Tag Archives: Diversity Conference News

Time to Talk Town Hall Wins ABA Award

Compiled by Chris Fortier from Virginia State Bar Reports

The Time to Talk Town Hall Series from 2020 won a major national award.

Through a submission for the ABA Young Lawyers Division Awards of Achievement through our partners, the Young Lawyers Conference (YLC), the Series won the 2021 Award of Achievement for Diversity for the Time to Talk Townhall Web Series, which was a series of three town hall style virtual forums for discussing issues of equality, race and ethnicity in the wake of the nationwide protests surrounding the deaths of George Floyd and other persons of color. These issues were discussed through the lens of concrete legal frameworks and concepts.

The town halls were a joint project and covered policing, free speech, statue removal, protests, and addressing implicit bias. The web series was distributed after recording through the two conferences’ newsletters, Docket Call and Invictus.

Dave Masterman, chair of the Diversity Conference noted, “Programs like this one have added importance in difficult times, and goodness knows that the last few years have been difficult. This Award is both a wonderful recognition of the YLC’s and the Diversity Conference’s hard work on these issues and an inspiration for all of us to keep this dialogue open.”

The ABA Young Lawyers Division Awards of Achievement recognizes projects and programs put on by young lawyer groups from around the country. One major criterion is collaboration with other bar organizations to put on quality programming. The Diversity Conference and the Young Lawyers Conference have a strong partnership supporting one another to put on exceptional programs such as the award winning Hill Tucker Institute and the Time to Talk Town Halls.

Annual Meeting Review: Mentorship Today

by: Chris Fortier

The old notion of quaint visits in the office for mentoring no longer is the norm. COVID-19 transitioned many lawyers to working at home or even remotely. However, mentoring is not dead, it just looks different. Dean Blake Morant noted that mentoring leads to lifelong learning as our need for information is constant. However, as moderator Leslie Haley noted, 55-60 percent of Virginia lawyers are in law firms with five or fewer attorneys. Such firms may not have a formal mentoring program or resources in the firm to foster mentoring.

The Annual Meeting panel included Ra Hee Jeon, Judge Rossie Alston, Anita Poston, Dean Blake Morant, and Jay Myerson.

Mentoring can come from anyone at any time. Judge Alston emphasized listening to everyone, including non-lawyers. He stated that new lawyers come with knowledge of the law but not how to effectuate it. Older lawyers and court staff can show how to accomplish what one wants. Take the opportunity to learn doing things the right way as these folks provide bits of information to help! Dean Morant observed that mentoring comes in a variety of packages. “Find someone who is willing to work with you and you admire their success. Differences can enhance the synergies. While we have mentored online, it is a compliment not a substitute. The in-person presence helps you immensely.”

Poston discussed the effects of mentoring on applicants. Mentoring can assist an applicant with a spotted history get back on course. She observed that the issue areas with biggest problems seen in bar applications include substance abuse, financial issues, disregard of the law, and plagiarism. Mentorship programs should teach professional behavior to those in law school. For bar applications: she looks for those with issues to confront character issues with candor, to be up front. Character and Fitness wants to see you taking steps on a plan to resolve financial issues. Representation in front of character and fitness is mostly about mentoring and going into a plan.

Dean Morant provided a broad view of mentoring and professionalism, where we learn from one another. When one is learning, one is teaching with others. Professional Learning from others is critical to lifelong learning. Law school associations with others is where mentorship becomes important. We need education for the practice of law. We have an obligation to pass information on to the next generation.

Jeon stated that the practice of law is about values and networking with others. She urged young lawyers to surround yourself with good people so that you can ask questions and have the mentoring discussions. You can have multiple mentors such as an ethics mentor or a competency mentor. Myerson noted that he has new attorneys witness hearing, prepare witnesses, and coach witnesses. It is not a weakness to ask for help or ask questions. “You always get a fresh perspective.”

Haley noted that mentoring helped her life balance as someone along the way helped her figure out how to live life as a lawyer and as someone in a family. A mentor discussed the finer points of adjusting to children in her life and balancing her work. Jeon noted that she had this assistance too, as a mentor helped her figure out issues such as asking for time off to care for concerns with family.

The panel discussed how mentorship can go both ways, called reciprocal mentorship. For example, Judge Alston noted how President Myerson asked for feedback on being a better lawyer after a trial with him. He noted this outreach as an example of how someone years out can take advantage of mentorship. Dean Morant noted that mentors get a lot from their mentees. Ms. Jeon pointed out that recent graduates are up to date on and can share developments with technology, for example, creating table of contents in a Word document.

