The BLI 2015-16 graduating class. From left to right:

The BLI 2015-16 graduating class. From left to right: Seated: Edward Myers III, Ivan Hannel, Rekha Nair, Sandra Bensley, Juan Flamand, Donielle Wright Standing: Virjinya Torrez, Jamiel Allen, Kristina Guerrero-Sisneroz, Pouria Paknejad, Mae Innabi, Candy Marrufo, Rebekah Bell, Kristin Whitaker, Alanna Duong Not pictured: Joanna Reihing

One week ago, a smart group of people graduated from the Bar Leadership Institute of the State Bar of Arizona. Congratulations to everyone involved!

Above is a photo of the BLI 2015-16 graduating class.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing many of the BLI’s graduates since its start in 2007, and I am routinely impressed by their talents and their accomplishments. Which takes me to today’s reminder: Applications for the 2016-2017 Bar Leadership class are now being accepted, through June 17.

You can read more about the program—and apply—here.

You should note that you may urge someone to apply, and you may apply yourself. And if you’re curious about whether you or others are a good fit for this BLI thing, read the information below.

The Bar Leadership Institute is a nine-month professional development program whose mission is to foster the professional growth and enhance the leadership skills of a diverse and inclusive group of lawyers.

Since its inception in 2007, the BLI has prepared more than 100 diverse attorneys for leadership positions within the Bar and the community-at-large. Program sessions cover a variety of topics including leadership development, ethics and career development and include conversations with judges, government attorneys, in house counsels and executives. Each participant in the class of approximately 15 students receives:

  • Up to two years of CLE credit
  • Leadership training and legal practice education in an experiential and mentoring learning environment
  • Opportunities to foster relationships within the State Bar of Arizona, partner bar associations, government and community leaders

Participation in the program is limited to attorneys with active status with the State Bar of Arizona. Program fee is $250; fee waivers are available for participants with a demonstrated financial need. Upon completion of the BLI, participants commit to one year participation in a State Bar committee or section or other professional association or community organization.

Click here for more information, or contact Elena Nethers at elena.nethers@staff.azbar.org

The BLI relies on referrals from lawyers and community leaders and applications by great candidates. Please share this with whomever you think would benefit from this transformative experience.

state-bar-of-arizona-bar-leadership-institute-banner BLI

 State Bar diversity conference 2016 header

Today, a great conference opens in Phoenix that offers a wide variety of content regarding law practice as well as diversity and inclusion in the profession. It is the State Bar’s “Spring Training for Lawyers” (formerly called the Minority Bar Conference).

On the second day of the conference (Friday), I have the privilege to moderate a panel of general counsel on the issue of diversity in law practice.

Leading off the Friday sessions will be our plenary session titled “Knocking It Out of the Ballpark: How Corporate Legal Counsel Are Leading the Way to a Diverse Legal Profession.” Here is a list of the stellar panel:

  • David Falck, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Pinnacle West Capital Corporation
  • Lori Chumbler, Senior Associate General Counsel, Walmart
  • Isabella Fu, Associate General Counsel, Microsoft Corporation
  • Dawn Valdivia, Assistant General Counsel, Honeywell International

As organizers describe our session:

“Join us for this interactive discussion featuring corporate legal counsel to discuss how having a diverse team of lawyers helps their companies achieve their business goals. They’ll share their best practices, lessons learned and how their legal departments are leading the way to a more diverse and inclusive legal profession.”

And leading off that panel discussion will be my own six-minute (or so) intro to where we are in the profession regarding diversity and inclusion. 6 minutes. Hmm. As I prepared for that task, I wondered how we can discuss diversity in 2016 without mentioning … the Oscars.

Seriously, I’m wondering. Because if there is a way to do it, I’ve failed. My presentation will allude to the uncomfortable relationship between the law and the Academy. Here are examples of images from my PowerPoint, which suggests the hashtag #LawSoWhite (and #male and #able-bodied and #cis, because let’s be real):

Oscars so white gif animated

Here’s hoping panelists—and the attendees—have a sense of humor.

