chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
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 ofthe 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.

  • Diversity Scholarships
  • Diversity Fellowships

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 [email protected]

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 now accepting applications for diversity fellowships for 2024. The Forum will award up to four (4) fellowships this year. Benefits include waiver of all registration fees for the Annual, Fall, and Midwinter meetings; reimbursement of up to $1,500 in travel and accommodation expenses for the Annual Meeting; reimbursement of Forum membership dues; and reimbursement of ABA membership dues in the following amounts: 100% in Year 1; 66% in Year 2; and 33% in Year 3.

Fellows also have the opportunity to join a Steering Committee for one of the Forum's Fourteen Divisions, and if desired, can be paired with a mentor.  All 2024 Fellowship recipients must be able to attend the 2024 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, April  11-13.

Click here for the application for the Forum’s 2024 Diversity Fellowship. Completed applications must be received on, or before, Wednesday , January 31, 2024 .

Applications for fellowships should be sent to:

Kristen Sherwin (Chair, Diversity Fellowship Subcommittee)
Winstead PC
2728 N. Harwood Street, Suite 500
Dallas, Texas 75201
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 214.745.5392

Past Diversity Fellows