One such mentoring package can come from those outside your firm. President Myerson noted that going outside the law firm provides a different and helpful perspective. Rule 1.6 Comment 5A has the ethical guidance on this, however. Be mindful about disclosing details about clients and cases. The comment recognizes that lawyers need to consult one another as part of professional development. Honesty and integrity matters. Remember, the rule says “substantial concerns about honesty and integrity.”

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Chris Fortier is an attorney at the Social Security Administration and the multimedia editor for Invictus. The views represented in this article do not represent those of the Social Security Administration or the Federal Government.

Meet the New Members of the Board of Governors

Compiled by Chris Fortier

The Diversity Conference also welcomes its new Board members, whose terms started at the end of the VSB Annual Meeting in June.  Everyone named was elected to three year terms commencing at the close of the Annual Meeting. This group made its first meeting on June 24, 2021.

Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson, a principal at SmolenPlevy in Vienna, has a history of service with the Diversity Conference, serving on different projects including our Annual Forum on Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession.  She serves on the Board of Directors of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Virginia, where she is also the General Counsel of the group. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Virginia Women Attorneys Association (2008-present) and was its President in the 2014-2015 bar year.

Daniel P. Frankl is a Roanoke based partner at Frankl, Miller, Webb, and Moyers where he has an insurance defense practice concentrating on individuals and commercial motor carriers. He also starts a three year term representing the 23rd Judicial Circuit on the Virginia State Bar’s Council. He is a member of the Roanoke Bar Association, serving on the Board of Directors. He chaired the Virginia Bar Association’s Highways Section from 2001 to 2004. He is a double graduate of George Mason University.

Courtney Frazier is staff counsel at Allstate in Virginia Beach. Before then, she was an associate at the Cooper Law Firm, PC. Courtney is a past co-chair of the Hill-Tucker Institute, an award winning collaboration of the Diversity Conference, the Young Lawyers Conference, and its sponsors including the Virginia Law Foundation. She is a graduate of the University of Richmond and Louisiana State University.

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Claire G. Gastanga served as the Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia until 2021. Before her time with the ACLU, she was a civil rights attorney and a consultant. She was also the first woman to serve as Chief Deputy Attorney General in Virginia. From 1996 until 2000, she was Chief of Staff and Special Counsel to the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the Michigan State University College of Law.

Shemeka Hankins, Esq., of Invictus Law in Virginia Beach, becomes the second board member from the Hampton Roads area.A former prosecutor, Shemeka now serves on the defense side of criminal litigation. Shemeka is a past president of the South Hampton Roads Bar Association and a former member of the Board of Governors with the VSB Young Lawyers Conference.  She has won multiple awards for her bar service, with Significant Service awards with the YLC in 2015 and 2016 and the Conference of Local and Speciality Bar Association’s Local Bar Leader of the Year Award in 2020.  She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and Regent University School of Law.

Judge John Tran of the Fairfax County Circuit Court, joins the Board as its Judicial representative. He was a former assistant commonwealth’s attorney for the city of Alexandria and a former special assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. He ascended to the bench in 2013, becoming the first Asian-American to be elected to the bench in Virginia. In 2021, he was named an ABA Legal Rebel for his education of lawyers with WebEx conferencing technology.

The membership elected David Masterman of Vienna for the Chair of the Diversity Conference, Julie McClellan for Chair-Elect, Alicia Roberts for Treasurer, and Candace Blydenbaugh for Secretary. The Board voted to extend Victor Cardwell, Esq. and Zaida Thompson, Esq., for second three year terms. We thank Judge Eugene Cheek for his years of service and for his support to the Diversity Conference.

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All material compiled from law firm biographies, LinkedIn profiles, or press reports.

Juneteenth and the Official End of Slavery in the United States

By Alicia Roberts Johnson 

Many people believe or history books may tell you that slavery for African-Americans in the United States ended on January 1, 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which declared that all persons held as slaves within the rebellious states shall be free.  Unfortunately, while January 1, 1863 marked the end of slavery for some African-Americans in the United States, it did not mark the end of slavery for those in Texas.  Continued to be held in bondage, it was some two years later on June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger brought the good news to Galveston, Texas that the war had ended and all those in bondage were now free.  Prior to Major General Granger’s arrival in Texas, there were not enough Union soldiers in Texas to enforce the proclamation.  Upon his arrival Major General Granger would issue the following executive order to the people of Texas:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.  This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.  The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages.  They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”  General Orders, Number 3, Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865.

