Veronica Root, an associate professor of law at Notre Dame Law School, has been selected to participate in the New Voices in Civil Justice Scholarship Workshop on May 10 at Vanderbilt Law School.
The annual workshop, presented by Vanderbilt’s Branstetter Litigation & Dispute Resolution Program, brings junior scholars and senior scholars together with Vanderbilt faculty in the areas of civil justice.
Root, who joined the Notre Dame Law School faculty in 2014, will be one of four junior scholars who present at the New Voices Workshop.
She will talk about the American Bar Association’s Model Rule 8.4(g) – which the ABA approved in 2016 to assert that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to “engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law.”
Model Rule 8.4(g) classifies such overt discrimination as professional misconduct, but Root said overt discrimination is no longer the main factor that holds back diversity in the legal profession.
“The real problem is covert discrimination,” she said.
Covert discrimination refers to things such as implicit bias – the underlying, unconscious negative feelings and beliefs about particular groups of people. Covert discrimination can also take the form of any policy or procedure that leads to inequities, even if the policy or procedure on its face is not discriminatory.
Therefore, Root said, it will be important for the legal community to engage in strategies that address covert discrimination and not just overt discrimination.
“Lawyers are unique in that they are a self-regulated profession,” she said. “The ABA has a lot of initiatives to create a more tolerant and inclusive membership. This is just one piece of that overarching strategy.”