During 2020, when the prevailing topic was the pandemic and our members’ efforts to continue practicing law, we were proud that we could also introduce and maintain a successful ‘Promoting Diversity’ series of lectures and discussions involving a wide variety of topics. The first event of the series was held in June 2020, and we held subsequent events each month through the end of the year. Below are the event descriptions of the 2020 Mercer County Bar Association “Promoting Diversity Series”:
The Bench Bar Luncheon involved a panel discussion featuring diverse members of the judiciary and bar who shared their experiences – from the climb to the bench, obstacles they were able to overcome, how they achieved success, and how attorneys specifically can act as upstanders.
“Mentoring Beyond Happy Hour” was co-chaired by the Young Lawyers Committee, and was the first of many in the MCBA lunch and learn series. The conversation regarding diversity and inclusion continued as our panelists discussed the dynamics and complexities of mentoring in our diverse world. The discussion provided suggestions on how to create supportive and inclusive relationships with all young lawyers. Young lawyers gained some insight on the importance of having a mentor, how to find a mentor, along with practical advice on professionalism and civility. Attendees of all ages benefited from this discussion as the mentor/mentee relationship is advantageous to us all.
The program “Attracting and Retaining Diverse Talent” was a part of our lunch and learn series. The conversation regarding diversity and inclusion continued as our panelists discussed the unique dynamic of minorities and women in law enforcement and government settings. The panelists discussed the very real challenges that exist in attempting to attract diverse talent to this section of the workforce. The discussion further explored recruiting and hiring efforts, retention strategies, what was being done at that time, and what could be done better.
“Becoming a Better Advocate: Understanding and Representing LGBTQ Clients” was a part of our lunch and learn series, and the conversation regarding diversity and inclusion continued as panelists discussed understanding and representing LGBTQ clients.
On October 10th, the program “A View from the Virtual Bench” was presented by the Women Lawyers Committee, featuring a panel of female Judges discussing various scenarios lawyers may face.
On October 15th, the program “Promoting Diversity: Private Practice Focus on Diversity, Education and Inclusion in Law Firms” was held.
“What Got You Here Won’t Get You There – How to Create Opportunity and Crush Obstacles to Success,” focused on women lawyers and addressed why the skills and talents that have made you a high achiever thus far may be keeping you stuck now. This session explored how the roles you want in the future – whether partner, practice group leader, rainmaker or any other – are qualitatively different from your current ones. Successfully moving forward requires proactively cultivating skills, behaviors, attitudes and beliefs that may be radically different from those you currently maintain. Participants were able to join other ambitious women lawyers for this energizing and interactive workshop discussing practical, actionable steps for growing as a lawyer and leader.
Unfortunately as 2020 continued on, we saw the clear need for more efforts and action in the area of Diversity and Inclusion education. This is part of why we created the Diversity Series. These conversations are not only important to have, but also they’re important to continue and build upon in the coming years. Part of this is recognizing and learning about barriers faced by attorneys from diverse backgrounds, but another component is learning what actions and steps can be taken.
These programs and conversations were well received by our members. We cannot make progress without challenging ourselves and lending a voice to the process, as the participation of our members is critical to long term progress. These initiatives are an important part of forging an inclusive Association, in which all of our members feel they have a stake. By continuing this series and other diversity initiatives, the Mercer County Bar Association will continue to grow within itself and set an example for lawyers and the community alike.