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

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judge roxanne song ong headshot

Judge Roxanne Song Ong (ret.)

This Thursday, the annual event called Spring Training for Lawyers will be held. (I mentioned it yesterday, here.)

There is quite a bit of content worth seeing at the event this Thursday and Friday. Topics include (in no particular order) stereotyping, the Hobby Lobby decision, representing clients with disabilities, mindfulness in practice, and immigration law.

Every one of those (plus others) look like great panels helmed by talented lawyers.

But the opening panel on Thursday is the one I really am disappointed to miss. The title is “Perspectives on Diversity in the Legal Profession in Arizona, and it runs from 1:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.

The speakers have walked the walk:

  • George Chen, partner at Bryan Cave
  • Booker Evans, shareholder at Gallagher & Kennedy
  • Sonia Martinez, solo practitioner and past President of NABA
  • Ed Maldonado, solo practitioner and past President of Los Abogados
  • Hon. Roxanne Song Ong, retired Presiding Judge of the Phoenix Municipal Court

Topics will include:

  • Challenges facing minority attorneys in the workplace
  • Issues of majority attorneys working with minority lawyers
  • Importance of developing business for minority lawyers

As organizers say, “A full hour is also dedicated for the panelists to interact with the audience, who are encouraged to ask the ‘tough questions’ about minority issues. The panelists will do their best to provide their candid answers.”

More information is here, including the full program, fees (regular, late, and student discount), additional registration and CLE information.

Register here.

Spring Training for Lawyers Minority Bar Convention 2015-page0001

Minority Bar Convention 2014 spring training for lawyers revised

It’s spring, so our days are filled with events. Today I mention an annual event, sponsored by the State Bar of Arizona, which is always helpful to lawyers in practice.

Formerly called the Minority Bar Convention (more on that in a minute), the Bar’s “Spring Training for Lawyers” covers a wide variety of practice topics. Maybe it’s something in the air at the location (the Desert Willow Conference Center), but I’m not sure I’ve ever sat through a weak seminar at the annual event.

Before I go on and one, here is where you can register. The conference is next week, on Thursday and Friday, March 27 and 28.

And the complete agenda and seminar descriptions are here.

Now to the name change.

I was a little surprised to see the longtime Minority Bar Convention transform into a baseball metaphor. Shifting from a storied brand is quite a change. Happily, the Bar has a video teasing the event, and it includes a discussion of the name change, as described by the co-chairs, attorneys Kami Hoskins and Chad Bellville.

Here is the video:

No matter the name, it appears that the event will continue its strong focus on quality. And for that, we must thank the State Bar of Arizona Committee on Minorities and Women in the Law.

My one passionate takeaway from the video? Buy a tripod, won’t you, State Bar? Let’s rifle through the closets; I’m sure we’ve got one somewhere.

Again, the location is the Desert Willow Conference Center, 4340 E. Cotton Center Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85040. Here is a map.

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.

Ariz. Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch leads off a panel discussion of women judges, Minority Bar Convention, Phoenix, Ariz., April 13, 2012

Diversity in the legal profession is one of those things people talk around, unsure of its meaning or a strategy to achieve it. Some even question its value.

A few events in April answered those questions, through education and eloquence. And they demonstrated clearly that Arizona’s legal community has evolved to be one of inclusion and diversity.

I provide some photos of the two events. But you have to read to the end of the post to hear one attorney–leader’s take on why minority bar associations are valuable.

Congratulations to the organizers of the State Bar’s Minority Bar Convention. Held back on April 12-13, it opened with viewpoints of women judges, who explained their path to the bench. The convention’s keynote address was by former California Justice Cruz Reynoso; he described his extraordinary route from the farm fields of central California to the highest bench in the state.

Calif. Justice Cruz Reynoso (ret.) delivers the keynote address at the Minority Bar Convention, Phoenix, Ariz., April 13, 2012

If anyone doubted the challenges faced by women and people of color as they sought to effect change in the profession, the judges and Justice Reynoso eradicated them.

During the convention, I sat in sessions by Stephen Fairley on social media to improve your practice, and Bob McWhirter on the history of Equal Protection. Both were terrific.

(More photos from the Minority Bar Convention are here.)

But, some wonder, aren’t those challenges all in the past?

Just that question came up last year at the Arizona Asian American Bar Association banquet, when then-incoming President Briana Chua pointed out that not all lawyers agree that there is value to minority bar associations. She explained her viewpoint, but the question must be answered again and again.

Dr. Henry Lee speaks at the Ariz. Asian American Bar Association annual banquet, Chandler, Ariz., April 26, 2012

As always, this year’s AAABA banquet was wonderful (and delicious), and the keynote by Dr. Henry Lee was inspired. The well-known medical examiner shared stories and quizzed the crowd, tossing lapel badges for correct answers. (Lawyer Christine Thompson kicked butt on a question, earning her a shield. When I asked to photograph it, she offered it to me to pass on to my daughters. Very generous!)

The evening ends as it always does, though, when the new AAABA President rises to offer her or his remarks. That is when Gust Rosenfeld lawyer Mingyi Kang shared his view of the value of minority bars—that varied backgrounds provide different approaches to challenges, and we need as many approaches as we can get.

