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Lawyers Club of San Diego is a specialty bar association committed to advancing the status of women in the law and society. We use this space to share articles written about Lawyers Club events and programs and items of interest to our members which are relevant to our mission. The opinions outlined in content published on the Lawyers Club of San Diego blog are those of the authors and not of Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to participate respectfully in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog. Guest writers are welcome. Guidelines for writers may be found on the Leadership Resources page.

 

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Breaking Bread with Judge Vallera Johnson

Posted By Valerie Garcia Hong for Lawyers Club's Diverse Women's Committee, Tuesday, February 4, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, February 4, 2020

 

It was a crisp Sunday afternoon in Coronado. Everyone was dressed in their “Sunday best” like we’d just sang “Hallelujah” hours earlier. Only, it wasn’t church. It was one of the first Women of Color in Law lunches.

As a new lawyer who had recently moved from Chicago to San Diego, I did not have a community of colleagues, friends, or mentors early on in my career. I was “winging it.” I attended one of these lunches hoping to meet someone who could guide me. That afternoon, I sat down next to a woman with a warm smile and contagious energy. Over bread (because all good discussions start with bread), I later learned that the woman seated next to me was Judge Vallera Johnson, one of the founders of Women of Color in Law. Judge Johnson, along with Judge Lillian Lim, began to organize informal lunches where law students and lawyers could get together to share their stories navigating a legal career in San Diego.

Five years after that Sunday afternoon, Judge Johnson invited me to join the Board of Directors for Women of Color in Law. I was a mother of two young girls under the age of 4 and a young partner at a law firm balancing business development and lawyering. Judge Johnson asked me to join a panel with Judge Tamila Ipema, Stacie East, Sabina Clorfeine, and Katy Goshtasbi to talk about Sheryl Sandburg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. I told Judge Johnson that I could barely manage a shower that morning and did not know if I was the right person to talk about “leaning in.” Judge Johnson told me that this was exactly why I was the right person to join the panel. Reflecting on her own life as a working mother, Judge Johnson gave me the permission (or authority that I assume only a judge can offer) to pause, tap out, and lean in when I was ready. This is the kind of experience and reflection that I value in my friendship and mentorship with Judge Johnson.

It is no surprise that the Lawyers Club of San Diego’s Diverse Women Committee will be honoring Judge Johnson with a reception on February 13, 2020register here. Judge Johnson has been an Administrative Law Judge with the State of California’s Office for Administrative Hearings since 1990. She’s been recognized for her commitment to diversity from several organizations including the California Lawyers Association and Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association. Throughout her career, Judge Johnson has been instrumental in diversifying the bench and developing a pipeline of qualified candidates.

Women of Color in Law has been “breaking bread” in larger luncheons and smaller intimate meetups with law students and lawyers for over a decade. California Judicial Appointments Secretary, Justice Martin J. Jenkins, will discuss the process of judicial appointments with Governor Newsom at Women of Color in Law’s “Find Your Seat on the Bench” lunch on February 16, 2020register here.

Valerie Garcia Hong is the Founder of Garcia Hong Law, is always willing to break bread and share stories, and wrote this for Lawyers Club of San Diego’s Diverse Women’s Committee.

 

 

 

 

Tags:  advancement  attrition  bias  diverse  diversity  Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association  Governor Newsom  implicit bias  inclusion  judicial appointment  lean in  Martin J. Jenkins  mentors  mentorship  minority  retention  Sheryl Sandberg  Women of Color in Law 

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All Hands on Deck – Inclusion Includes You

Posted By Kevonna Ahmad for Lawyers Club's Diverse Women's Committee, Tuesday, January 28, 2020

It is no secret that law firms have struggled with achieving and maintaining a diverse workforce. And, while law firms have made leaps and bounds in recruiting diverse candidates, the unfortunate fact remains that women lawyers and lawyers of color have the highest rates of attrition in the profession. In fact, a recent study revealed that the number of minority women lawyers who leave their law firms has steadily risen in the last decade. Minority women made up one-third of all associates who left their law firms in 2017. These statistics are startling and indicate that there is still work to be done within the profession. But what can we, as members of Lawyers Club of San Diego, do to help facilitate this important work?


As a minority woman lawyer, I have experienced the challenges of trying to find a firm where I felt I could grow as an attorney and advance toward partnership. Although I am a new lawyer, my post-law school job search made it clear to me that doing so would be no easy feat. After what seemed like a thousand law firm interviews, I was fortunate to find my current firm, where the culture and people finally felt right. Every firm is unique, but here are three ways most firms can curb the high rates of minority lawyer attrition and promote diversity and inclusion.


1. Have a Formal Mentorship Program: Many minority lawyers, including myself, are the first person in their family to enter into the practice of law. Having a mentor as an ally in a law firm is a critical resource that should not be underestimated. A mentor should act as a sounding board for the diverse associate, show them the ropes and help them get acquainted to the firm. The mentor should also act as both a source of work and a source of constructive criticism for the associate. Having a mentor greatly increases the chances that a diverse lawyer will feel like their law firm will provide long-term support for their career.


2. Promote Diverse Lawyers: Studies have shown that the presence of diverse attorneys in leadership roles has a positive impact on both innovation and diversity. Diverse lawyers should be present on key firm decision-making committees such as the partner selection, compensation and executive committees. This makes business sense because clients are increasingly demanding diverse representation. Moreover, diverse attorneys are more likely to stay at a firm where attorneys who “look like them” have a chance at advancement and leadership within the firm.


3. Give Diverse Lawyers Opportunities / Check Implicit Bias: Whether we like it or not, everyone carries implicit biases. Unfortunately, sometimes these biases can lead to diverse attorneys receiving less opportunities than their white counterparts. Firms seeking to retain diverse talent should be mindful of the quality of the work being assigned to their diverse associates. Diverse associates should be given work that is as equally challenging as their white counterparts including opportunities to interact with clients, interact with opposing counsel, appear in court, and provide advice and counsel. While providing less-challenging work to diverse associates may merely be an “implicit bias” of law firm leadership, these attorneys recognize when they are not being valued and we will undoubtedly leave a firm if their career growth is being stifled.


As members of Lawyers Club of San Diego, I encourage you to incorporate these three suggestions into your firm’s or organization’s diversity and inclusion/retention strategies. Advancing diversity in the legal profession is an important issue which affects all of us, and one which we all can play a role in championing.


Join us on February 13, 2020 at Procopio from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Women of Color reception where Lawyers Club will honor and celebrate women of color in the legal community with keynote speaker the Honorable Vallera Johnson

Kevonna Ahmad is a Labor and Employment Associate at Fisher & Phillips LLP and wrote this for Lawyers Club of San Diego’s Diverse Women’s Committee.

 

 

 

Tags:  advancement  attrition  bias  diverse  diversity  implicit bias  inclusion  mentors  mentorship  minority  retention 

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more Calendar

9/30/2020
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10/15/2020
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10/26/2020
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11/19/2020
Equal Pay Day Event

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