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Education conclave focuses on diversity, economy

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When the Indiana State Bar Association gets law students, attorneys, professors, judges, court administrators, deans, and representatives of Indiana’s Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program, Disciplinary Commission, Board of Law Examiners, and the Indiana Bar Foundation are all in the same place for a few hours, some interesting dialogues are bound to take place.

That was the goal when at least 100 members of the legal community met for the ISBA’s fourth Legal Education Conclave at Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis Sept. 24-25.

Among the focuses for this year’s conclave, which takes place every few years, were diversity, ethics, and stress among lawyers and law students. While all four Indiana law schools were represented, this year’s co-chairs were Gail G. Peshel, assistant dean of career services at University of Notre Dame Law School; and Chasity Q. Thompson, assistant dean of professional development for I.U. School of Law – Indianapolis.

Gary Roberts Roberts

Keynote speakers and breakout sessions addressed these topics, as well as the issues of educating lawyers in a changing economy, a comparison of alternative and traditional fee arrangements, and how technology affects Indiana practitioners.

University of Notre Dame Law School Dean Emeritus Father David T. Link opened the event Sept. 24 with a discussion about the role of ethics for lawyers and law students, including examples from his roles as dean and prison chaplain. Father Link was dean of the law school from 1975 to 1999, and continues to teach ethics.

The conversation continued Sept. 25 when Kim M. Boyle of the New Orleans firm Phelps Dunbar and the first African-American woman president of the Louisiana State Bar Association opened that day’s activities with a keynote address about diversity. Boyle is also a former assistant professor of law at Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans and spoke about how students view the troubled economy.

Brita Horvath Horvath

Another topic she discussed is when law firms focus more on lateral hires, they are less likely to improve their diversity, even though law school graduating classes are more diverse in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, and other factors.

She also participated in a breakout session about the topic. That session included a panel made up of Indianapolis solo employment attorney Michael Dalrymple; Lake Superior Judge Calvin D. Hawkins; Vanderburgh Superior Magistrate Jill Marcrum; Camille Wiggins, a staff attorney of the Indiana Supreme Court and member of the Commission on Race and Gender Fairness; and G. Michael Witte, a former Dearborn Superior judge and the new Indiana Disciplinary Commission executive secretary. Merrillville attorney Michael Tolbert, past president of the James Kimbrough Bar Association, a minority bar association based in northwest Indiana, moderated the discussion.

Among the topics were how to define diversity; what has been done to address diversity; and what the legal community still needs to do to address a lack of diversity, especially in communities that aren’t very diverse.

Another topic was why Latinos were left off of the panel, a question asked by Marion Superior Judge Jose Salinas, which – in a round about way – led to Judge Hawkins’ discussion about how what one sees isn’t always what’s there.

Judge Hawkins shared an experience of working in Washington, D.C., when he thought one of his colleagues ignored him in the hallways because the judge is African-American and his colleague was white. The judge later learned that his colleague was legally blind, and likely didn’t see him when they passed in the hall. That discussion is available on the ISBA’s Facebook page.

Brita Horvath, diversity and pro bono coordinator for Baker & Daniels, said that breakout was particularly interesting to her.

The discussion “confirms what we already know – that our traditional methods of recruiting are not necessarily effective” when it comes to improving diversity in all areas of the legal community, she said. To have more attention paid to the issue of diversity, “We need to develop leadership and diversity in law schools, on the bench, in the bar – in order to reach diverse constituents.”

Anne Ricchiuto Ricchiuto

Anne K. Ricchiuto, an associate at Baker & Daniels and a member of the conclave’s planning committee, attended breakout sessions about “resiliency in the face of stress,” and a session about technology.

She said the resiliency session was particularly effective because panelists Don Lundberg, of Barnes & Thornburg and former executive secretary of the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission; and G. Andrew H. Benjamin, a psychologist and lawyer from Seattle, spoke about how lawyers can start to have mental health and substance abuse issues as early as their first year of law school, which can last throughout their careers.

For instance, while law students generally are at the same level as others before they start law school when it comes to mental health and substance abuse issues – if not healthier – even after the first year things can start to go downhill.

Ricchiuto said two of the benefits of that session were for those in the room to learn more about how lawyers can have trouble as early as law school and the coping strategies Benjamin discussed.

ted waggoner Waggoner

“Even if it was just for an hour and a half, people in the room gave serious thought to which things are in our control and how can we manage those things, and which things are outside of our control and how to minimize the impact of those things,” she said.

Another planning committee member, Ted A. Waggoner of Peterson & Waggoner in Rochester, agreed that Benjamin’s presentation was thought provoking.

“I met Andy Benjamin the night before; he impressed me as a psychologist and as a law professor. He also teaches a solo practice course like the one I teach in Bloomington,” he said.

“He gave us a quiz on our values and aspirations to help us see how the practice of law has led us to certain places in life and what we individually are getting out of our practices,” he said. The point of the exercise was to help the participants understand what they want to get out of their careers and how to get that, “so we don’t end up being one of the sad cases.”

Benjamin’s PowerPoint presentation is available as a link on the ISBA’s Facebook page.

