State Bar of Arizona logoHere is some great news I pass on from the State Bar of Arizona. Congratulations to all the lawyer–leaders of the Bar Leadership Institute.

Sixteen attorneys from across the state have been selected to participate in the State Bar of Arizona’s 2013-14 Bar Leadership Institute (BLI).

For the seventh year in a row, the BLI will provide its participants with a nine-month leadership program that will foster their professional growth and enhance their leadership skills.

2013-14 Participants:

  • Jason Barraza, Veridus, LLC
  • Brandon Brown, Pima County Attorney’s Office
  • Patrick Camunez, Solo Practitioner
  • Thomas Chiang, Maricopa Public Defender’s Office
  • Charity A. Collins, Goodyear City Prosecutor’s Office
  • Joni Lawrence, Thermo Fluids Inc.
  • Francesca Montenegro, Wood Smith Henning & Berman LLP
  • Nora Nuñez, Federal Public Defender’s Office
  • Javier Puig, Schiffman Law Office PC
  • Andrew Reilly, Office of the Attorney General
  • Denise Ryan, Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community
  • Brenda Sandoval, Federal Public Defender’s Office
  • Laura Schiesl, Farhang & Medcoff
  • Natalya Ter-Grigoryan, Tiffany & Bosco PA
  • Michael Valenzuela, Office of the Attorney General
  • Janina Walters, Pinal County Attorney’s Office

Bar Leadership sessions cover topics ranging from leadership, ethics and career development to conversations with judges, government attorneys, in-house counsel and executives. Participants can receive up to two years of CLE credit.

The participants were selected based on their legal and non-legal community contributions, as well as their statements of interest and qualifications. All participants must be active Bar members in good standing. The participants represent a diverse range of racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious communities, among others.

Upon completion, the BLI participants must commit to a full year of active involvement with the State Bar and/or the community.

More information on the Bar Leadership Institute is here. For more detail, contact Elena Nethers at 602-340-7393.

Here is a photo of the BLI’s recent graduates from the 2012-13 class, whom I reported on here.

State Bar of Arizona BLI graduates 2013

2013 BLI Graduates—Back row, L to R: Brad Martin, Blair Moses, Elizabeth Kruschek, Buck Rocker, Doreen McPaul, Ray Ybarra Maldonado. Front row, L to R: Chris Tozzo, Tabatha LaVoie, Nicole Ong, Laura Huff, Annamarie Frank, Cid Kallen, Jessica Sanchez. Not pictured: Heather Baker.

State Bar of Arizona BLI graduates 2013

2013 BLI Graduates—Back row, L to R: Brad Martin, Blair Moses, Elizabeth Kruschek, Buck Rocker, Doreen McPaul, Ray Ybarra Maldonado. Front row, L to R: Chris Tozzo, Tabatha LaVoie, Nicole Ong, Laura Huff, Annamarie Frank, Cid Kallen, Jessica Sanchez. Not pictured: Heather Baker.

The newest class of the State Bar of Arizona Bar Leadership Institute graduated last Friday. As always, it was a noteworthy event marking the accomplishments of a talented group of lawyers.

You may already know about the BLI, but here is a description of the program:

BLI graduation 2013 1 sign“The Bar Leadership Institute is a nine-month program designed to foster the professional growth and enhance the leadership skills of a diverse group of Arizona attorneys. The purpose is to increase participation and visibility in the State Bar and the community-at-large among historically under-represented groups, with an emphasis on racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability and geographic diversity. In 2009 the Bar Leadership Institute was selected by the American Bar Association to receive its prestigious Partnership Award.”

More detail is here.

Speakers at the graduation stressed the qualities of leadership exemplified by the attorney graduates.

State Bar President Amelia Craig Cramer praised the attorneys, and she thanked them for their continued participation in the work of the Bar.

State Bar of Arizona President Amelia Craig Cramer, May 10, 2013

State Bar of Arizona President Amelia Craig Cramer, May 10, 2013

CEO John Phelps urged the graduates to value the friendships and connections they forged through the BLI program.

“That network of leaders is something special,” he said. “Take advantage of that friendship; nurture it. You’ve had the opportunity to connect with others in this special program.”

State Bar of Arizona CEO John Phelps, May 10, 2013

State Bar of Arizona CEO John Phelps, May 10, 2013

With a laugh, he concluded, “You’re part of the club now. Be sure to use your club membership.”

Elena Nethers, the Bar’s Diversity and Outreach Advisor, reminded graduates, their families and supporters that the BLI is designed to “enable people to attain their full potential.”

