submitted by Aida Neimarlija, Esq.
UCLI Executive Director
It is truly a privilege and honor to lead and support the mission of the Utah Center for Legal Inclusion (UCLI) as its executive director. Thanks to the great passion and commitment of many amazing leaders from law firms, courts, law schools, governmental legal organizations, and the business community, Utah finally has a comprehensive, state-wide body that is dedicated to engaging our underrepresented populations in the legal profession.
As it stands, Utah’s legal community is quite homogeneous despite the relatively diverse Utah demographics. For example, the latest data from 2011 and 2016 show that, women constitute only 24% of the Utah bar. Also, while 22.8% of Utahns identified as ethnically and/or racially diverse, only 7% of Utah legal practitioners were minorities. The presence of other diverse demographics, especially in positions of leadership, is similarly scarce.
In my experience as a lawyer in this community, I know that our community wants to do better. Our colleagues across the ideological spectrum came together to form UCLI because they recognized that, not only does homogeneity diminish the public’s trust in the legal system, but our profession also suffers as we miss out on incredible talent, opportunities for a better work product, and the ability to fully respond to the needs of our community, employees and clients.
To effect change, we must be intentional and take action. UCLI is doing that, among other things, by:
(1) promoting legal education and providing mentoring and financial support to diverse groups across Utah, with the goal that, some day, many of them will join us as colleagues and as leaders in their own communities;
(2) working with legal employers as a resource to enhance their efforts to increase workplace diversity and inclusion and welcome and advance the diverse talent; and
(3) enhancing the administration of and access to justice for Utah’s underrepresented, underserved, and marginalized populations.
Our aspiration is that, together, we can build a beautiful mosaic wherein members of Utah’s diverse and underrepresented communities can be seen, heard, and valued in Utah’s legal system and institutions. I invite you to be intentional about creating and seizing opportunities where you can step up as a mentor, sponsor, and perhaps even be a champion for a diverse student or attorney. UCLI has many wonderful projects that allow each of us to make a difference.
On behalf of UCLI, thank you for your generosity of time, passion, and funding to help develop our programs and build the infrastructure necessary to bring about a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive Utah. I am a strong believer that, as with many other important efforts, Utah can be a trailblazer in effectively engaging diverse voices in our legal profession, thanks to you.
Aida Neimarlija, Esq.
UCLI Executive Director