The Consejo General de la Abogacía Española - Spanish Bar Council – is a body that evolves like Spanish society. The dialogue held for some time in all kinds of citizen fora on the development of an awareness of diversity and inclusion has also affected the legal profession. Talking about this issue is a fact, a reality which has been discussed and addressed for some time in the institution: the outcome of this initial dialogue is the actions led by the Fundación de la Abogacía Española - Foundation of the Spanish Bar.
The Foundation of Abogacía Española sets its main objectives on the defence of human rights and development cooperation, both in a broad sense. In order to achieve them, it develops projects both within and outside Spanish borders.
Regarding the topic at hand, the main action carried out on the various aspects of diversity and inclusion is the training of the Spanish lawyers, depicted in several ways: training sessions at local Bars, specific and targeted national training on diversity and inclusion for lawyers (the first edition is ending this March), and several guides and guidelines on topics such as gender equality or hate crime and discrimination.
In terms of diversity and inclusion training, the main achievement has been the co-operation in the organisation and coordination of the course on legal protection for people with disabilities with a view to the creation of a specialised legal aid dedicated to persons with disabilities, whereby interested lawyers will receive appropriate training. This course was created jointly with CERMI (Spanish Committee of Representatives of People with Disabilities) to guarantee equal access to justice for this vulnerable group. Over the course of one month, the course has trained Spanish lawyers to ensure full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in the legal system. Further editions of this course are expected in the coming months. Local Bars are mandated by the Spanish Minister for Justice or Regional department on Justice to provide legal aid (always full and free of charge for the citizen). More information about the Spanish legal aid system can be found here.
Another example of the Spanish Bar Council’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is the coordination of the awareness-raising courses of the Human Rights training sessions on “Legal assistance to persons with disabilities”, which combines a legal lecture with testimonies of persons with disabilities in collaboration with the ONCE Foundation, CERMI and Plena Inclusión. These training sessions, called “Aulas de Derechos Humanos”, have been organized since 2014, and are the result of a direct collaboration between the Abogacía Española Foundation, the 83 local Bars in Spain and different civil society organizations, with the main objective of promoting the knowledge of the legal profession on how to provide effective legal assistance to all vulnerable groups in society, with a human rights approach.
Last but not least, the third way of raising awareness on diversity and inclusion in the legal profession in Spain is the publication of several guides on how to proceed as professionals: a practical guide for managing the gender perspective in the profession or even a guide on how to deal against hate crimes.
Both guides, and several others on topics such as human trafficking, acting against human rights violations (degrading treatment), access to justice for environmental law, international asylum protection and others, are published as e-books, and are accessible and downloadable free of charge.
The Spanish Bar Council is aware of the need, as one of the actors in the Spanish society, of addressing challenging topics such as diversity and inclusion. It is not easy to accept situations of inequality when society addresses and proclaims equality and justice for all. Equal justice means accessing it under the same conditions, and for part of the citizenship that means accessing it via lawyers trained for their specific needs. The Spanish Bar listened and identified the need of a part of the citizenship that is often poorly served and is working to develop an adequate response.