Diversity Rules

Diversity rules — let’s empower states to address discrimination and increase diversity in our profession.


Lawyers in the U.S. are not nearly representative of the population we serve. Discrimination and implicit bias significantly contribute to this lack of diversity and limit the effectiveness of our profession. Previous and current efforts to increase diversity among lawyers are not enough to address the problem.

In 2016, the American Bar Association added an anti-discrimination rule to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct that serve as a model for most state professional responsibility rules. The new anti-discrimination rule makes it misconduct for lawyers to discriminate in the course of practicing law. States are now able to more easily address discrimination and increase diversity by considering adoption of the model anti-discrimination rule.

Still, addressing diversity and evaluating the model rule can be a significant undertaking for a state. The below toolkit is designed to assist states in exploring an anti-discrimination rule by introducing the model rule, providing quick access to key information, summarizing arguments for and against the rule, and providing a checklist and sample letter/proposal to get the process started.


  • Serve as an introduction and overview to ABA Model Rule 8.4(g), to the need for antidiscrimination rules in our profession, to the lack of diversity in our profession, and to discussions surrounding potential adoption of Model Rule 8.4(g) in each state.
  • Encourage and facilitate each state examining and considering adoption of ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) to create a rule against discrimination in that state, or to expanding upon existing antidiscrimination rules in that state, using ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) as a reference.
  • Encourage each state to explore additional methods of eliminating bias, increasing diversity, and lowering barriers to advancement in the practice of law.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction to the Antidiscrimination Rule
  2. The Rule Itself and Comments to the Rule
  3. Information about Diversity in Our Profession
  4. Arguments For and Against the Rule
  5. Status of Antidiscrimination Rules in Each State
  6. Additional Ideas to Eliminate Bias and Increase Diversity Awareness
  7. Checklist of Steps to Get Started
  8. Sample Letter/Proposal to State Supreme Court/State Bar/Ethics Committee

Send us an email if you have questions about Diversity Rules or this toolkit.

Special thanks to board member Kate Ahern, founder of Women Lawyers News, for leading this project and to Roger Williams University School of Law for its support.