Rihanna nope animated gif

For fairness’ sake, I point you to a recent article by friend and journalist Bill Wyman. His analysis of the history of the Academy awards appears in the Columbia Journalism Review and suggests the diversity picture at the Oscars is not nearly as bleak as many have made it. As Bill writes:

“An intelligent discussion of the issue was made much more difficult by a curious exclusion from just about all of the media coverage[:] The Academy Awards have actually greatly improved their recognition of minority actors. In fact, in recent years, their representation, while not exemplary, has climbed into the realm of the respectable. … The lesson here is that Hollywood is sometimes more complicated than its public portrayal.”

Read his whole article and decide for yourself.

All the detail about the State Bar conference is here. I hope you can attend.

The agenda for Spring Training for Lawyers 2016

The agenda for Spring Training for Lawyers 2016

The sponsors for Spring Training for Lawyers 2016

The sponsors for Spring Training for Lawyers 2016

AZ Black Bar logoLast fall, I attended and wrote about the annual banquet of the Arizona Black Bar. Held at the Phoenix Art Museum, it included well-deserved awards as well as a timely and compelling keynote speaker. (I wrote about the evening here.)

Memories of that event lead me to happily share the Black Bar’s announcement regarding this fall’s annual event. Thus, the 2015 Hayzel B. Daniels Scholarship Award Dinner will be held on Thursday, October 22, from 5:30 to 9:00 pm, once again at the Phoenix Art Museum.

I’ll share more detail in a minute, but note first that the ABB is seeking nominations for its prestigious awards. As the ABB says, it created the ABB Excellence in Diversity Awards “to recognize attorneys, law firms, corporations, academic institutions and other agencies which have gone above and beyond the call of duty to promote, implement, and advance diversity and inclusion in the Arizona legal profession.”

Ignore the fact that the submission deadline appears to be September 1; I’ve learned that the ABB has moved the deadline back to September 15. So send some nominations their way.

Aiming for timely topics again, the theme of this year’s program is “Changing the Game: Sustainability in the Legal Profession.” That matches the keynote speaker, Rose McKinney-James, “one of the nation’s foremost experts on solar energy.” The ABB describes her in detail here:

“Ms. McKinney-James served as a member of the Obama-Biden Transition Team with responsibility for the U.S. Department of Energy and served as Team Lead for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Ms. McKinney-James was the first African-American to win a statewide primary in Nevada during an earlier candidacy for Lieutenant Governor. She is currently the managing principal at McKinney-James & Associates and Energy Works Consulting, LLC of Las Vegas.”

Rose McKinney-James

Rose McKinney-James

To learn more of McKinney-James, view or download the PDF announcement and attend the 2015 Hayzel B. Daniels Scholarship Award Dinner.

Tickets and the sponsorship form are here.

State Bar of Arizona Leadership Institute header

Here is some news from the State Bar of Arizona. The Bar Leadership Institute has been a remarkable program for years now. It may be a great fit for you or another attorney you know.

The Bar Leadership Institute is a nine-month professional development program beginning in September 2015. The goal of the program is to foster the professional growth and enhance the leadership skills of a diverse and inclusive group of lawyers.

Attorneys selected to participate receive:

  • Up to two years of CLE credit.
  • Leadership training and legal practice education in an experiential and mentoring learning environment.
  • Opportunities to foster relationships within the State Bar of Arizona, partner bar associations, government and community leaders.

Complete your application here.

The application deadline is Friday, June 19, 2015.

DRI defense research institute logoLaw students who seek substantial scholarships should consider a great opportunity, but get on it fast: The application for the DRI Law Student Diversity Scholarship is due next Monday, March 30.

So if you are a law student or if you know one who could be a great fit for this award, please pass the news on.

Besides the application, an essay and recommendations are required. (Ask your law professors now and have them work through the weekend on your behalf! Turnabout is fair play.)

The ultimate prizes are two scholarships in the amount of $10,000 each. (Yes; ten thousand.)

And what kinds of students does the Defense Research Institute want to reward? Those who best meet the following criteria:

  • Demonstrated academic excellence
  • Service to the profession
  • Service to the community
  • Service to the cause of diversity

The essay question is one of the more intriguing I have come across. I’m guessing that talented law students could have a good and creative time with their answers.

More information and the application are here.

AAABA Arizona Asian American Bar Association logoTalented and smart law students in Arizona are being encouraged to apply for an esteemed scholarship named for former Judge Thomas Tang. The sponsor is the Arizona Asian American Bar Association.

