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Diversity conference addresses issues

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The Marion County Bar Association and Indiana Lawyer partnered to raise awareness and provide best practices regarding diversity and inclusion in the legal and business communities during the first Diversity in Practice conference. "Diversity in Practice: Building a Culture of Inclusion" was in Indianapolis Sept. 27 and 28 and featured keynote speakers Edward James Olmos, noted actor/director and civic activist, and Roderick Palmore, executive vice president and general counsel for Sara Lee Corp., as well as educational breakout sessions. Also several individuals and entities were honored.

Speakers challenge attendees In his speech "We're All in the Same Gang," Olmos said, "You still think there is an African race. You still think there is a Caucasian race. You still think there is a Hispanic race. You still use race as a cultural determinant. I can't even tell you how wrong that is. You all use it, and you're all professionals! There is only one race: the human race." He said the nation's educational system has a "huge, huge" problem in that it teaches only Western European origins as U.S. history. Olmos said he wasn't advocating doing away with traditional history but simply augmenting it to reflect the various influences from throughout the world. "We are not a melting pot," said Olmos, who said the U.S. is more like a "big salad" in that people never stop being who they are. Olmos challenged the luncheon attendees of 350, "How many of you can go home today and never again use race as a cultural determinant?" Palmore addressed the reality of diversity in the legal and business communities with statistics that showed women and minorities still occupy a low percentage of equity partnerships and noted more than three-quarters of minority associates depart law firms. "So what? Why should we care," asked Palmore. "Is this an old axiom of the talent rising to the top?" He countered there is a "social fatigue" regarding the issue of diversity. The law firms Sara Lee uses express a sincere interest in diversity, but Palmore said the firms hadn't even used their own data to develop a strategy to tackle issues. "Accountability and standards must be set and applied," said Palmore. "The best talent means diverse teams." A team of like minds, backgrounds, experiences won't have as many ideas as a diverse team, said Palmore, who used an example of a black woman who came up with the idea of the tag-less T-shirt for Hanes, which was then under the Sara Lee umbrella.
Diversity in Practice Awards Awards recognizing progress and contributions in promoting diversity were presented in eight categories. The following were honored during the luncheon: · Attorney: Roderick H. Morgan, Bingham McHale · Corporate: WellPoint · Government: Marion County Public Defender Agency · In-house Legal Department: Eli Lilly & Co. · Judiciary: Hon. Frank Sullivan Jr. · Law Firm: Bingham McHale · Law-related Not-for-profit: Indianapolis Bar Association · Law student: Jasmine T. Parson, Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis
Conference a success "We are extremely pleased with the first Diversity in Practice conference. The feedback I have received already has been very positive; attendance was strong; and all of our keynote speakers fit perfectly into the format and message of the event," said Chris Katterjohn, publisher of Indiana Lawyer. "I would be remiss if I didn't credit former Indiana Lawyer Publisher Glenda Russell for championing the idea of the conference and bringing it to the company. She did the initial work of forming the committees and establishing the conference's general outline. It was unfortunate that she moved on before she could see it through, but I know she would be pleased with the outcome." The Marion County Bar Association was pleased with the event as well. "The Diversity Conference was an absolute success. Ideas were shared openly and freely. Participants received information that will assist their organization with effectively addressing diversity issues. Corporations, law firms, governmental agencies, attorneys, and law students all offered a multitude of comments and compliments regarding the quality of the speakers and presentations," said Jimmie McMillian, Marion County Bar Association president. Check out Indiana Lawyer's Web site, theindianalawyer.com, for photos from the event.
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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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