March 19, 2021

Diversity & Inclusion Committee

Mission Statement

Promoting diversity in the profession shall be a priority of the Forum. The mission of the Forum’s Diversity Committee is to raise awareness and understanding among our members and others of the vital role diversity plays in the construction industry, both nationally and globally. The Diversity Committee’s mission includes enhancing participation, inclusion and leadership opportunities for attorneys of diverse backgrounds in Forum programs, publications and other initiatives. The Committee will also educate our membership on how diversity impacts the practice of construction law.    

The Forum’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee sponsors a number of outreach efforts for diverse construction lawyers:

  • Diversity Scholarships
  • Member Bring A Diverse First Timer Program
  • Diversity Fellowships


Diversity + Inclusion Brunch

The Forum on Construction Law Diversity and Inclusion Committee is hosting a series of free monthly diversity “brunch” programs. Each program will feature a conversation with a keynote speaker who will give about issues relating to diversity, inclusion, construction and the legal industry. The brunches will take place at 1:00 PM EDT on the third Thursday of each month and will last one hour. These programs are free and will be open to all members of the Forum, friends, clients and anyone else who is interested. Preregistration is required.

August 20, 2020 - Inaugural Session: Diversity and Inclusion as a Key Factor in Project Management

On August 20, 2020 the ABA Forum on Construction Law hosted the Inaugural Diversity + Inclusion Brunch webinar, featuring speaker Tewanee Joseph, CEO of Tewanee Consulting Group, a First Nations-owned and operated company, & leader in planning the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Mr. Joseph discussed how the 2010 Winter Games’ management team’s focus on inclusion was a critical element in ensuring the Games’ success and lasting legacy.

Click here to view the recording. 

September 17, 2020 - From the South Side of Chicago to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway:  One Man’s Journey. 

On September 17, 2020, Jimmie McMillian joined us to discuss his uncommon journey from the South Side of Chicago, to Partner at an Am Law 100 firm, to serving as Senior Corporate Counsel of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. As featured in the August 2015 New York Times article, along the way,  Mr. McMillian learned about the importance of, and his passion for, mentorship, the challenges facing black lawyers, and the need to advocate for social justice issues.   He also provided fascinating insights into his role as Senior Corporate Counsel, and the challenges of hosting the largest single-day sporting event in the world.

Click here to view the recording.

October 15, 2020 -  Critical Conversations: How Social Unrest is Changing the Dialogue About Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion efforts have been a focus of most organizations across the country, even prior to the social unrest of 2020. Now, more than ever, the need for authentic and broad corporate diversity and inclusion programs and initiatives is apparent to companies across industry and geography. Join us as DeRetta Rhodes, Senior Vice President of People Capital for the Atlanta Braves, and Tom Garrett, Chief Human Resources Officer for Brasfield & Gorrie, one of the nation’s largest privately held construction firms, share how their organizations seized this opportunity to transform D&I initiatives into a diverse and inclusive culture. 

Click here to view the recording

November 19, 2020 -  Access and Opportunity -Why the Construction Industry Needs Diversity to Survive and Thrive

Jennifer Todd, Founder & President of LMS General Contractors, joins Cathy Altman, Chair of Construction at Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal, LLP, for a candid conversation about the barriers to diversity and inclusion in the construction industry, the steps to create opportunity and access, and why increasing the number of minority owned construction companies and skilled workers is critical to address shortages in the industry.

Click here to view the recording

January 22, 2021 -  Building Bridges: A Conversation with The Hon. Victoria Kolakowski, the First Openly Transgender Judge Elected in the U.S.

A Conversation with The Hon. Victoria Kolakowski about her experience navigating a legal career as an openly transgender woman.

Click here to view the recording

February 18, 2021 - The Architecture of Inclusion: Keys to Designing, Building a Diverse Equitable Inclusive Workplace

Kelly Bundy and Angela Vallot, an attorney and a nationally recognized DEI consultant with VallotKarp, discuss best practices for law firms seeking to create more diverse, equitable and inclusive environments that will affect lasting, cultural change.

Click here to view the recording


March 18, 2021 - Diversity + Inclusion = Influence + Power

Yolanda Cash Jackson, a Shareholder in the Becker law firm, is included in the 2020 edition of INFLUENCE 100, a list of the 100 most influential people in Florida politics. Yolanda is an experienced Government Law attorney who has established a strong reputation in the community for her leadership and commitment to civic, charitable and professional organizations. She has a particular interest in state government funding and appropriations, and actively collaborates with Florida’s leading elected officials and policymakers to shape a better future for the Sunshine State.

