Hispanic Bar Group Sees Need For More Progress
Finally, the group has strengthened its ties to diversity committees at some of the state's larger firms, including Day Pitney, in hopes of expanding hiring opportunities for its members. Diaz said the last goal is an important one.
"The number of Hispanic partners in Connecticut's large firms can probably be counted with the fingers on both hands," he said.
Speaking as a lawyer who pays attention to diversity issues and not on behalf of the CHBA, Diaz said Connecticut law firms as well as companies that hire lawyers "need to make a renewed commitment to increasing the diversity of their attorneys."
While he has heard of some corporations taking diversity statistics of law firms into account when hiring outside counsel, Diaz said it's not enough.
"I think there is a need to explore ways to hold employers of legal professionals accountable in improving diversity," he said.
Staying in State
Cruz, a solo practitioner with an immigration practice in Hartford, said progress may be slow but improvements have been seen. For example, she said, an increasing number of Hispanic attorneys who graduate from the state's three law schools—as well as those who attend Western New England School of Law in nearby Springfield, Mass.—are choosing to stay in Connecticut. And much of that trend, she said, can be linked to the efforts of the CHBA.
When she first became involved in the bar group, Cruz said most of the original 65 members worked for nonprofits or government agencies. "One of the goals was to increase hiring at the larger firms, and that's happened," she said.
Cruz said she is not sure why so many Hispanic lawyers continue to work in the typically lower paying government sector. Nationally, about 8 percent of Hispanic lawyers work for the federal government, compared to 4 percent of non-Hispanics. But Cruz said time will bring change, drawing more Hispanic lawyers into big firms and solo practices.
"Look, it's only been 20 years," she said. "It took 10 years to get the numbers up in the larger firms, and now we're seeing that progress. It just takes time and patience."