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Legal conclave discusses diversity, stress, ethics

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On Friday and Saturday, at least 100 members of the legal community, including attorneys, professors, judges, court administrators, deans, and representatives of the Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program, the Disciplinary Commission, the Board of Law Examiners, and the Indiana Bar Foundation, among others, met for the Indiana State Bar Association’s fourth Legal Education Conclave at Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis.

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.

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 is a “friend and foe for the Indiana practitioner.”

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

On Saturday, 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 and diversity in the practice.

Among the topics she discussed were that when 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 took place shortly after her speech. 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 current 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, which was brought up by Marion Superior Judge Jose Salinas, which, in a round about way, led to Judge Hawkins discussion on how what one sees isn’t always what’s there.

Judge Hawkins then 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.

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. That video is also on the ISBA’s Facebook page.


The next step for conclave members is to compile information from the breakout sessions and discussions of participants, which will be compiled into a report, and action items from that report will be implemented.

A more in-depth article about the conclave will be reported in a future issue of Indiana Lawyer.
 

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