Midwinter Meetings Celebrate Events Promoting Diversity
During the 2013 Midwinter Meeting season, eleven Standing Committees held fifteen diversity events approved by the Diversity in the Legal Profession Committee (DLP) for Section funding. The Section provides funding of up to $1,000 of reimbursed expenses to committees that hold pre-approved diversity events at their Midwinter Meetings. Here are the highlights of these events.
ADR in Labor & Employment Law Committee: The ADR in Labor & Employment Law Committee hosted a Diversity Reception during the first night of their midwinter meeting. The reception was co-hosted by Pan Asian Lawyers of San Diego. Pan Asian Lawyers of San Diego is a non-profit bar association that is "dedicated to advancing Asian Americans in the legal profession, promoting and advocating the interests of the Asian American Pacific American Community and preserving the culture, heritage and diversity" of the local Asian American Community. Members of PALSD participated and shared ways to promote inclusion and diversity within the Section and the Committee while networking with reception attendees.
Employee Benefits Committee: The Employee Benefits Committee (EBC) held their Midwinter Meeting in Charleston, South Carolina. The EBC, in conjunction with the Section's Diversity in the Legal Profession Committee and with the support of several law firms, sponsored a Diversity Panel Luncheon. The panelists were Miguel Eaton (Jones Day in Washington), Marcelle J. Henry (Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP in New York), and Kelly Lawson (U.S. Department of Labor in Boston). Approximately 70 people attended. The panelists led an interactive discussion that addressed diversity initiatives in their respective sectors of legal employment (large, employer/defense-oriented firms; small to midsize, employee/union-oriented firms; and government), as well as the challenges that each sector faces in recruiting and retaining qualified diverse candidates/employees. For example, large law firms face obstacles such as recruiting from a relatively narrow list of law schools, and generally high attrition rates. Small to midsize firms face obstacles such as fewer recruiting resources and lack of knowledge among law students and lawyers regarding niche areas of the practice as a specialty. Also, the government faces challenges such as hiring freezes and unpredictable attrition rates. The audience participated with anecdotes from their own experiences that sparked interesting exchanges among themselves and with the panelists. The panelists received positive feedback afterward from several audience members. Attendees who submitted surveys also praised the session and speakers. The EBC looks forward to building off of the success of this program as it continues its efforts to foster and maintain diversity in the EBC, the Section and the profession.
Committee on Development of the Law under the NLRA: DLL Committee Employer Co-chair Tanja Thompson welcomed a room of about 30 first- and long-timers to the DLL Women's Breakfast. The attendees met new NLRB Board Member Sharon Block and were treated to perspective and history by Pat Slovak, a founder of the DLL Women's Breakfast. It was noted that, for the first time, both co-chairs of DLL Committee are women. Attendees talked about how they first came to attend a DLL Midwinter Meeting, why they returned and encouraged other women to attend, and how they have assumed different roles and leadership responsibilities within the Committee (such as speaking at panels or contributing to the Developing Labor Law treatise) and/or the Section.
Many attendees noted that their male colleagues and mentors also had been encouraging and helpful. The Section's Government Fellowship Program was highlighted as an asset; many of the women from the National Labor Relations Board continued to be active with Committee and Section after their Fellowships ended. Several of the attendees had participated in the Section's Leadership Development Program. Attendees were unanimous in how participation in the DLL Committee is both professionally and personally enriching.
On a different morning, Gwynne Wilcox, DLL Union & Employee Co-chair, chaired the DLL Diversity Breakfast. While DLL has been committed to the Section's diversity initiatives, this year's breakfast was particularly well attended, including Ana Hermosillo, the DLL Committee's liaison to the Section's Diversity in the Legal Profession Committee. Attendees brainstormed how to energize the Committee's efforts to implement diversity initiatives more effectively, such as:
- the difference personal one-on-one contact can make in recruitment and retention of new members,
- inclusion of diversity panels or programming on the Midwinter Meeting agenda,
- incorporate the explosion of workplace immigration issues to attract more diverse speakers to participate, and
- financial incentives for committee participation, such as "diversity sponsorships" or reduced/waived fees for speaker alumni.