I have excerpted a portion of his remarks, which Ming generously shared:

“Last year, Briana in her closing remarks brought up that not all attorneys agree with having minority bar associations. Interestingly, I was also asked how come there is no Belgium American Bar or Belgium American association. My immediate response back then was that ‘I dunno—but if there is one, I would love to go to their events and meet some people.’ I mean, who doesn’t want to know someone who knows where to find good Belgium ale and chocolates (my two weaknesses). So what does it mean to be an Asian American, a Taiwanese American or a Belgium American anyway?

“Well, I can only tell you from my point of view. For years, I have been eligible to apply for citizenship of the United States. As soon as I was eligible, my wife printed and filled out an application for me to change my status. I came home one night, and the completed application was on the dinner table for my signature. I did not sign it then, and could not bring myself even to read the application for years.

Complimentary lapel-pin from Dr. Henry Lee

“Now, if you ask my wife Christina why I did not just sign it and turn it in, she would tell you it was because I am lazy and I procrastinate—both are true when it comes to things around the house—and, I love you, honey, but more importantly, I think I was not ready to call myself a citizen of the United States, and I don’t know if I was ready to be an American. I am not sure if I really like the political in-fighting here in the U.S. more than the political in-fighting in Taiwan. (In fact, the fighting in Taiwan is definitely more exciting to watch.)

“As the years passed and I did nothing to change my status, I remembered something my mentor and my boss Steve Rendell told me early on about being a transactional attorney: ‘We are not here to stop a deal from happening but to advise clients on how to reach an agreement.’ He would also say, ‘The client hired you as an advisor, so advise.’

“I took his comments to mean that we must find common ground to work out our differences, so that we can reach an ‘agreement.’ Applying that, I think we can either look at each other and focus on our differences, thinking we are all people from different fractions: Taiwanese, Belgium, Asian, Hispanics, etc., or we can look at each other and think that we are teammates who bring different talents and backgrounds to the table—we are all Americans. If we focus on our differences, we will not have a deal. If we focus on what we have in common, we will realize we are all Americans and just have different approaches to build on this great nation. We are here to work out our differences and to reach an agreement.

“I finally became a citizen last year because I think I am ready to bring something to this table—America. With that, I hope everyone enjoys tonight’s banquet as much as I enjoy a Belgium ale and Belgium chocolate. Thank you all for coming, and good night.”

“The Power of Inclusion” is the guiding theme of the State Bar’s Minority Bar Convention, slated for today and tomorrow (Thursday and Friday) this week.

Some of the highlights from the day-and-a-half-long event include viewpoints from women judges. Jurists slated to appear on Friday morning are:

  •        Hon. Rebecca Berch, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Arizona
  •        Hon. Patricia Orozco, Arizona Court of Appeals
  •        Hon. Roslyn O. Silver, Chief U.S. Judge, District of Arizona
  •        Hon. Danielle Viola, Arizona Superior Court for Maricopa County
  •        Hon. Susanna Pineda, Arizona Superior Court for Maricopa County
  •        Hon. Carol Berry, Phoenix Municipal Court
  •        Hon. Roxanne Song Ong, Chief Presiding Judge, Phoenix Municipal Court

I was especially intrigued by this offering. So I contacted the panel moderator, Troy Larkin (you may remember Troy as the lawyer who kicked butt in our Arizona Attorney 2011 Creative Arts Competition; his poetry is here.)

Troy Larkin (photo by Karen Shell)

I asked Troy if he would divulge some of what he planned for the Friday morning panel. He explained that he hoped the group would touch on many things, including “the challenges of becoming a judge and how to get on the bench. I will ask about any perceived animosity they faced in seeking a bench position and whether they feel from their time served thus far whether there have been any strives made to make the bench less of a ‘boys club.’”

When I asked what attendees might get out of the interactions, Troy looked to the future.

“I hope attendees’ minds will be opened to the struggle to get on the bench and challenges faced by minorities in serving the public in that capacity. I also hope it inspires some who never thought about donning a robe to seek judicial appointment.”

Stephen Fairley

Also appearing will be Stephen Fairley of The Rainmaker Institute, who will explore the opportunities available to lawyers via social media. His focus will be Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter—but I’m sure he’d entertain your question about any compelling channel (Pinterest, anyone?).

Also on tap are seminars on: Indian Law and tribal-court practice; oral advocacy in trial and appellate courts; immigration; criminal-law year in review by Christina Cabanillas; Equal Protection, by Bob McWhirter; LGBT protection under state law; an Ethical Jeopardy game (Thursday afternoon); and adoption issues surrounding the less-traditional family.

Calif. Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso (ret.)

The keynote speaker will be former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso. And at that Friday lunch, Dr. Pearl Tang will present writing competition awards to deserving law students.

The complete roster of seminars and speakers is here.

Download the registration form here (or download a fillable PDF here).

I cannot attend the entire conference, but I’ll be there on Friday. Please stop by and say hi.

The conference will be held at the Desert Willow Conference Center in Phoenix (4340 E. Cotton Center Blvd, Phoenix, AZ). Here’s a map: