please contact Caitlin Poland, for further details or call 401-421-7799. We are also in need of Spanish-speaking and other diverse language-speaking volunteers for our pro bono programs as well as our Lawyer Referral Service.

Taking a pro bono case through the Bar's Volunteer Lawyer Program not only supports those within our community who are most in need, but it also supports DEI efforts. Taking pro bono cases, and encouraging your employees to take pro bono cases, supports your practice's commitment to inclusion and strengthens the bridge toward equality through access to justice for all. Please contact Volunteer Lawyer Program Coordinator John Ellis today at 401-421-7758 or to find out how you can help.

Greater diversity within the membership of all of our public service programs benefits members of the public whom we serve. If you have questions about any of our public service programs, please contact Public Services Director Susan A. Fontaine at 401-421-7799 or

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Trailblazer Award

An award to recognize the exceptional efforts of Bar members related to advancing the interests of members from diverse backgrounds and underrepresented groups is presented to an attorney or firm at the Annual Meeting in June (starting in 2023) on a biennial basis. Please click here to learn about our awards and criteria.


Rhode Island Bar Affinity Groups and Other Bar Associations

Click here to visit our affinity legal organizations and here for other local bar associations. 


Rhode Island Bar Journal Articles & Features

Focus on the Future Interviews

Focus on the Future is a spotlight series where members of the Rhode Island Bar Journal Editorial Board interview attorneys who are newer to the Rhode Island Bar.

RI Women Lawyers Interviews

This series was inspired by Roger Williams University School of Law’s annual Women in Robes event, and was created in alliance with their exciting new project The First Women, which recognizes and honors the first women of the Rhode Island bar.

DEI Related Articles

Learning From Millennials in the Legal Workspace
Nicole P. Dyszlewski, Esq. and Suzanne Harrington-Steppen, Esq.


Diversity Digest – DEI Newsletters

One of the first goals of the RIBA Task Force on Diversity & Inclusion is to better educate members of the Bar on the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession. To support their efforts, the Task Force circulates a quarterly newsletter to all Rhode Island Bar members via email. Below is a list of the recent newsletters that have been published.


DEI Resources

ABA Reports

How Unappealing: An Empirical Analysis of the Gender Gap among Appellate Attorneys
A report released by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession
Pulling Back the Curtain
A report released by the ABA Criminal Justice Section’s Women in Criminal Justice Task Force
This Talk Isn't Cheap: Women of Color and White Women Attorneys Find Common Ground
A new report and toolkit released by the ABA Commission on Women
First Phase Findings from a National Study of Lawyers With Disabilities and Lawyers Who Identify as LGBTQ+
A national study by the ABA, in collaboration with the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University.
You Can't Change What You Can't See: Interrupting Racial & Gender Bias in the Legal Profession
A report released in 2018 by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession in collaboration with the Minority Corporate Counsel Association.