This year, she reported, the 14 graduates arose from a pool of 60 applicants.

Bar Governor Lisa Loo praised the program and the attorneys, taking the time to introduce audience member Henry Ong, a Bar member since 1972. He has been an active participant in the activities of multiple bars, Lisa pointed out. And for good measure, he is the father of Nicole Ong, one of this year’s BLI grads.

Also attending the event was BLI chair and attorney Booker Evans, Jr.

If you are interested in being part of this successful initiative (for yourself or someone else), be sure to share and complete the Bar Leadership Institite application for the coming year’s class. The application is due by June 28.

State Bar Governor Lisa Loo and BLI chair Booker Evans, Jr., at the 2013 BLI graduation

State Bar Governor Lisa Loo and BLI chair Booker Evans, Jr., at the 2013 BLI graduation

Are you still on the bubble as to whether to attend this week’s Minority Bar Convention? Well, let me tell you about a rousing lecture delivered last night. It was by a journalist, not a lawyer, but it communicated eloquently the value to a profession of a focus on diversity and inclusion.

Gwen Ifill speaks at the ASU Cronkite Journalism School, April 1, 2013.

Gwen Ifill speaks at the ASU Cronkite Journalism School, April 1, 2013.

Gwen Ifill, managing editor and moderator of the PBS news show “Washington Week,” gave a public lecture last night at the downtown Phoenix Arizona State University campus. Her topic was “Diversity and Inclusion in the News.”

Last year, I had the opportunity to view Ifill in action as she covered the GOP Presidential Debate in Mesa. Moving from speaker to speaker in the spin room, she asked pointed queries, always seeking to illuminate her audience with the content, rather than with her own presence. (See more of my debate-followup photos here.)

Gwen Ifill interviews Gov. Jan Brewer following the GOP debate, Mesa, Ariz., Feb. 22, 2012

Gwen Ifill interviews Gov. Jan Brewer following the GOP debate, Mesa, Ariz., Feb. 22, 2012

As I listened to Ifill’s remarks at ASU last night, I was thinking about the State Bar’s own Minority Bar Convention, slated for later this week. Ifill aimed her speech to the mass of Cronkite Journalism School students in the room. Clearly, the legal profession is not the only one in which the topic is a welcome consideration. Her presentation was the perfect entrée to a lawyer event dedicated to diversity and inclusion.

First, some background about Ifill and her work.

“Washington Week” is the longest-running prime time news and public affairs program on TV. Ifill also is senior correspondent for “PBS NewsHour.” She also appears frequently as a guest on “Meet the Press.” As the ASU Cronkite website continues:

“Her appearance is sponsored by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication as part of an ASU award given to the school last year in recognition of its efforts to advance diversity and inclusion. The inaugural Institutional Inclusion Award included a grant to fund the visit under the university’s Diversity Scholar Series, a biannual event designed to stimulate conversations about diversity, social justice and policy making.”

At ASU on Monday, Ifill described her own path to the highest-profile newsrooms in America. She explained how she grew up to be someone who believes diversity and inclusion are “needed for the profession, for politics, for society and for our general national health.”

But “how in the world did a little black girl get it in her head to be a journalist?” Ifill mused. Well, she liked to write, and early on was drawn to believe that news organizations had an obligation to present the truth. That belief played out in her own relationship with a nonjournalist—St. Nick.

She was 9 years old and had grown skeptical about the reality of Santa Claus. Seeing her waver, Ifill’s dad presented her with their daily newspaper, on the cover of which was a wire story purporting to show Santa Claus himself winging his way to their community. That was enough for her.

“I believed again. It was in a newspaper; how could it not be true?”

The reality of news organizations was a different animal entirely. She recalled approaching her desk as an unpaid worker at a major daily newspaper, where she found a piece of paper with the scrawled words, “Nigger go home.”

So surprised was she that she reported her first reaction as thinking, “I wonder who this is for?” But then she took it to her bosses and let them know that it was unacceptable. Though they knew which aging newspaperman had written the message of hate, he would remain in the newsroom. But they offered Ifill a job.

“It’s not how you get in the door,” said Ifill. “It’s what you do when you get through it.”

Gwen Ifill at ASU title cardShe said that her entire career is based on the belief that journalists have a special responsibility to “get it right.” And doing that is near-impossible, she said, if you decide it’s unimportant to hear from multiple voices.

She recounted her interview with a young senator from Illinois after he delivered a major Democratic Convention speech. And she admitted that the historic nature of the moment escaped her as she wrangled the questions, the timing and all the technology that goes into a modern convention interview—this one with a younger Barack Obama.