Employment Rights & Responsibilities Committee: At its recent Midwinter Meeting in Miami Beach, the Employment Rights and Responsibilities Committee sponsored a panel presentation entitled "Don't Judge a Book by its Cover: Proactive Solutions to Counter Implicit Bias at Work and in the Legal Profession." ERR's Diversity Outreach and Inclusion Taskforce (DOIT) hosted the panel presentation moderated by Eric Tate (Morrison & Foerster, San Francisco) and included a cross section of experts on the topic: Christine Amalfe (Gibbons PC, Newark, NJ), Dr. Freada Kapor Klein (Level Playing Field Institute, San Francisco, CA) and Daniel T. Vail (EEOC, Washington, DC). The panel presented the subject by first examining the nature of "implicit bias" and the social science and research behind this form of bias. Dr. Kapor Klein presented both a summary of research as well as many poignant examples of implicit bias that can occur generally in our everyday interactions. Ms. Amalfe noted that many law firms now are starting to understand that this form of bias is real and can have dramatic effects on how women and minority lawyers interact within the firm and with clients. Mr. Vail noted that the EEOC is now beginning to not only understand this phenomenon but also to incorporate it into its investigations and legal analysis when considering matters that come before the Commission.
The highlight of the presentation was the give-and-take with audience members as they considered the topic of proactive solutions for the workplace. Proactive solutions include education and recognition in the workplace generally as well as within the legal profession. However, as Dr. Kapor Klein and Ms. Amalfe noted, leadership is critical to move implicit bias out of the shadows and into the mainstream of discussion to sustain the outreach efforts. Mr. Vail noted that recognition of implicit bias as well as the supporting research now assists the EEOC to better understand and target bias as well as fashion remedies in appropriate cases. The ERR attendees found this program to be very informative and helpful to jump-start some of their own initiatives in this area. If you are interested generally in the topic of implicit bias and the work of one group to expand opportunities for individuals who have historically incurred adverse effects of implicit bias, please visit the Level Playing Field Institute website. Because of the favorable review of this program, ERR and DOIT are planning a follow-up presentation at the 2014 Midwinter meeting.
Equal Employment Opportunity Committee: At its National Conference on Equal Employment Opportunity Law, the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee presented two events to celebrate and increase diversity in the legal profession. During the Committee's Diversity Luncheon, EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien and Commissioner Victoria Lipnic addressed expanding opportunities for workplace diversity within the legal profession. The Committee's Diversity Reception that same day featured speaker Gwendolyn Waring, who examined the complexity of bias associated with first impressions through the lens of her own experiences as a female African-American, solo practitioner. The reception also featured an icebreaker in which new attendees were encouraged to discuss diversity best practices with regular attendees.
Ethics & Professional Responsibility Committee: The Ethics & Professional Responsibility Committee hosted a Welcome and Diversity Reception with local diverse bar associations including the Caribbean Bar Association. This reception encouraged new membership into the Committee and offered an opportunity to ask questions of seasoned attorneys and allowed time for networking.
Federal Labor Standards Legislation Committee: The Federal Labor Standards Legislation (FLSL) Committee presented a diversity program during its midwinter meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico with Keynote Speaker Dr. Arin N. Reeves. Dr. Reeves is President of the consulting firm Nextions, and her career has been focused on developing and implementing strategic plans and programing on diversity and inclusion in the areas of recruitment, retention, promotion, mentoring, marketing and client development issues, particularly within law firms, corporate legal departments, and professional associations within the legal community. She also has researched and written on these issues extensively and actively participated in ABA activities, including as a Council Member on the ABA Presidential Advisory Council on Diversity and as a Commissioner on the ABA Commission on Women (2003-2006), where she co-chaired the Women of Color research project.
At the FLSL Midwinter Meeting, Dr. Reeves addressed diversity issues in a broad context by challenging meeting attendees to carefully consider (and reconsider) perceptions and biases that arise during everyday encounters and how such behavior can result in inclusion or exclusion. Tapping into the skepticism of those lawyers who reacted quickly to challenge her theories, Dr. Reeves engaged the group in several clever games which kept the presentation lively and thought-provoking. Through these techniques, Dr. Reeves led the group in exploring strategic ideas for improving diversity at Committee members' law firms and within the FLSL Committee's membership.
Including diversity practices as part of the overall substantive programming during the FLSL's Midwinter Meeting provided the attendees with new ideas about how to promote diversity within their law firms and professional networks. The FLSL Committee acknowledges and appreciates the assistance of the Section's Diversity in the Legal Profession Committee for supporting this program.
Federal Sector Labor & Employment Law Committee: The Federal Sector Labor and Employment Law Committee's recent Midyear Meeting hosted a scintillating program, including two events sponsored by the Diversity Committee. These included "Glass Ceiling for Women in the Federal Workplace" and "Workplace Bullying," both of which are issues that greatly affect those working and practicing within the federal workplace.