Click here to view the recording


April 15, 2021 - Priorities for Progress: The Challenges of Legal Practice Within and Among the Hispanic Community.

Join Forum Member John Vento as he welcomes two members of the Tampa Bay Hispanic Bar Association, Trish Candamo and Clara Rodriguez Rokusek, to have a conversation about representing Latino clients; including the disparate treatment facing women attorneys and Latinos, and the cultural differences in play when representing Spanish-speaking clients.

Click here to view the recording

May 20 , 2021 - How to Build An Antiracist Legal Profession

Lawyers play a critical role in our society. They represent individuals, organizations, businesses, and corporations, helping them to resolve legal problems and issues in civil and criminal cases. They act on behalf of tribes, local and state governments, the federal government, and the public interest in promoting truth and justice and protecting the rule of law. They produce and write case law as jurists and statutes as legislators and legislative policy attorneys. More broadly speaking, they serve as leaders in our communities, they shape policy, and they work to create social and legal reform.

In performing all of these tasks, lawyers also have a responsibility to ensure fairness and equity for all. To do so, lawyers must engage in an antiracist approach to their legal work and their community leadership. An antiracist approach is necessary to ensuring a racially just world.

In this talk, Dean Angela Onwuachi-Willig will discuss the obstacles and challenges to developing antiracist law schools and an antiracist professional world in law. In so doing, she will define terms such as “racism” and “antiracism.” She will conclude with suggestions of actions that law schools, law firms, legal organizations, government offices, and public interest organizations can take to build an antiracist legal profession.

Click here to view the recording

Black Lawyers in America: A National Town Hall Series

Forum Members: The ABA launched an important series to address racial equity in the law. The Forum is committed to diversity, inclusion, and professionalism. The Forum also knows that the obligation to work for these values begins with each one of us. Therefore, the Forum invites you to participate in this important and relevant dialogue. 

Black Lawyers in America: A National Town Hall Series will take place each week. You can attend live or via recorded webcast. 

Against the backdrop of a global pandemic and related economic challenges, recent race-related tragedies have brought our nation to another moment of outrage and protest. We can only hope that our awareness is heightened now and that a thoughtful examination of these circumstances will lead to meaningful and positive change. That change can only happen when all of us stand together for what is right. 

In this town hall series, the ABA will examine the struggle for change and racial equity in the legal profession from the past, present, and future.

Session One: The Foundation

This session features the three African American Former Presidents of the ABA, Dennis Archer, Paulette Brown, and Robert Grey, Jr., and Guest Speaker Judy Perry Martinez. Over the course of their distinguished careers, former ABA presidents Mr. Archer, Ms. Brown and Mr. Grey 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. This session was live on July 7 and is now available here.

The recording is also available on the Racial and Equity webpage of the ABA website found here.

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. This session is now available here.

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? This session is now available here.


Diversity Scholarship Program

For each of the three national meetings, the regional programs, and the Trial Academy, the Forum awards Diversity Scholarships to women and minority construction lawyers, construction lawyers with disabilities, and construction lawyers from the LGBT community.  Each scholarship covers the cost of registration.   Individuals wishing to be considered for a scholarship should submit a copy of their resume together with a short letter describing their construction law practice, along with reasons why they want to attend the program for which they are applying.  Questions and/or applications for the scholarships should be sent directly to the Chair of the Forum’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Nick Holmes, at

Past Diversity Fellows

Get in Free!

Bring a Diverse First Timer to a National Meeting of the Forum and You Both Get in Free!

In order to encourage Forum members to recruit diverse lawyers to attend their first national meeting of the Forum, the Diversity Committee has renewed the Member Bring a Diverse First Timer initiative. Under this program, the Forum will waive the registration fee for the first ten (10) Forum members who register for a national meeting of the Forum and who also register and bring along a diverse lawyer to his or her first national meeting of the Forum (a “first timer”), whose registration fee will also be waived. It could be a diverse young associate in the member’s office or a diverse lawyer on the other side of a case. In order to take advantage of the initiative, the Forum member and the first timer must both commit to attend the program (offer limited to one per Forum member per bar year). For more information or to register, please contact Patricia Harris at

Forum Diversity Quick Facts

At every national meeting of the Forum, the Diversity Committee has presented a breakfast or luncheon featuring a nationally prominent speaker on some aspect of diversity and inclusion. Past speakers have included:

