Compiled for the LCLD Board of Directors every Wednesday, this digest is designed to brief you on the latest headlines about LCLD Members and organizations, as well as thought-provoking articles on diversity in the legal profession, talent development, mentoring, and leadership. Past issues of the Digest are also archived on the LCLD web site.

If you have questions about the Digest, or articles you'd like to share, please email Caitlin Puffenberger at

This week, in news related to diversity and inclusion, female federal judges are increasing in number but are still far from representative—and the United Nations votes to allow gay and lesbian employees to keep marriage benefits. 

1. U.S. Justices Throw Out Ruling that Upheld Alabama Redistricting Plan

Huffington Post, 3/25/15

The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to throw out a lower court ruling that upheld an Alabama state legislature plan that packed black voters in certain districts in a way critics say diminished their clout at the polls. The justices called the lower court ruling “legally erroneous,” but avoided deciding whether the redistricting plan violated the guarantee of equal protection under the law.

2. Same-Sex Benefits Survive a Vote

The New York Times, 3/24/15

Last July, the United Nations approved an expansion that would allow gay and lesbian employees to receive the same marriage benefits as heterosexual couples, regardless of the stance of their home country. Russia attempted to annul the expansion and invalidate the benefits, but was voted down Tuesday. 

3. Bar Exam, Standard to Become a Lawyer, Comes Under Fire

The New York Times, 3/19/15

Law school deans across the country and legal establishments in states including Arizona, Iowa, and New Hampshire are questioning the wisdom of relying on a single written test as the gateway to legal practice for several reasons:

  • The test is based largely on rote memorization, and does not measure real “lawyering” skills.
  • Preparing for the exam drives up student debt, which in turn can deter young lawyers from practicing in lower-paying rural areas.
  • Law schools are forced to devote significant resources to preparing students for the exam that could otherwise be devoted to practical skills. 

4. Women in the Federal Judiciary: Still a Long Way to Go

National Women’s Law Center, 3/18/15

President Obama has appointed 129 female judges since taking office, more than any president to date, yet female representation remains close to one-third among judges on the Supreme Court, federal courts of appeal, and U.S. district courts. The numbers are even smaller for women of color, with only 80 as active federal judges and 11 on the U.S. courts of appeal. 

5. The Times of Inequality, They Are A-Changin’

Law Practice Today, 3/13/15

The current state of the legal profession for women and minorities is grim, yet several developments may yield changes in the near future:

  • The direction of legal spending is shifting, as general counsel focus more on quality and efficiency than a firm’s pedigree, often moving toward smaller firms.
  • As numbers of women- and minority-owned law firms continue to grow, many will become safe havens for talented, diverse lawyers who see a better chance of rising to equity partnership.
  • More and more research shows that diversity improves company performance, suggesting that more diverse firms will begin to outperform those larger firms that fail to diversify. 

6. Policy Change Gives Confidence to Transgender Soldiers

Talent Management, 3/12/15

The U.S. Army recently announced that discharge orders for transgender soldiers now require the approval of the Assistant Secretary of the Army, rather than local unit commanders. While the military still bans transgender personnel, this change makes it more difficult for soldiers to be discharged because of their gender identity. A similar policy change happened before the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”