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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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Guest Blog: Why Support Lawyers Club?

Posted By Eric Ganci, Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Why Support Lawyers Club?

 

I was asked to write an article about why I support Lawyers Club. And more importantly, why I, as a male, support an organization with a mission statement focused on females.

 

Any time I’m asked about my support for LC or any similar organization, I have the same gut reaction—because this talk can go one of two ways. The first way is the expected answer: LC has an incredible mission statement, it’s well-run, with quality events, it gives platforms to important issues, and voices to the underrepresented, etc. But, that’s not where my initial reaction goes when I’m asked this.

 

And, I get asked – at least a few times a year, “Why are you a member of LC, isn’t that an organization for women?” That right there? That’s the reason I support LC. It’s because I’m even asked that question, and it’s the fact that I’ve even been asked to write an article like this. The reason that anyone sees an organization with a gender-focus as something that they can’t, or needn’t, or shouldn’t be a part of, is exactly why I support LC. So, I’m not going to write an article about why I support LC; instead, I’ll discuss how you can support LC.

 

This is what I’ve been doing over the past few years, and I hope it lights a fire in you to do the same.

 

Call the organization by its proper focus:

 

Let’s start with the LC mission statement: “To advance the status of women in the law and society.”

 

So, pop quiz—I’ll give you a statement, and you say if it’s right or wrong. (Yes, you are being graded on this, and yes, I am judging you based on how you answer this). Ok, the statement: “This is a female bar organization,” or “This is an organization for women.”

 

If you said it was wrong, then [hugs]. If not, then [facepalm]. There’s no faster way to create the wall of “Me v. You” then to identify this organization in a limited way, or “just as” something. If you’re explaining this organization to a male, you might as well say, “This is a female org, for females, run by females . . . and you’re not included, invited, or wanted.” Because even if you don’t say this, this is what the listener hears.

 

My advice, say what the organization is by its mission statement. Nowhere in the mission statement does it say it’s only for females. Or to be technical, it doesn’t say it’s for females per se. It says this org is here to advance women in the legal field and society. Ah, that’s some inclusive stuff right there!

 

Ok, now that we have a proper framing to who we are as an organization, what are some actual things you can do right this second (well, after you finish reading this article).

 

Get male attorneys involved:

 

Guess what? Many men appreciate fact that an organization would want to foster this kind of mission. But you know what, men can be a part of this support too! With leadership shoes in the legal profession still overwhelmingly being filled by a more seasoned generation of white men, one of the best approaches is inviting the exact people in power to make change.

 

So, my ask to you: Think of your male colleagues, reach out to them, and offer to bring them to an event. Go to the Lawyers Club website, find an event, and offer the invite.

 

This is what I’ve been doing in San Diego, and it’s been wonderful. Many men either feel like they are not wanted or they would just not be accepted at an organization focused on promoting women. But if you specifically invite them, bring them, and introduce them to other members, then you’re showing them they are wanted in this organization. It’s also incredibly inclusive to walk into the event with the person you invited. That can be easy as meeting them outside the event and walking in with them, but obviously you could rock-star it and walk or ride to the event with them.

 

Get young attorneys involved:

 

You know who will be still around when we’re retired? Younger people! Yes, let them carry the torch and take care of us when we’re older! Also, this needn’t be new attorneys—it can be law students too. I’d start with the law student organization presidents, because they’re the most likely to keep community service going after law school.

 

Get judges or other high-ranking legal professionals involved:

 

Simply put, this will help the fire spread. People notice when someone high up the food chain walks into the room. Especially if they’ve never been there before. Once you’ve brought this person in, ask them for suggestions of who else you could invite to join you next time. Keep that momentum going!

 

Bring one person, or a few?

 

Here’s food for thought: Now that you’re going to take action right after you finish this article, do you want to bring just one person, or do you want to bring several? My thought is to bring one. It’s way more intimate and special to know that you specifically reached out to only them. Plus, it’s easier to introduce one person to other attendees instead of a group. But, if you want to bring a group of people and can pull it off, then go for it!

 

Wrapping up:

 

 “Be the change that you wish to see in the world,” said Gandhi, and so say I! Now that you’ve read my feelings on this, you can do one of two things: you can just take it in and maybe think it was a nice sentiment, or you can act on it. My hope is that you take action and reach out to some people, contacts both old and new, and invite them to join you. Offer to bring them to an event, and ask them to share this message with their spheres of influence. Actually, while writing this article I took a break and did the same thing myself by reaching out to a male colleague to invite him to a LC signature event: Red, White, and Brew (coming up on March 1, 2018). (And, if I’m patting myself on the back, last week I invited a female colleague who is also a newer lawyer to a LC luncheon). I’d love to hear if you do the same!

 

Guest blogger Eric Ganci is a DUI trial lawyer by day, and a face-melting live-band karaoke drummer by night.

Tags:  be the change  female organization  inclusion  male attorney  mission statement  outreach 

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more Calendar

2/20/2020
Bench Bar Luncheon-- SOLD OUT--call for waitlist options

2/28/2020
COC's Spring Read-In

3/5/2020
2020 Red, White & Brew

3/13/2020
International Women's Day Luncheon

3/19/2020
GOOD Guys MCLE and Networking Happy Hour

5/14/2020
Save the Date! Lawyers Club Annual Dinner: Tickets go on sale 2/20/2020!

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