The "Glass Ceiling on Women in the Federal Workplace" program featured presentations by James Tsugawa and Dr. Cynthia Ferentinos from the Merit Systems Protection Board, Office of Policy and Evaluation and Lakeisha Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The presentation included a discussion with the meeting attendees concerning issues that affect women in the federal workplace, including telework and the FMLA.
Bullying also is a prevalent issue in the federal workplace. This type of harassment has been estimated to affect 37% of today's workforce, according to a recent Zogby International survey. The workplace bullying panel featured a discussion surrounding harassment that might arise from discrimination over gender, age, position in the government, and race. This session helped attendees recognize workplace bullying and identified sources of bullying for those who work in the federal sector. The esteemed panel of experts and workplace leaders included Lamont Stallworth from Loyola University, Tracey Therit from the Department of Veteran Affairs, and Dale Deshotel from AFGE's Council of Prison Locals.
International Labor and Employment Law Committee: The International Labor and Employment Law Committee held a Networking Diversity Reception on the first night of the Committee's Midyear Meeting in Rome, Italy. The reception was sponsored by the Section's Diversity in the Legal Profession Committee. The reception started with a presentation on the diversity initiatives of the Committee and the new programs initiated by the Diversity and New Membership Subcommittee. The introductory remarks were followed by a presentation by Cristina Capitanio, a labor and employment lawyer from Gianni, Origoni, Grippo, Cappelli & Partners in Rome. Ms. Capitanio discussed diversity challenges and initiatives in Italian law firms and the Italian judiciary. She primarily focused on the diversity challenges faced by women in Italian law firms, specifically the disparity between the number of female and male partners in law firms. Ms. Capitanio also discussed the challenges faced by female lawyers with family responsibilities. Ms. Capitanio described a number of initiatives instituted by Italian law firms in order to encourage female attorneys to come back to work after having a family, including various flex time arrangements. After her presentation, Ms. Capitanio discussed diversity in the profession with many attendees in smaller groups. The lively discussion continued throughout the night with attorneys from different countries sharing their experiences and opinions on the topic.
Occupational Safety & Health Law Committee: On the second night of the OSH Law Committee's Midwinter Meeting in Laguna Beach, California, U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission Chairman Thomasina Rogers and U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission Chief Judge Covette Rooney addressed the meeting's attendees on diversity in the legal profession.
Chairman Rogers spoke of her personal experience as an African-American female in the practice of law and as a federal administrative law judge and now commissioner. She emphasized the importance of diversity to an effective, well-rounded and balanced judicial system charged with providing effective and full representation of those who appear before it. Chief Judge Rooney recounted her years in the field as a trial attorney and senior trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Labor Solicitor's Office, as an administrative law judge with the Social Security Administration, as a trial judge with the Commission, and now as Chief Judge. She emphasized the need she has seen at every step in her career for a profession that reflects the ethnic and racial makeup of the country and the need of the ABA to find new and creative means of attracting diverse members.
After Chairman Rogers' and Chief Judge Rooney's comments, Section Chair Stu Manela emphasized to the attendees the importance of diversity to the practice of labor and employment law and the importance of the issue of diversity to the Section. Samantha Grant, Council Liaison to the Committee, followed with her comments and observations on issues of diversity and the increasingly diverse membership of the Committee. Like Stu Manela, she focused on the Section's commitment to increase diversity within itself and in the practice of labor and employment law.
Committee on Practice and Procedure under the NLRA: The Committee on Practice and Procedure under the NLRA (P&P) invited the National Immigration Law Project (NILP) to participate in a panel discussion on the impact of the immigration crisis on employers and unions in the workplace, which focused on the Labor Board's policies and procedures for dealing with complex immigration issues. Immigration is an area where many employers and unions share common concerns, with all frustrated by the government's piecemeal approach to the problems. The NILP's Joshua Strehlik and P&P Committee members Gary Marshall and Jessica Drangel Ochs gave an informative presentation and led a lively discussion of how management, labor and the Board could best manage these issues.
The Diversity in the Legal Profession Committee is interested in helping other standing committees plan diversity programs and is currently compiling a list of possible diversity activities. If you have an idea for a diversity event, please contact Katrina Simonsis in the Section office.
This article was prepared by the Diversity in the Legal Profession Committee.
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