“Change happens while we’re not paying attention,” she said. “Transformation occurs under our noses.”

On the topic of race—and of diversity and inclusion generally—Ifill saw it often in presidential politics.

“Sometimes race helps, and sometimes it hurts. But race always matters.”

Ifill stressed the value of diversity to the journalism profession. For her, it is not an “add-on” or a luxury.

The job of the reporter, she said, aligns with the goals of diversity: Open the doors wider. Listen harder.

When she covers a story, Ifill said, “I feel responsible to hear as many points of view as possible. And I want a newsroom with as many different points of view and understandings as possible.”

“Diversity is not just about race or any subset of the population. It’s how you tell the story more fully.”

 “What we get by welcoming diversity and inclusion, by rewarding difference, is simply our salvation as a profession.”

Finally, Ifill said that she is as disappointed as anyone by the rancor in public debate. In contrast, she said that a PBS segment in which Mark Shields and Paul Gigot disagree amicably is one of the most popular segments of the “PBS News Hour.” People clearly yearn for that.

“I am discouraged by the way we all retreat to our corners and only listen to those who agree with us. That’s not healthy. We’re all longing for civility in public conversation, even when there’s disagreement.”

“That, too, is diversity.”

The profession of journalism is not the profession of law, so strict parallels cannot be drawn. Nonetheless, I am struck by alignments, such as: professions in crisis; declining trust among and little perceived relevance to outsiders; declining interest among those choosing professions; occasional tone-deaf leaders who prefer to hear from only traditional voices.

Those characteristics cannot be the path to salvation—for any profession.

Once more, then, here is the link to the Minority Bar Convention.

And here is a link to photos of Ifill’s visit, via the Facebook page of the the National Association of Black Journalists–Arizona State University Collegiate Chapter.

Minority Bar Convention 2013The State Bar of Arizona’s annual Minority Bar Convention will occur next week, on April 4 and 5. Presented by the Committee on Minorities and Women in the Law, it will be held at the Desert Willow Conference Center in Phoenix (map below).

Kathleen Nalty

Kathleen Nalty

Among the speakers will be Kathleen Nalty, “an expert in helping organizations develop inclusion strategies to eliminate hidden barriers to success for female and diverse employees.”

You can read more about Nalty and her work here.

More information on the Minority Bar Convention is here.

Register online here.

State Bar of Arizona BLI Reunion 1

Reunion of graduates of the State Bar of Arizona Bar Leadership Institute, Jan. 24, 2013, Phoenix, Ariz.

Last evening, the State Bar of Arizona hosted its first BLI Reunion. It’s the first such event since the Bar Leadership Institute was launched five years ago.

Since then, those five graduating classes of lawyers have become embedded in significant leadership positions within the Bar. More information on the BLI is here.

Last night’s mingling event was at the downtown Phoenix Sheraton, and it was a success from start to finish. Noteworthy is the camaraderie felt among all of the graduates, who clearly benefit from and enjoy the fellowship of their colleagues.

The event also featured a few (brief) speakers. They were BLI grads who shared a little about the exciting projects in which they are involved. More on that later, but for now, let me mention Ann-Marie Alameddin, who discussed a pro bono legal information clinic she manages; we may cover her work, and that of others, in an upcoming issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine.

Have a great weekend. Here are a few more photos.

Last week, attorney Lonnie Williams, Jr., delivered ASU Law’s John P. Morris Memorial Lecture. His title: “What is your personal responsibility in addressing the challenges of diversity in our multicultural society?”

That’s an excellent question, and I was sorry I was unable to attend. Fortunately, there’s a news story that describes his lecture.

Lonnie Williams Jr., Arizona Attorney, Oct. 2001

Lonnie Williams Jr., Arizona Attorney, Oct. 2001

Among the life lessons Williams imparted:

“If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley.”

Back in 2001, we featured Williams in the pages of Arizona Attorney, where he was similarly eloquent. You can read the article here.

Congratulations to Lonnie, and to the law school for its excellent selection of honoree.

Lonnie Williams story, Arizona Attorney, Oct. 2001

Tomorrow, law firm Fennemore Craig, among others, will be honored for its commitment to improving the numbers of women lawyers in its leadership positions.

Pictured: Five of the Fennemore Craig women equity partners (and their office locations), L to R: Amanda Cowley (Las Vegas), Sarah Strunk (Phoenix), Laurel Davis (Las Vegas), Ann Morgan (Reno), Jodi Goodheart (Las Vegas), Sue Chetlin (Phoenix)

In the October Arizona Attorney, we are running a small item about the Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF) awards. We noted that nine firms with Arizona offices reached the Gold Standard. However, in the state only Fennemore Craig excelled in the award’s six criteria.

Congratulations to Fennemore and all the firms that will be honored tomorrow in New York City. Here is more news from the firm on the achievement.

Women in Law Empowerment Forum recognizes firm’s commitment to women

PHOENIX  The Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF) will honor Fennemore Craig for integrating women into leadership positions at its Gold Standard Awards Luncheon September 12 at the Yale Club in New York City. Twenty-six percent of the equity partners are women across Fennemore Craig’s six offices in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada.

According to Elizabeth Anne Tursi, national chair of WILEF, Fennemore Craig is one of three of nationwide certification winners that met or exceeded all six criteria set by WILEF. There were a total of 50 firms that received the Gold Standard Certification.

Half of the committee members responsible for managing Fennemore Craig are female partners, bypassing the 20 percent award criteria established by WILEF. Additionally over a quarter of the firm’s equity partners and department heads are women.

Firms of 100 or more lawyers in the United States are invited to apply for the Gold Standard certification. Law firms must meet three of the six specific criteria to become eligible for the award. Applicants are required to demonstrate that women account for at least 20 percent of the firm’s equity partnership and show that they hold positions of power and serve on committees.

Sarah Strunk

“At Fennemore Craig, we work actively to develop, recruit, and retain a diverse group of attorneys,” said Sarah Strunk, director and management committee member at Fennemore Craig.  She adds, “The firm devotes substantial time and resources to developing talent and leadership in all of its attorneys and is committed to maintaining gender equity in the ranks of its attorneys. We are honored to receive the 2012 WILEF Gold Standard Certification.” Strunk will accept the award for the firm in New York on September 12.

News from the State Bar of Arizona:

The State Bar’s Bar Leadership Institute is now accepting applications for the 2012-2013 class.

The Bar Leadership Institute is a nine-month educational program that each year prepares participants for leadership positions within the Bar and our community at large. Applicants from historically under-represented groups (racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and disability) who are active in community service and have demonstrated leadership ability are encouraged to apply. The Bar Leadership Institute was selected by the American Bar Association to receive its prestigious partnership award in 2009. Since its inception in 2007, the BLI has fostered the professional growth and enhanced the leadership skills of more than 75 diverse attorneys. These graduates have gone on to assume leadership positions within the Bar, the legal community and their local communities.

If you are interested in applying, more information about the program and the online application form are available here. If you know of an attorney who would be a good candidate for this program, please refer him ore her to the Bar’s website as well. Applications must be submitted online before the June 27, 2012, deadline.

If you have any questions or need more information, feel free to contact Elena Nethers, the Bar’s Diversity & Outreach Advisor, at Elena.Nethers@staff.azbar.org.

Back in 2006, the State Bar of Arizona appointed a Diversity Task Force to examine ways that the Bar could make progress in the areas of diversity and inclusion. One of the results of that effort was the creation of a Diversity Department and the hiring of a dedicated diversity professional on staff.

Information on that history is here.

Elena Soto Nethers

This month, the Bar took another step in that evolution when it named a new diversity professional. (Former Diversity Director I. Godwin Otu retired from the Bar a few months ago.)

The Bar’s new Diversity and Outreach Advisor is Elena Nethers, and I will speak more with her in the coming months to hear about the Bar’s initiatives. In the meantime, here is a press release from the State Bar:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Feb. 27, 2012

Contact: Rick DeBruhl, Chief Communications Officer

Phone: (602) 340-7335, Mobile: (602) 513-6385

E-Mail: rick.debruhl@staff.azbar.org

State Bar Hires Diversity and Outreach Advisor

PHOENIX – Feb. 27, 2012 – The State Bar of Arizona, the State’s attorney regulation and consumer protection organization, is pleased to announce the appointment of Elena Soto Nethers to the position of Diversity and Outreach Advisor.

Soto Nethers, a licensed attorney in both Arizona and Nebraska, brings her background in law to the diversity position within the Bar’s Member Services Division. Her knowledge and understanding of diverse communities comes from her commitment to working closely with underserved individuals through the Volunteer Lawyers Program and the tutoring sessions she offers children at St. Matthew Catholic School. Soto Nethers returns to the workforce from her full-time role as a public servant.

