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March 05, 2020

Diversity Committee

Forum on Communications Law

Forum on Communications Law

American Bar Association

The Committee recognizes the need to include all racial and ethnic groups in the practice of communications law and encourages communication company law firms to make efforts to recruit, retain and promote lawyers of color. The Committee offers assistance to firms to provide the necessary mentoring to minority lawyers for them to be active in the practice.

ABA Connect

Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

The Forum on Communications Law sponsored and organized its annual First Amendment and Media Law Diversity Moot Court Competition now in its 13th year. During the Forum's 2021 Annual Conference, the Diversity and Media Advocacy Leadership Academy commenced. 

13th Annual First Amendment and Media Law Diversity Moot Court Competition

This competition is designed to introduce minority law students to the practice of media law.  The competition offers cash awards for superior performance in appellate briefing and oral argument. Click below, to see this year's winners and past winners of the competition.

The Digital and Media Advocacy Leadership Academy

To compliment the Forum’s initiative to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in the media bar, this year, the Forum developed and created a new program: The Digital and Media Advocacy Leadership Academy (“Leadership Academy”)

The Leadership Academy was aimed at introducing young and diverse lawyers to communications law by providing them educational opportunities to learn the basics in this varied area of practice. In addition, the participants had the opportunity for one-on-one training from top lawyers from around the country.

Taking place concurrent with the 26th Annual Forum on Communications Law Conference, this was an excellent opportunity to introduce people to our organization, or learn about this area of the law, whether they come from a litigation, transactional or any other background.

The Leadership Academy featured four components:

  1. Plenaries on leadership and diversity, facilitated by senior executives and leaders from around various backgrounds, panels will discuss the meaning of true leadership;
  2. Skills workshop, (Media Advocacy) participants conduct a mock oral argument and a prepublication review exercise in an intimate one-on-one setting with feedback provided by top media lawyers, in-house and senior partners, from around the country;
  3. Digital track, interactive educational group sessions on hot topics in Internet and technology law;
  4. 101 series, a series of classes providing the basics in copyright, entertainment and FCC regulatory law.


Participants were able to pick and choose sessions or areas of practice to discover. Sessions vary from hands-on skill programs to classroom style sessions and everything in between with digital and technology law.

PLENARIES: The Leadership Academy featured two plenary sessions conducted by leaders from a variety of backgrounds:

  • Your Career Path to Leadership & Success: Mentoring Others and Overcoming Obstacles
    A moderated panel of highly successful lawyers of color, who have attained prominent leadership roles, will discuss the hurdles they confronted and overcame in their careers paths. The panel will provide concrete and practical “lessons learned” while sharing how they dealt with institutional and embedded racism with a focus on how to help other lawyers of colors achieve success.
  • Breaking the Barriers: Developing the Future & Diversifying the Media
    A moderated panel of journalists and industry leaders will discuss the potential blueprints for building a brighter future. The topics will include what would a truly diversified and inclusive media landscape look like and how do we create it?


This year’s Skills Workshop drew from the traditional structure of the Media Advocacy Workshop, with one oral argument exercise and one prepublication exercise. Both exercises drew on the same underlying fact pattern as this year’s Diversity Moot Court. The skills workshops took place in small groups with senior media lawyers acting as faculty and “judges,” providing feedback and guidance to participants and creating an opportunity for further networking.

DIGITAL TRACK: Focused on internet and technology related communications law issues, the “Digital” track will offer, three ninety (90) minute interactive sessions. The sessions include:

  • The Struggle is Real With Content Moderation
    Content moderators review and analyze user reports about content shared on platforms and, based on the platform’s rules, guidelines, and the law, decide whether the user-generated content should stay up or come down. In this collaborative workshop, participants will have an opportunity to learn the basics about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C. § 230), listen to true stories about struggles with moderating content from both small-scale and large-scale platforms, and work through various real-life dilemmas content moderators often face in applying a platform’s policies to user-generated content. Participants will hear from a world-renowned Section 230 expert, as well as lawyers and/or Trust and Safety Professionals from in-house and business side operations who face these challenges daily.
  • Unmasking Anonymous Bad Actors & Internet Trolls
    Cyberforensic tools can help identify anonymous internet actors whose malicious behavior is harming others. Practicing attorneys and legal scholars will engage participants in discussions about how courts balance anonymous free speech with the right for victims to hold bad actors accountable for their actions and the injuries they cause. Participants will also have the opportunity to practice using these tools to de-anonymize trolls in real-life scenarios where courts have deemed doing so to be appropriate.
  • Emoji, Emoticon, and Gifs, Oh My! Implications of Imagery in Digital Communications
    😊😉😍😘😚😜😂😝😳😁😣😢😭😰 Emoji are popping up on more than just your smartphone. Between 2004 and 2019 there was an exponential rise in emoji and emoticons in U.S. court opinions, says Santa Clara Law Professor Eric Goldman. Participants will hear from legal experts and scholars about how imagery, such as emoji, emoticons, and gifs, impacts digital communications. The discussion will examine how emoji can vary based on device and/or operating system, and how such imagery continues to impact social media policies, legal decisions, and behavior.

101 SERIES WORKSHOP: The essentials of communications law was presented though a series of 101 Sessions that  included distinguished professors providing insight, and essential information in copyright, entertainment and FCC regulatory laws. The sessions include:

  • Copyright One 0 What?:!: Learning the Basics and Blowing Up the Myths
    Those embarking on a career in media law will have no choice but to run into copyright law and run into it often. Unfortunately, it sometimes seems that there is no area of the law known more wrongly than copyright law. Lawyers need to understand such important concepts as: how the 7-second fair use rule works; why everything posted on the internet is free to use; how giving credit to an author will defeat a copyright infringement claim; why all authors of a work must give you permission to use the work; and how copyright protection does not exist until a work is registered. Also – it is important for young lawyers to know that none of the statements just listed are correct. See … told ya.

    Lincoln Bandlow, an attorney in Los Angeles who has been practicing and teaching copyright law for over 25 years, will provide an overview of basic legal principles for young lawyers just dipping their foot into the copyright waters. He will cover such issues as what it takes to have a copyright, what copyright does (and does not) protect, who owns it, how long does it last, how can it be licensed or transferred, what rights come with it, what is the importance of registration and notice, what constitutes infringement, what defenses are there to infringement, how does fair use work and what are the various copyright remedies. He will also go over the most common misconceptions about copyright law, such as those set forth in the paragraph above. Finally, he will cover how copyright principles work and have evolved to address the new internet/digital world we live in. Questions will be welcomed and, even better, hopefully answered.
  • FCC: Digital, Traditional and Regulatory Law and Media
    This session will cover the basics of the United States’ primary communications regulatory body, including underlying statutory, regulatory, and policy implications of jokes you see on late night television. Topics will include content regulation (e.g., indecency, political ads, and accessibility), exciting (for some) spectrum technical discussions, and everyone’s favorite topic - “regulating the Internet”.
  • Entertainment Law: From landing the big deal to vetting a production
    This session will briefly highlight the various topics that need to be considered when looking at a production. From issue spotting potential problems with trademarks, privacy, defamation and false light, to balancing the risks of fair use with the costs of obtaining releases for third party content, along with the main items to consider when reviewing the myriad of contracts involved in television and film production. The 60-minute session will give you a taste of the broad spectrum of production issues that entertainment lawyers need to consider.