Following two rounds of breakout sessions and lunch, Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, an active participant in the conclave, concluded the event with a call to action regarding various issues discussed at the conclave.

“The whole concept of the conclave was to address how the profession is changing, and to address how structures, values, and diversity are getting hit by the current legal economy,” Waggoner said.

“People are suffering financially in ways we haven’t seen in the lifetime of most attorneys, which the keynote speakers also addressed when they spoke about diversity. Students are in a different world than what the older attorneys grew up in … and the economy is causing additional stress and additional problems,” he said.

I.U. School of Law – Indianapolis Dean Gary Roberts attended the conclave but said via e-mail that he was disappointed in the breakout session topics.

“There was nothing focused on how the bar and law schools can work together to bring about change in the academy that will result in students being better prepared for practice and leadership when they graduate, and how the schools can accomplish this in a more efficient manner in an era of declining revenues and a contracting job market,” he said.

Following the conclave, co-chairs Thompson and Peshel received information from the breakout sessions and discussions of participants, which they have been compiling into a report. Action items and future plans to implement these action items from that report will be announced at the ISBA’s annual meeting, which starts Oct. 13. A final report from conclave organizers will be released early next year.•

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  1. Call it unauthorized law if you must, a regulatory wrong, but it was fraud and theft well beyond that, a seeming crime! "In three specific cases, the hearing officer found that Westerfield did little to no work for her clients but only issued a partial refund or no refund at all." That is theft by deception, folks. "In its decision to suspend Westerfield, the Supreme Court noted that she already had a long disciplinary history dating back to 1996 and had previously been suspended in 2004 and indefinitely suspended in 2005. She was reinstated in 2009 after finally giving the commission a response to the grievance for which she was suspended in 2004." WOW -- was the Indiana Supreme Court complicit in her fraud? Talk about being on notice of a real bad actor .... "Further, the justices noted that during her testimony, Westerfield was “disingenuous and evasive” about her relationship with Tope and attempted to distance herself from him. They also wrote that other aggravating factors existed in Westerfield’s case, such as her lack of remorse." WOW, and yet she only got 18 months on the bench, and if she shows up and cries for them in a year and a half, and pays money to JLAP for group therapy ... back in to ride roughshod over hapless clients (or are they "marks") once again! Aint Hoosier lawyering a great money making adventure!!! Just live for the bucks, even if filthy lucre, and come out a-ok. ME on the other hand??? Lifetime banishment for blowing the whistle on unconstitutional governance. Yes, had I ripped off clients or had ANY disciplinary history for doing that I would have fared better, most likely, as that it would have revealed me motivated by Mammon and not Faith. Check it out if you doubt my reading of this, compare and contrast the above 18 months with my lifetime banishment from court, see appendix for Bar Examiners report which the ISC adopted without substantive review: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS

  2. Wow, over a quarter million dollars? That is a a lot of commissary money! Over what time frame? Years I would guess. Anyone ever try to blow the whistle? Probably not, since most Hoosiers who take notice of such things realize that Hoosier whistleblowers are almost always pilloried. If someone did blow the whistle, they were likely fired. The persecution of whistleblowers is a sure sign of far too much government corruption. Details of my own personal experience at the top of Hoosier governance available upon request ... maybe a "fake news" media outlet will have the courage to tell the stories of Hoosier whistleblowers that the "real" Hoosier media (cough) will not deign to touch. (They are part of the problem.)

  3. So if I am reading it right, only if and when African American college students agree to receive checks labeling them as "Negroes" do they receive aid from the UNCF or the Quaker's Educational Fund? In other words, to borrow from the Indiana Appellate Court, "the [nonprofit] supposed to be [their] advocate, refers to [students] in a racially offensive manner. While there is no evidence that [the nonprofits] intended harm to [African American students], the harm was nonetheless inflicted. [Black students are] presented to [academia and future employers] in a racially offensive manner. For these reasons, [such] performance [is] deficient and also prejudice[ial]." Maybe even DEPLORABLE???

  4. I'm the poor soul who spent over 10 years in prison with many many other prisoners trying to kill me for being charged with a sex offense THAT I DID NOT COMMIT i was in jail for a battery charge for helping a friend leave a boyfriend who beat her I've been saying for over 28 years that i did not and would never hurt a child like that mine or anybody's child but NOBODY wants to believe that i might not be guilty of this horrible crime or think that when i say that ALL the paperwork concerning my conviction has strangely DISAPPEARED or even when the long beach judge re-sentenced me over 14 months on a already filed plea bargain out of another districts court then had it filed under a fake name so i could not find while trying to fight my conviction on appeal in a nut shell people are ALWAYS quick to believe the worst about some one well I DID NOT HURT ANY CHILD EVER IN MY LIFE AND HAVE SAID THIS FOR ALMOST 30 YEARS please if anybody can me get some kind of justice it would be greatly appreciated respectfully written wrongly accused Brian Valenti

  5. A high ranking Indiana supreme Court operative caught red handed leading a group using the uber offensive N word! She must denounce or be denounced! (Or not since she is an insider ... rules do not apply to them). Evidence here: http://m.indianacompanies.us/friends-educational-fund-for-negroes.364110.company.v2#top_info

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