It was out of this executive order that the holiday of Juneteenth would be born and recognized as the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States.  To date, 47 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or ceremonial holiday and many businesses such as Target, Nike, and the National Football League have declared Juneteenth a holiday for their employees.  While Juneteenth has been celebrated by many African-Americans for well over a century now, it has recently gained increased national recognition with the development of more robust exhibits at national museums such as the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, as well as through national television broadcasts.  The Commonwealth of Virginia would join in the celebration of Juneteenth on June 16, 2020, when Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued Executive Order 66, declaring his intent to make Juneteenth a permanent state holiday.  This legislation was subsequently passed by the Virginia General Assembly in the fall of 2020 after lawmakers unanimously voted in favor of this historic legislation.  

Many communities and organizations across our nation have celebrations to commemorate Juneteenth to promote and cultivate awareness of African-American history and culture.  I encourage you to avoid using Juneteenth as just another day off, but rather use Juneteenth as a time to learn more about African-American history and the many contributions African-Americans have made and continue to make to our society.

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Alicia Roberts Johnson serves as the Chair-Elect on the Board of Governors of the Diversity Conference.

Editor’s Note: One day before this presentation, Juneteenth became a federal holiday with its first observance on June 18, 2021.

 

Doris Henderson Causey Receives the Clarence M. Dunnaville Jr. Award

Doris Henderson Causey, managing attorney of the Richmond office of the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, has been awarded the Clarence M. Dunnaville Jr. Achievement Award, sponsored by the Diversity Conference of the Virginia State Bar. The award honors a lawyer who exemplifies “…the conference’s goal of fostering, encouraging, and facilitating diversity and inclusion in the bar, the judiciary, and the legal profession.”

In 2017, Causey made legal history in the Commonwealth when she was inducted as the Virginia State Bar’s first African American president, and first president from the legal aid community.

Throughout her legal career, Causey has made service a priority, both in her profession and for the legal community. Causey has provided many years of service on the VSB’s Executive Committee and Bar Council, as well as on the Old Dominion Bar Association’s Executive Committee, and as secretary of both the Old Dominion Bar and of the Hill Tucker Bar, Richmond Chapter.

At the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, Causey works to meet the needs of the underserved, delivering quality legal services to low income individuals and communities, while advocating for the protection of civil and human rights in the Commonwealth.

In her nomination letter, Carole H. Capsalis of Caulkins & Bruce, PC in Arlington noted, “In her year of service as the 80th president of the Virginia State Bar, Doris worked tirelessly to promote the needs of the legal aid community, promoted diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and in the selection of Virginia attorneys to serve on Bar council, committees and local bar. She helped raise awareness of the access to justice gap, and promoted availability of legal services to all, and especially those whose incomes fall below the poverty line.”

The award, named after Clarence Dunnaville, the noted Virginia attorney, civil rights pioneer, legal reformer, author, and justice activist, will be presented by the Diversity Conference at the Annual Forum on Diversity, currently scheduled for the fall of 2020.

Justice Powell to Keynote Diversity Conference Forum at UVA

Newly appointed Justice Cleo E. Powell, an alumnus of the University of Virginia School of Law and member of the Diversity Conference of the Virginia State Bar, will return to her alma mater on Thursday, November 10, 2011, as the keynote speaker at a three-day conference on diversity within the legal profession. The conference is sponsored by the Law School’s Center for the Study of Race and Law, the Diversity Conference of the Virginia State Bar, the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, and the Black Law Students Association.

On Friday the program will open with a welcome by law school dean Paul G. Mahoney, followed by a discussion led by Shawn J. Chen of Cleary Gottlieb on the Value Added by Diversity. Other participants on the Friday program will include Erica Moeser, president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners; W. Scott Street, chair of the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners; Professor Dan R. Ortiz, immediate past chair of the Law School Admission Council; and Peter Pashley, psychometrician of the Law School Admission Council.

Kim M. Keenan, general counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will be the keynote dinner speaker on Friday evening.

The Saturday program will open with a panel on the benefits of expanding the pipeline for a diverse profession and will be followed by a panel on the road to firm partnership. Supreme Court Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn will be the keynote luncheon speaker on Saturday. An open forum on best diversity practices developed by law firms, followed by informed discussion and cocktails will conclude the program.

Participants on the Saturday program include G. Michael Pace of Gentry Locke, Rakes and Moore; Michael HuYoung of Barnes and Diehl; Dana T. Weekes of Patton and Boggs; Richard C. “Rip” Sullivan Jr. of Reed Smith; Jacquelyn E. Stone of McGuire Woods; Tyree R. Jones Jr. of Reed Smith, Manuel A. Capsalis, former president of the Virginia State Bar; and Kenneth Imo of Wilmer and Hale.