“The State Bar is extremely pleased to have added Elena to the State Bar’s membership services team. We will maximize both her legal experience and community advocacy to help bridge the Bar’s diversity initiatives with members of the profession and the community-at-large,” said Lisa Deane, Chief Member Services Officer. “Her unique experience brings the perfect blend of professional and personal experience that will meet and exceed the Bar’s diversity programs’ needs,” she added.

Soto Nethers, a daughter of Cuban immigrants, recalls facing adversity herself at an early age while growing up in a Midwestern town as one of two Hispanics in most of the academic institutions she attended. “I owe my success to those individuals that reinforced my aspirations and helped me to overcome injustices that came my way. I hope to use my position at the Bar to help individuals who face similar experiences,” she says.

Soto Nethers will oversee the Bar’s current diversity programs and initiatives, as well as help to develop, implement, and manage new ones that align with its strategic plan.

About the State Bar

The State Bar of Arizona is a non-profit organization that operates under the supervision of the Arizona Supreme Court. The Bar includes approximately 16,775 active attorneys and provides education and development programs for the legal profession and the public. Since 1933 the Bar and its members have been committed to serving the public by making sure the voices of all people in Arizona are heard in our justice system.

Arizona Bar members—and State Bar of Arizona staff—were treated to a unique presentation on Monday afternoon. It was a CLE that examined a topic that is often a lightning rod, but that is enshrined in the state Constitution.

The CLE was called “Diversity Considerations in Judicial Merit Selection.” Appropriately, the headliner (if we may use that term) was Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch. She shared her perspectives on the role that the “D” word plays in establishing who may don the judicial robe.

Other panelists were Doug Cole of HighGround Public Affairs, Assistant United States Attorney John Tuchi and lawyer (and former aide to then-Gov. Janet Napolitano) Tim Nelson.

Each of the panelists has had experience with one or more of the commissions on judicial court appointments. As such, they could explain and reveal a little about how commissioners weigh applicants’ diversity, along with many other areas of experience.

The panel was ably moderated by Senior Bar Counsel David Sandweiss.

Sandweiss and the Chief Justice explained the founding documents that enshrine diversity as a value—both in the state Constitution and in a set of principles that the State Bar adopted in 1992. As Chief Justice Berch recalled, Sandra Day O’Connor had once said that she would hope a wise old man and a wise old woman would come to the same conclusions. But data have shown that there may be significant differences in the weight evidence receives, the Chief said, depending on whether a judge is a woman or a man. Neither is necessarily correct, but diversity on the bench helps assure that multiple viewpoints are represented.

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch

As Chief Justice Berch said, “Decisions we make in life are part and parcel of all that we are.” Because of that, she said, lawmakers—and the State Bar—decided to value diversity.

Doug Cole echoed the position that commissioners are charged with looking at the whole applicant, not just a narrow slice of their resume. He amused the audience with some responses that he has found most surprising to Question 64—the query found on the judicial application in merit-selection jurisdictions that requires applicants to describe their experience with diversity—again, a constitutional requirement.

  • “I am white and male.” (That was the complete response.)
  • “I have friends who are diverse.” (I shortened the actual response, but not by much.)
  • “Not applicable.”

Cole said that such responses miss the point, because diversity and facing adversity may occur in anyone’s life.

“The best applicants’ answers may be moving and touching, including life experiences and important turning points in people’s lives.”

So yes, Cole said, if you’re a white male, you still may have a good understanding of diversity.

John Tuchi agreed with Cole, but spoke also about the uncertainty of a word that has been given no delimited definition. Therefore, the assessment of what diversity means may vary among and between commissions and commissioners.

Tim Nelson described the statistics that reveal some strides have been made in increasing the ranks of minority judges. The bench is currently comprised of judges who are 71 percent male, 29 percent female and 16 percent minority. Those numbers nearly mirror the membership of the Arizona Bar—though they trail the breakdown of state residents.

“Right now, we have a bench that matches the profile of our Bar.” Whether that is sufficient is a broader and more challenging question.

Panelists also spoke of the obstacles they face encouraging lawyers to apply for a judgeship. For instance, Cole said that there is a shortage of private lawyer applicants, which is likely related to the pay cut that an experienced law firm partner would see if she applied.

Chief Justice Berch added that she has reached out to former law students who are minority to encourage their application. But they have responded, “You don’t get it.” Many of them may be the first child in their family to attend college, let alone law school. Now that they have reached a pinnacle of law firm partnership, the sacrifice to become a judge may be just too great.

“We may put too much on their shoulders,” she said. “And that can be unfair.”

Here are some more photos from the event (they also may be found on the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.)

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