Have you ever had that experience where you make a decision, and then you may have some second thoughts, and say to yourself, “Wow, I really hope this is the right decision?” At the ABA meeting last August I had the pleasure of hearing this incredible national speaker on diversity and inclusion, Vernā Myers. My message to MCBA leadership was that we needed to find the money to bring Vernā to Rochester for the benefit of our members.
As an African American woman and lawyer, Vernā delivers a powerful message about the secret to achieving diversity is in inclusion, and the reward to successful retention is a happy and diverse workforce.
A speaker of Vernā’s caliber is an investment, and one this bar has not taken on during my tenure. So naturally, I have had a few moments where I have second guessed myself. But, thanks to many generous law firms underwriting the event, we are bringing Vernā to Rochester as our keynote speaker at the Law Day Luncheon on May 1st. The “second guessing moment” I was having was put to rest when I heard Vernā speak a second time at the recent Bar Leadership Institute in Chicago with incoming president, Diane Cecero. Vernā is a dynamic story-teller that delivers her powerful message with humor and passion. Her approach is like having a comfortable conversation, and one you walk away from going, “Wow, now I get it!”
In Rochester, we can celebrate the success of our Rochester Diversity Legal Clerkship Program that has brought more than 85 first year law students to Rochester for 10 weeks every summer over the past 8 years. This summer begins our 9th year, and we look forward to welcoming 11 new 1L’s to town in May. Though we are very proud of our collective efforts with the Rochester Black Bar Association and the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys, and the many firms and organizations that fund a clerk each summer, there is still progress to be made. We have had success with many of these summer associates returning to Rochester for their 2L summer, and even better, upon graduation for a full-time position with one of the firms. However, a year or two goes by, and we learn that some, not all, of these new young lawyers switch firms or worse yet, relocate out of Rochester.
This is not to point blame anywhere, because it is not the fault of one or two firms, it is our shared responsibility as a legal community to make certain any new associate in town feels welcome and included. Success in diversity and inclusion is about acceptance and respect. It means understanding that we are all unique individuals, and then recognizing our individual differences, and making certain that everyone has a seat at the table. Or in the words of Vernā, that everyone is being asked to dance.
“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”
Vernā is coming to town one day early to present a very limited workshop for law firm leaders about diversity, inclusion and retention. This 3-hour workshop, has been designed for managing, hiring, and diversity partners, or senior firm leaders. If you are interested in learning more about this program, please call Louise Spinelli at 585-402-7189. Please join us on May 1st and “come to the dance” at the Law Day Annual Luncheon.
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