This program will cover a wide range of issues and improvements desired to make the legal profession representative of the diverse society in which we live.

The conference is being coordinated by Professor Alex M. Johnson of the University of Virginia School of Law.

All members of the bar and law students are invited to this important conference.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Fore Diversity” Golf Tournament Report

Photo by tyler hendy on Pexels.com

June 19, 2011

Fun was had by all the participants at the “Fore Diversity” Golf Tournament. This year was our Inaugural “Fore Diversity” Golf Tournament which was held on June 16, 2011 in Virginia Beach during the Virginia State Bar’s (VSB) Annual Meeting. Not only was a fun time had by all, but we also had the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with one another and establish new friendships. But most of all, much thanks need to be given to our sponsors and donors; the raffle gifts were fabulous. The Diversity Conference raffled off many fine items, such as a full set of men’s Galloway golf clubs, a full set of women’s Galloway golf clubs, along with many other extravagant items. You had to be there to believe it.

The Virginia Beach National Golf Club (VBNGC) was a great host for this event. All staff and employees, as well as the Golf Pro, Russ Dodson, were very accommodating and took care of our every need. We look forward to returning next year to VBNGC during the VSB Annual Conference for the Second “Fore Diversity” Golf Tournament. We hope that many more can attend. The next time, we want more players than sponsors; however, we hope to have more of both.

Again, thank you sponsors and donors for your contributions and donations to the “Fore Diversity” Golf Tournament.

Michael HuYoung

Chair of the VSB Diversity Conference

2010-2011 Annual Report

The Diversity Conference’s inaugural year was a promising and successful one with much accomplished and much more planned in the year ahead. Its main accomplishment was to establish a Board of Governors with individuals who are energetic and focused on the Conference’s mission to:

  1. foster and encourage diversity in the admission to the bar and advancement in the legal profession and the judiciary;
  2. serve as a catalyst for creating leadership and bar service opportunities in the legal profession in Virginia; and
  3. work to ensure that the legal system is responsive to the legal needs of the people of Virginia.

Our Initial Board consisted of Manuel A. Capsalis (Chair), Michael HuYoung (Chair- Elect), Linda Y. Lambert (Secretary), Edward L. Weiner (Treasurer), Peter C. Burnett, Beverly J. A. Burton, Clarence M. Dunnaville, Jr., Michael A. Glasser, Manuel E. Leiva, Jennifer L. McClellan, Cathleen K. Memmer, Rupen R. Shah, Professor Henry L. Chambers, Jr., Dean Clinton W. Shinn, Judge Cleo E. Powell, John Y. Richardson, Jr., Kathy M. Coleman (Lay Member), and Michael Zajur (Lay Member). The Board met on at least six different occasions and in different locations throughout the state, and its members typified the true meaning of volunteer service to the legal profession and the community. Because of the staggered terms of our Board, Michael A. Glasser and Clinton W. Shinn have elected not to be re-appointed. They have been replaced by Latoya C. Asia and Marni E. Bynum.

Because of the fact that the Diversity Conference continues to operate without bar funding or active bar staff support, our main goal in this inaugural year was to raise funds so that we could accomplish the goals and plans established by the Board. To that effect, each member of the Board contributed financially to the Conference, and we did much of our own clerical and administrative work.

Our first major organized fundraiser, “Fore Diversity” Golf Tournament, was held during the VSB 2011 Annual Summer Conference in Virginia Beach at the Virginia Beach National Golf Club. Not only was a fun time had by all, but the golfers and members of the Bar also had the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with one another and establish new friendships. The Conference was able to raise more funds than expected. In fact, there were more sponsors and donors than golfers sending a message that the purpose behind the creation of the Diversity Conference is accepted by more than we know. The Diversity Conference raffled off many fine items, such as a full set of men’s Calloway golf clubs, a full set of women’s Galloway golf clubs, along with many other extravagant items. Since the Golf Tournament, Board members have heard from many who plan on playing next year. The Conference hopes to make the Golf Tournament an annual Diversity Conference event during the Annual Summer Conference in Virginia Beach.

Our second major organized fundraiser is Jazz 4 Justice to be held on September 17, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. at the Forbes Center, James Madison University’s new performing arts center. Jazz 4 Justice will be an evening of fabulous music and entertainment. Jazz 4 Justice will support not only the Diversity Conference, but also Blue Ridge Legal Services (BRLS) in the Shenandoah Valley area. BRLS provides free civil legal assistance to low income residents within the Shenandoah Valley. Jazz 4 Justice will also provide musical scholarships for students at JMU, and it will showcase talented music majors at the University. Individual tickets can be purchased for $15 at JMU’s box office or online at www.jmu.edu/JMUarts. The Conference expects this inaugural year of Jazz 4 Justice to be a “sellout” event with 600 people in attendance. A similar event has proven very successful at George Mason University winning awards from both the Virginia and National Bar Associations. The Diversity Conference looks forward to bringing this fun and successful event into the Shenandoah Valley, and we have sent out requests for sponsorship’s.

