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November 28, 2016 Articles

Meet the 2016 Committee Cochairs

By Andre’ Caldwell

With the American Bar Association Section of Litigation's first exclusively diversity-focused conference having recently taken place, it is no wonder that this year's Minority Trial Lawyer Committee cochairs—Patricia Astorga, Andre' Caldwell, and LaKeisha Randall—are excited about their roles in the committee's efforts to further promote diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. "While diversity and inclusion have always been a focus of the American Bar Association, the Professional Success Summit generated a rejuvenating buzz to those who have championed diversity for so long," says Andre' Caldwell. All three cochairs are resounding examples of diversity and inclusion within their respective legal communities and within the American Bar Association's leadership.

Patricia Astorga, a 2008 Cornell Law School graduate, is an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, where she prosecutes narcotics and firearm offenses. Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney's Office, Patricia was an associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP, and Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, LLP, in New York City, where she practiced complex commercial litigation and white-collar criminal defense. Astorga clerked for the Hon. George B. Daniels in the Southern District of New York. "As a Filipino American female and a first-generation immigrant, I have overcome unique challenges throughout my education and career. I sought mentors in the profession who have encountered similar obstacles and have paved the way for women, immigrants, and minorities. The American Bar Association has been a tremendous resource throughout my career. I have developed a wide network, found lifelong mentors, and formed lasting friendships. In my leadership role, I hope to pay it forward and help future generations reach great heights in their careers," says Astorga.

Astorga's passion for diversity is evident in her community service and bar association activities. She served as a board member of the Filipino American Legal Defense & Education Fund, which provides pro bono legal services to the immigrant community in the greater New York area. She was a founding member of the Filipino American Lawyers Association of New York and a member of the National Filipino American Lawyers Association's Advocacy Committee. Astorga has similarly dedicated her leadership talents to the ABA's Section of Litigation, where she has served as the chair of the Publications Subcommittee of the ABA Section of Litigation's Corporate Counsel Committee, from August 2012  to 2015, and as a cochair of the Minority Trial Lawyer Committee since January 2013. "I have had the pleasure of working with highly accomplished and dedicated cochairs, subcommittee chairs, and newsletter editors for the Minority Trial Lawyer Committee to ensure that the committee produces fresh, engaging, and current information to our committee members," says Astorga. "I look forward to continuing the committee's work with LaKeisha and Andre' this year to further promote diversity and inclusion."

Andre' Caldwell, a 2008 graduate of the University of Oklahoma College of Law, is a partner at the Oklahoma City office of Crowe & Dunlevy, where he practices criminal defense and complex commercial litigation. Prior to joining Crowe & Dunlevy, Andre' worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma, where he also worked on the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force team and primarily prosecuted drug and firearm offenses. Growing up in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Andre' recalls that his first exposure to the legal profession came from a high school internship with a well-respected African American solo practitioner. "There weren't many black attorneys in Rock Hill at that time and he represented a glimpse into the future that I hoped to achieve." Currently, as the only African American male partner at his firm, Andre' hopes to provide that same mentorship to current pre-law and law school students in an effort to increase diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. Andre' notes that his success within the firm is significantly attributable to two of his mentors, both of whom are non-diverse attorneys. "While it is important for diverse attorneys to tout the importance of diversity, the role of non-diverse attorneys in championing diversity truly moves the ball down the field," says Caldwell. "This is why I believe the Professional Success Summit is a major accomplishment of the Section of Litigation, because it represents a collaborative effort of diverse and non-diverse attorneys who understand that success cannot be achieved until everyone is on the same page." "I've been very fortunate at my firm to be surrounded by many individuals, both diverse and non-diverse, who recognize the importance of these efforts," says Caldwell. "Recently, my firm appointed me as chair of the Diversity Committee, following on the heels of my two mentors." "Succession planning of that nature is unmatched." Andre', like Patricia, is also not a new face to leadership within the ABA's Section of Litigation. He is a 2014 graduate of the Diverse Leaders Academy Program. "After taking a year off from leadership, I'm excited to collaborate with Patricia and LaKeisha to carry forward the committee's vision and plan."

LaKeisha R. Randall, a 2011 graduate of North Carolina Central University School of Law, is an in-house trial attorney at State Farm Insurance Company in Atlanta, Georgia. Prior to joining State Farm, LaKeisha was the sole senior judicial law clerk for the 10 trial judges of the City of Atlanta Municipal Court. With a BA in sociology and a concentrated focus on African American Studies and Women's Studies, Randall identifies as a womanist and promotes diversity and inclusion.

A leader both locally and nationally, LaKeisha was the inaugural chair of the Young Lawyers Division of the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys and has served on its Executive Board since 2015. Nationally, Randall was a 2015 ABA Young Lawyers Division Scholar; accepted ABA presidential appointments to the Advisory Committee of the Commission on Lawyers Assistance Programs and to the commission itself, which she now serves as a member; and was one of four nationally selected for the Section of Litigation's Young Lawyer Leadership (YLLP) Program. She has also served in leadership of the Young Lawyers Division since 2012 and lead’s the division’s #Fit2Practice wellness initiative. She has published a host of articles regarding civil rights, litigation, and attorney wellness.

LaKeisha became active in the Minority Trial Lawyer Committee as a law student and considers herself honored to now lead the committee. "I am proud that the Section of Litigation chose my culturally rich hometown of Atlanta for its inaugural Professional Success Summit—to many African American women, glass ceilings sometimes feel like concrete, and I'm excited to begin a transparent dialogue...In a similar fashion, I hope to build upon the momentum of PSS and strengthen the network of minority trial attorneys, offer premiere training and resources to our members, and explore the unique concerns of practicing as a person of color."

The cochairs have been working to diligently develop their plans for this leadership year; however, we welcome suggestions and ideas from the bar as a whole. Astorga notes, "We encourage anyone with interest in the committee's work to contact us so that together we can make this year a success."

Keywords: litigation, minorities, Minority Trial Lawyer Committee, cochairs

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