Issue: April 2019

Chair's Column

It is hard to believe that I am over halfway through my term as Chair of the Section! I have thoroughly enjoyed my first six months on the job, and it has been an honor and privilege to serve our Section and our 18,000 members. And these are exciting times for the Section with the New Membership Model radically reducing dues from $450 to $75 for young members, record attendance this year at many Midwinter Meetings, the upcoming Leadership Development Program and our Second Trial Institute in September!

But perhaps the most exciting news is that on July 1, 2019, our Section Secretary, Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, will become the first female Chief Judge in the 200-year history of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  Judge Pallmeyer has been a phenomenal contributor to the Section for many years and an inspirational teacher of young lawyers.  Judge Pallmeyer has not only spoken at many of our Annual Conferences, but she also has presided as the Judge each year for the Regional Finals of our Law Student Trial Advocacy Competition as well as our inaugural Trial Institute.  As Section Secretary, she also delivered an insightful and entertaining Supreme Court Review at the 2018 Annual Conference in San Francisco.  Congratulations Judge Pallmeyer on this great honor, and a heartfelt thank you for all of your support for our wonderful Section over the years! 

Judge Pallmeyer also has been an ardent supporter of diversity on the bench and in the legal profession. Judge Pallmeyer said she is looking at this next chapter as a chance to show women that they should not give up on their dreams because determination can lead to success in a profession where there is a significant pipeline of women leaders.  “Women have been in the pipeline for years and years and decades,” she said. “They do rise to leadership positions in a way that they couldn’t have 20 or 30 years ago and certainly that applies to me.”

In reflecting on this major accomplishment by our Section Secretary, it brings to mind the progress that our Section has made in promoting women and diverse lawyers to leadership positions in recent years. Currently, over 50% of our leadership positions are held by women and a record 30% are held by diverse attorneys. It was so great to see so many diverse attorneys attend our Annual Conference and Midwinter Meetings this year!  While we are never satisfied nor do we want to become complacent, it is apparent that our diversity and inclusion outreach efforts are not just gaining traction but also delivering in making our Section more representative of the members it serves.

Our Leadership Development Program (LDP) is one of the programs that the Section developed a number of years ago to provide a vehicle for women and diverse attorneys to jump start their Section involvement and secure leadership positions in the Section early in their careers. Diversity and Inclusion is a key component of the curriculum as well as effective mentoring relationships, communication skills, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence and self-assessment. Applications are now being accepted for our next Leadership Development Program this summer from July 17-19 in Chicago. Funding for travel and accommodations will be provided by the Section for those selected to participate. Visit the website to access the application form.

The Section also continues to partner with diverse bar associations on CLE programs and other projects to build bridges between the membership of those organizations and the Section and create a pipeline of diverse Section members.  The 2019 Trial Institute will be co-sponsored once again by Chicago Kent Law School and the National Employment Law Council (NELC), a minority bar association comprised of prominent management side labor and employment lawyers. This is one of the few trial advocacy “boot camps” that focuses exclusively on building trial skills for employment law cases.  On the final day, participants will try an employment case from start to finish before actual federal judges in federal courtrooms in Chicago. The Section is now accepting applications for our 2nd Trial Institute, which will take place in Chicago on September 19–22, 2019, and I urge you to apply for this excellent program if you are interested in honing your trial skills.

Finally, as our 2019 Midwinter Meeting season is winding down, I would like to extend my congratulations to our Standing Committee Co-Chairs for putting on a series of extremely successful programs. I attended many of these meetings and observed firsthand the extraordinary quality of the presentations, and I had the opportunity to meet and have meaningful conversations with EEOC Commissioners, the General Counsel and Members of the NLRB and many other high level government officials. Most of the meetings were very well attended, and we achieved record attendance at several meetings. Our final meetings will take place over the next two months:

National Symposium on Technology in Labor and Employment Law
Presented by the Technology in the Practice and Workplace Committee
April 10-12
Chicago, Illinois

International Labor and Employment Law Committee Midyear Meeting
May 5-9
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Both promise to be excellent meetings, and if you have not already attended a Midwinter Meeting this year, I urge you to sign up for one of these meetings. I can assure you that these two meetings will not disappoint!