However, the Conference’s efforts have not just gone to fundraising. The Conference has accomplished or participated in the following since its inception:

  1. Created and established its own website, http://www.vsbmdi.org, which is linked to the VSB website at http://www.dcvsb.org.
  2. Participated in pipeline projects such as the “Rule of Law Program” established by Mike Pace of the Roanoke Bar and funded by the Virginia Law Foundation, reaching out to the middle and high schools, church to promote a better understanding of the legal system and to encourage individuals at an early age to seek a career in the legal profession with all of the opportunities that can be afforded to someone. The Conference hosted and presented in conjunction with other bar groups the Rule of Law Program in Petersburg, Virginia on February 17, 2011 and at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in the City of Richmond on April 14, 2011.
  3. Participated in the Southern Virginia Minority Pre-Law Conference at the Washington and Lee University School of Law sponsored by the VSB Young Lawyers Conference on September 25, 2010.
  4. Participated in the Hill-Tucker Pre-Law Institute at the University of Richmond School of Law sponsored by the VSB Young Lawyers Conference on July 10 – 15, 2011.
  5. Obtained Senate Resolution No. 31 sponsored by State Senator Emmett W. Hanger, Jr. from Augusta County recognizing the efforts and achievement of the VSB in the creation of the Diversity Conference which passed unanimously in the General Assembly. A framed copy of the Senate Resolution was presented formally by the Diversity Conference to the VSB at the Bar Council Meeting on June 16, 2011 by Senator Hanger himself. This framed Senate Resolution now hangs on the wall of the President’s Office at the VSB offices.
  6. Started membership drive which unlike the other Conferences has no limitations or requirements for joining since it is open to all members of the VSB. With our new website, membership is easy by clicking on the Membership icon. Membership is free.

The following is our current agenda going into the next fiscal year:

  1. Diversity in the Law Conference scheduled on November 10-12, 2011 at the University of Virginia School of Law which will be held jointly by the Law School Center for the Study of Race and Law, and the Diversity Conference. There also will be ongoing presentations during the year at the law schools in the state. For example, the Diversity Conference is scheduled to have a panel presentation and discussion at the Appalachian School of Law on September 28, 2011.
  2. Sustaining Project. – It is the goal of the Diversity Conference to establish pipeline/ ladder programs in every judicial circuit in the Commonwealth.
  3. Signature Project. – It is the goal of the Diversity Conference to establish a grant- funded signature project significant in scope. We have in the works a film project, The American Tapestry: A History of Diversity in America. If successful, the film project may be made in conjunction with the renowned Ken Burns and his staff.
  4. Focus on presenting an event or seminar at the 2012 VSB Annual Conference in Virginia Beach other than the “Fore Diversity” Golf Tournament and to meet the time deadlines for this.
  5. Jazz 4 Justice Concert, fundraiser, as stated above.
  6. Continued development of the Diversity Conference website.
  7. Mutual liaison with the VSB Special Committee on Access to Legal Services.
  8. Continued membership drive for the upcoming year.
  9. Coordinate diversity initiatives and efforts with voluntary statewide bars, local bars, specialty bars, and foundations and academies.
  10. Reaching out to the local community and people of diversity as it pertains to the legal field and arena.

Submitted by:

Michael HuYoung

Chair of the Diversity Conference

August 5, 2011

Senate Passes Resolution -SR31ER

April 06, 2011

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

On February 25, 2011, the Virginia Senate passed a resolution commending the Virginia State Bar’s Diversity Conference. Rupen Shah ( Augusta County) has been named to the initial Board of Governors, and would like Virginia prosecutors to know about the Conference.

The Virginia State Bar created the Diversity Conference in June 2009 and it was endorsed and acknowledged by the Supreme Court of Virginia in January 2010. The Conference’s mission is to foster and encourage diversity in the admission to the bar and advancement in the legal profession and the judiciary; to serve as a catalyst for creating leadership and bar service opportunities in the legal profession in Virginia; and to work to ensure that the legal system is responsive to the legal needs of the people of Virginia.

Membership in the conference is open to all members of the Bar, without cost.

The enrollment is now open and a form can be filled on line at http://www.dcvsb.org/joinus

The complete text of Senate Resolution 31 is here: http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?111+sum+SR31