The application (link below) is straightforward, and it includes a question that applicants must answer (in no more than two pages):

“What is the importance of diversity in education and employment and how will your education, background, and perspective on diversity be a benefit as a leader in society and in relation to your law practice?”

The deadline is Friday, March 20, 2015, at 11:00 p.m.

ABA President-Elect Paulette Brown

ABA President-Elect Paulette Brown

Anyone who attended this week’s John P. Morris Memorial Lecture at ASU Law School may have a jump-start in conceptualizing their essay. That’s because ABA President-Elect Paulette Brown spoke on “The Importance of Diversity & Inclusion in the Law.” It was the 15th annual Morris Lecture, and she also spoke in celebration of Black History Month. (Thank you to NAPABA President George Chen for the heads-up.)

Here is more background from AAABA:

Do you know a law student who attends a law school in Arizona?

If so, then encourage him or her to apply for The Thomas Tang Law Scholarship, which is funded by AAABA and awarded in honor of the late Judge Thomas Tang. Up to four scholarships may be awarded in an amount of at least $2,000 each.

Awards will be presented at AAABA’s annual installation and scholarship banquet to be held on Wednesday, April 15, 2015.

Additional information about the scholarship can be found in the application, which you can download here.

Judge George Anagnost moderates the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014. He gestures toward panelists Bob McWhirter and Doug Cole.

Judge George Anagnost moderates the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014. He gestures toward panelists Bob McWhirter and Doug Cole.

Last week, I attended the annual “We the People” CLE program, which gathers smart folks and lets them loose on the most recent High Court Term. The follow-up was complete and often enlightening.

Paul Bender, Doug Cole and Bob McWhirter offered insightful and often humorous takes on a wide variety of the cases taken by SCOTUS. Led by moderator Judge George Anagnost, they were a formidable intellectual team.

(I appreciated Professor Bender’s unintended error when he misquoted the opening words for the Court’s day: “God save the United States from this honorable Court.” Who doesn’t agree with that occasionally?)

And yet I continue to wonder about the marrying of content with the panelists who discuss it. I have covered this topic—diversity—before, and so let me mention it again.

As always, the cases explored by the panel touch on nearly all areas of human experience. But, as an example, how would the treatment of even one case—Hobby Lobby—have varied had there been even one woman scholar on the panel? Some closely held businesses apparently are untroubled by any medical product or procedure save one—and that one affects women most of all. Would a woman scholar’s view have offered a different, compelling vision?

Of course, I do not believe that all women—or all of anyone—think the same way about legal topics. But, conservative, liberal or in between, a woman panelist may have taken more than an academic interest in the issue.

Professor Paul Bender, seated, at the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014.

Professor Paul Bender, seated, at the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014.

The same is true of the Shelby case regarding the Voting Rights Act, or the Schuette case regarding affirmative action, or the McCullen case regarding abortion-clinic buffer zones, all ably examined. A mandatory number of African American scholars, or women, per panel is not what I’d expect. But their complete absence is surprising. (Imagine attendees’ surprise if they walked in and saw an all-woman panel, or an all-Black panel. THAT would be news!)

Adding to the oddity of the absence of diversity was the extended discussion on that very topic by the panel. Professor Bender, for example, took pains to note that all of the current Supreme Court Justices have had professional lives as professional judges, rather than some form of law practice (except for Justice Kagan). And he and others noted that the Court may be diverse in some ways, but not in socio-economics, or geography, or even religion (currently, the Court has no Protestants, six Catholics and three Jews).

An attendee could be excused for feeling some disconnect, sympathetic to the desire to see a diverse bench, while at the same time looking around the very room in which we sat …

Bob McWhirter presents at the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014.

Bob McWhirter presents at the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014.

Again, and in advance of the usual commenters who will say this is window-dressing (or worse): This is about excellent legal education, and a topic on which the State Bar of Arizona has pledged its focus. I found the discussion to be first-rate, but how can we know all of the excellent diverse commentary we are missing? A consistent absence of diverse voices on legal topics that disproportionately affect those very voices is odd, at best. And it makes you wonder if you are getting a full and complete examination of the issues underlying a Supreme Court docket.

That, after all, is what is promised.

OK, have at it in the comment box below.

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