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A National Town Hall Series

Black Lawyers in America

Featuring Three African American Former Presidents of the ABA

About the Program

Against the backdrop of a global pandemic and economic meltdown, familiar tragedies have brought us again to another moment of outrage and protest. But there is something different this time. Perhaps the pandemic has given everyone – especially nonminorities – the grim understanding that African Americans have always known: Leaving the house for something as simple as a jog or a trip to the convenience store could turn fatal.

We all have hope that this moment will be different and that we will see meaningful change. We also have doubts and questions. In this town hall series, we will examine the struggle for change and racial equity in the legal profession from the past, present and future.

Black Lawyers in America Toolkit

The toolkit includes facilitation guidelines, discussion questions, and continuing resources to engage in the work of uplifting Black lawyers' experiences in the workplace and ending practices of implicit bias and anti-Black racism in the legal profession and educational pipeline. It also provides resources and tips for Black lawyers. 

Session 1

Session One: The Foundation

Over the course of their distinguished careers, former ABA presidents Dennis Archer, Paulette Brown and Robert Grey, Jr. have advocated for the change so many now seek and have helped create a foundation of racial equity upon which the profession can now build. This discussion will identify the issues and set the table for a solution-driven dialogue.


Dennis Archer
Chairman Emeritus, Dickinson Wright
President, American Bar Association, 2003-2004
Mayor of Detroit, 1994-2001
Associate Justice, Michigan Supreme Court, 1986-1990

Paulette Brown
Senior Partner and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Locke Lord
President, American Bar Association, 2015-2016

Robert Grey, Jr.
President, Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, 2010 to present
President, American Bar Association, 2004-2005
Board Member, Legal Services Corporation, 2010 to present
Retired Senior Counsel, Hunton Andrews Kurth

Guest Speaker

Judy Perry Martinez
President, American Bar Association, 2019-2020
Of Counsel, Simon, Peragine, Smith & Redfearn
Vice-President and Chief Compliance Officer, Northrop Grumman Corporation 2011-2015


Joseph K. West
Partner and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Duane Morris LLP
President & CEO, Minority Corporate Counsel Association, 2011-2015

Session 2

Session Two: The Focus

As our society increasingly becomes aware of the historic inequities that continue to impact people of color generally and Black Americans in particular, the legal profession is likewise coming to terms with this reality. Black lawyers are grossly underrepresented and underappreciated in the legal profession and are still more likely to be affected by bias – both conscious and unconscious – throughout their careers. Our panel will discuss the existing strategies and approaches that firms and corporations can use to make the profession more diverse and inclusive. We will also examine and explore other solutions that have yet to be implemented broadly. Listeners will come away with guidance and action items.


John O. Gaidoo
Assistant General Counsel
Cummins Inc.

Michele Coleman Mayes
Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary
The New York Public Library

Benjamin F. Wilson
Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.

Guest Speaker

Matthew A. Taylor
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Duane Morris LLP


Joseph K. West
Partner and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer
Duane Morris LLP

Session 3

Session Three: The Future

The next generation of Black legal leaders will discuss the future of the profession. What are their expectations? What do they want to contribute? How will they transform the profession? What challenges do they face and where will they seek their support? How will they harness the energy of social change movements to effectuate change in the boardrooms?


Tiffany Harper
First Deputy Treasurer, Chief of Staff and General Counsel, Office of the Treasurer, City of Chicago

Brandon Harrell
Deputy General Counsel, Los Angeles 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games Organizing Committee

Karl Riley
Clerk for the Hon. Johnnie B. Rawlinson, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Welcome Remarks

Joseph K. West
Partner and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Duane Morris LLP; President & CEO, Minority Corporate Counsel Association, 2011-2015


Rachel W. Patterson
Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Duane Morris LLP

Session 4

Session Four: Black Leaders in the Government - Challenges, Opportunities and Solutions 

This series concludes with an open descussion with Black political leaders in local and federal government, for a firsthand account of the extraordinary responsibilities they must bear in serving their constituents while acting as voices of change in this emotionally and racially charged environment.


Muriel Bowser
Mayor of Washington, D.C

Sheila Jackson Lee
U.S. Representative, 18th Congressional District of Texas

Stacey E. Plaskett
U.S. Representative, U.S. Virgin Islands' at-large Congressional District

Welcome Remarks

Joseph K. West
Partner and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Duane Morris LLP; President and CEO, Minority Corporate Counsel Association, 2011-2015


Wendell Edward Pierce
Actor and Activist