  • 2018 Fall meeting – Right Honourable Beverly McLachlin, first woman to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and longest serving Chief Justice of Canada, and co-author of the book “The Canadian Law of Architecture and Engineering;”
  • 2018 Annual meeting – a panel of four diverse past leaders of the Forum, Ava J. Abramowitz, past Forum Governing Committee member and recipient of the Forum’s prestigious Cornerstone Award, Deborah S. Ballati, past chair of the Forum and first female president of the American College of Construction Lawyers, Deborah S. Griffin, first female chair of the Forum and recipient of the Forum’s prestigious Cornerstone Award, and Leslie King O’Neal, past Forum chair and past board member of the American College of Construction Lawyers;
  • 2018 Midwinter meeting – Patrick Jephson, consultant, journalist, broadcaster, bestselling author, and former equerry and the only private secretary and chief of staff to Her Royal Highness, the Princess of Wales, Diana;
  • 2017 Fall meeting – Mary L. Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), nationally renowned litigator who argued the case of Obergefell v. Hodges before the U.S. Supreme Court which legalized gay marriage in the United States, and advocate for LGBTQ rights;
  • 2017 Annual meeting – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassen, second woman in history to have served as both a Governor (New Hampshire) and a U.S. Senator, and advocate for disability rights;
  • 2017 Midwinter meeting – Dr. Steven Chu, Stanford University Professor, former U.S. Secretary of Energy, and Nobel Laureate;
  • 2016 Fall meeting – Robert J. Grey, Jr., President of Leadership Council on Legal Diversity and past President of the ABA;
  • 2016 Annual meeting – Paulette Brown, (then current) President of the ABA and the first woman of color to ever be elected President of the ABA;
  • 2016 Midwinter meeting – Carla Christopherson, former co-owner of the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks and Executive Vice President and General Counsel of the global design, construction, and management firm AECOM in Los Angeles;
  • 2015 Fall meeting – Kate Bergin, Curator and Speaker Coach for TEDx Manhattan Beach, California;
  • 2015 Annual meeting – Fred Gray, civil rights lawyer who worked alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. on voting rights and school integration, defended Rosa Parks after her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus, sued the federal government on behalf of the men exploited by the Tuskegee, Alabama syphilis experiment, and the first African-American ever to be elected President of the Alabama Bar Association;
  • 2015 Midwinter meeting – Judge Bernice B. Donald of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, past Secretary of the ABA and the first African-American woman to serve as an officer in the history of the ABA and the first African-American President of the American Bar Foundation; and
  • 2014 Fall meeting – Kat Cole, President of Cinnabon, Inc. and former Hooters waitress.

Diversity Fellowships Available!

The Forum is pleased to announce the availability of six (6) Diversity Fellowships. The Forum’s leadership has initiated a fellowship program for diverse construction lawyers with the goal of drawing diverse construction lawyers into the ranks of active, long-term Forum members. The Forum’s Diversity Fellowship is intended to identify diverse construction lawyers who have demonstrated interest in the Forum and are therefore potential candidates for future Forum leadership. Fellows receive the following benefits:

  • Waiver of all registration fees for the Forum’s Fall, Midwinter, and Annual Meetings;
  • Reimbursement of reasonable travel and accommodation expenses associated with attending the Forum’s Annual Meeting held each spring (not to exceed $1,500 per annum);
  • Waiver of Forum membership dues; and
  • Payment of ABA membership dues in the following amounts: 100% in Year 1; 66% in Year 2; and 33% in Year 3.

Additionally, Fellows are afforded the opportunity to join the steering committee of one of the Forum’s fourteen (14) Divisions, and if desired, the Forum will arrange a mentor for each Fellow, appropriate to that Fellow’s needs (e.g. career advice, guidance on navigating Forum meetings, leadership, committees, etc.). While all submitted applications will be considered, the ideal candidates will have between three (3) and twelve (12) years’ experience in construction law.

Fellowship recipients are expected to attend the Forum’s Annual Meeting in the spring and are strongly encouraged to attend the Fall and Midwinter meetings. 

Uploaded under "Documents" is an application for the Forum’s 2020 Diversity Fellowship. Completed applications must be received on, or before, Friday, January 31, 2020. The application deadline will not be extended.

Applications for fellowships should be sent to:

Lori Y. Baggett (Chair, Diversity Fellowship Subcommittee)
Carlton Fields, P.A.
Corporate Center Three International Plaza
4221 West Boy Scout Blvd., Suite 1000
Tampa, Florida 33607
Phone: 813.229.4220