Nashville is a beautiful, fun, and culturally rich city. It was a great location to host the ABA YLD’s 2012 Spring Conference! The conference leaders report that over 325 young lawyers and legal experts converged on Nashville to share a weekend of learning and socializing. More than 20 CLE and networking sessions took place during the meeting, and the attendees enjoyed great accommodations at the Hilton Nashville Downtown.
For me, the highlight of the conference was definitely the diversity luncheon held on Friday. It was entitled “Lunch with a President, a Citizen and a Bar Leader: Diverse Reflections on Developments in the Legal Profession.” The idea behind the luncheon was to offer diverse reflections on diversity and inclusion in the legal profession over the past few decades. It featured three truly eminent speakers—a university president and former U.S. presidential cabinet member, a civil rights pioneer and Tennessee lawyer who self-identifies simply as a citizen and a law firm partner, and a former White House counsel: Hazel O’Leary, George E. Barrett, and Harriet Miers, respectively.
For me, it was such a treat to hear the perspectives of the three panelists. Hazel O’Leary spoke of her experiences being a brand new woman lawyer in the 1960s and the challenges that brought. President O’Leary also told of the perspectives on diversity and inclusion that attended on serving as an executive branch cabinet officer. Finally, we heard about life as a university president and how Fisk University, a historically black college, works towards diversity and inclusion today.
George E. Barrett offered the truly unique perspective of a Tennessee lawyer who was admitted to the bar in the 1950s and began his law practice during the height of the civil rights movement. Barrett told of the personal and professional risks he took during those early days to launch his legal career in Nashville by defending men and women of all races and ethnic backgrounds. Today, Barrett remains an outspoken advocate for diversity and inclusion and a defender of the underserved.
Harriet Miers needs no introduction here. It was truly a pleasure to meet Miers face to face and to hear her perspectives on diversity and inclusion. She discussed her experiences as a law graduate in the early 1970s and the challenges women faced at that time. She also spoke of her career as a law firm partner and the opportunity she was presented to work for the Bush Administration. I was surprised to learn that Miers had served as the first female president of both the Dallas Bar Association and the State Bar of Texas.
Another standout experience during this conference was the ABA YLD Dinner Dance, held at the famous Country Music Hall of Fame. Looking out the south facing windows of our Hilton Hotel, we could see the prominent Country Music Hall of Fame building. The building’s exterior features tall windows that resemble the configuration of piano keys. It was quite a sight to see.
Once at the event venue on Friday evening, ABA YLD guests were escorted into the Hall of Fame and offered a tour of the museum. It was wonderful to see photographs, memorabilia, and record albums featuring famous country music artists, old and new. The artists that stick out in my mind are classics like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard and new young stars like Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert. The evening also offered a formal dinner and a Nashville-inspired band and dance experience in the Hall’s grand ballroom. The ballroom showcased an interior view of the piano key windows described above.
On Saturday morning, the ABA YLD Affiliate Assistance Team offered an event called the Affiliate Showcase. It was a repeat performance after successful events in Las Vegas and prior conferences. My Minnesota affiliate, the Minnesota State Bar Association New Lawyers Section, gladly took this opportunity to showcase one of our projects. We highlighted our quarterly online publication for new lawyers, called Hearsay. I had the pleasure of sitting next to another affiliate leader at the showcase who had her young infant in tow. The youngster sported a bar association logo “onesie,” the first such piece of bar association regalia that I have ever seen. I’ll be taking that idea back to my local affiliate.
This article could go on for pages detailing all of the great events put on by the ABA YLD and the Nashville Host Committee. Suffice it to say that this was another extremely fun and educational conference event offered by the ABA YLD. See you in Chicago!