OWBA/OWBF Annual Conference Featuring President of the American Bar Association as Keynote Inspires and Enlightens Members and Friends

27 May 2016 8:49 AM | Kim Fantaci (Administrator)

The Ohio Women’s Bar Association and the Ohio Women’s Bar Foundation brought together hundreds of women in the legal profession on May 18-19 for the 25th Anniversary of their Annual Meeting. The 2016 Annual Conference featured a variety of enriching CLE sessions, a reception honoring women in government and the Annual Meeting Luncheon. During the luncheon, new board members for OWBA and OWBF were inducted, the Leadership Institute graduates were recognized, and awards were distributed to both deserving individuals and organizations. The highlight of the Luncheon was the Keynote Address given by the current President of the American Bar Association, Paulette Brown, who spoke to the audience with empowering words on bettering the diversity and inclusiveness of the legal profession.

The Annual Meeting began on Wednesday, May 18 with the opening CLE session entitled: Judicial Panel: A View from the Bench. Sponsored by Thacker Robinson Zinz LPA, the Judicial Panel was moderated by Magistrate Judge Stephanie K. Bowman of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Panelists included:

  • Judge Mary DeGenaro, Seventh District Court of Appeals
  • Judge Benita Y. Pearson, United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio
  • Judge Marie Hoover, Ohio Fourth District Court of Appeals
  • Judge Paul M. Herbert, Franklin Municipal Court
Among many of the insights imparted by the panelists, Judge Herbert shared with the CLE participants the details of the CATCH Court over which he presides in Franklin County. The CATCH program intends to address the rampant issue of human trafficking in Ohio by reclassifying solicitation defendants as victims in need of help.

Following the Judicial Panel was a CLE session entitled: Women in Law: Leadership Lessons from the Top. This session was sponsored by OSBA’s Women in the Profession Section and was moderated by Stephanie Hanna, Senior Manager of Member Outreach and Engagement at the Ohio State Bar Association. Panelists included:

  • Michelle Proia Roe, General Counsel, Thirty-One Gifts
  • Mary Augsburger, Executive Director, Ohio State Bar Association
  • Marchelle E. Moore, Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel, The Motorists Insurance Group
  • Patricia A. Wise, Partner, Niehaus Wise & Kalas Ltd and EEOC Select Task Force on Workplace Harassment

The panelists spoke on how they were able to attain their success as well as how they are able to balance their careers with their additional roles as mothers and wives. Panelists described relying on “team members” for support such as solid babysitters, husbands, and relationships developed through OWBA. Marchelle Moore spoke passionately about the importance of finding mentors on the path to success and stressed that a mentor does not have to be the same in appearance or gender to be an effective guide.

The third CLE session of the day was sponsored by Abercrombie & Fitch and was entitled: Advancing the Next Generation of Women Leaders in the Legal Profession. The panel was moderated by Joyce Edelman, Partner at Porter Wright Morris & Arthur and the panelists included:

  • Judge Pat E. Morgenstern-Clarren, United States Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Ohio
  • U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen B. Burke, United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio
  • Lisa Whittaker, Senior Attorney, Litigation and Employment, ascena retail group
  • Caitlin E. Anderson, Assistant General Counsel of Litigation, Cardinal Health
  • Judge Noceeba Southern, Administrative Law Judge, United States Social Security Administration

The CLE continued the dialogue on the importance of mentoring and spoke to the need for increasing the retention of minority employees in law firms. Judge Pat Morgenstern- Clarren encouraged law firms to address their implicit bias in hiring and promotion to better these retention rates. Joyce Edelman closed the CLE session with the encouraging words “Our legacy is what we have done and what we will continue to do for women...Our fight is not over”.

The first day of the 2016 Annual Meeting concluded with an Honoring Women in Government Reception hosted by the OWBA Government Sub-Committee with champions, sub-committee co-chairs Yukiko Yee and Magistrate Amy B. Koorn. The reception brought together and celebrated judges and government/government relation attorneys from all across the state. Featured at the HWIG reception were esteemed guests, The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown, Partner-In-Charge of Diversity, Inclusion, and Advancement at Jones Day, and Judge Jennifer Brunner of Ohio’s Tenth Appellate District.  

The second day of the 2016 Annual Meeting, held on Thursday, May 19, began with a Breakfast Spotlight on Diversity and Inclusion: A Perspective from Paulette Brown. The breakfast was sponsored by Columbus Bar Association’s Managing Partners’ Diversity Initiative and was facilitated by Jocelyn Armstrong, Assistant Executive Director, Columbus Bar Association and President, John Mercer Langston Bar Association. An intimate crowd gathered early in the morning to converse with the spotlight’s guest, ABA President Paulette Brown. Brown was accompanied by Bricker and Eckler’s Managing Partner, Kurt Tunnell. During the breakfast, Brown shared her inspiring journey to becoming the first woman of color to head the prestigious American Bar Association as well as anecdotes from her tour of the United States as current ABA president. Brown also described her fondness for visiting with local chapters of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in every state as part of her efforts to encourage youth to aspire to the legal field from even the grade school age.

Two CLE sessions followed the Breakfast Spotlight with the first being a panel entitled: Breaking Down Barriers and Investing in Diverse Talent. The session was sponsored by Bricker and Eckler LLP and moderated by Lisa Kathumbi, Employment and Labor Law attorney at Littler Mendelson. Panelists included:

  • Judge Timothy S. Black, United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio, Co-Convener of the BLAC-CBA Round Table
  • Jeffrey B. Jones, Shareholder and Board Member, Littler Mendelson
  • Tracie Ransom, Director of Complaints and Counsel, Edward Jones
  • Janica Pierce Tucker, Partner, Taft Stettinius & Hollister

Panelists focused heavily on the topic of implicit bias and how members of the legal profession can personally recognize and reduce their own implicit biases for better impartiality in every aspect of the legal field. Judge Timothy Black shared his own struggle with implicit bias and described his personal efforts to reduce his biases by increasing his interactions with more diverse peoples in order to see them from new perspectives.

The second CLE session was sponsored by Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP and was entitled: Beyond the Head Count: Inclusive Environments and Diverse Leadership. The panel was moderated by Marilyn McClure-Demers, Associate Vice President, Associate General Counsel Corporate and Intellectual Property Litigation, Nationwide Insurance Company, and included panelists:

  • Earl J. Barnes, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, OhioHealth
  • The Honorable Yvette McGee Brown, Partner-In-Charge of Diversity, Inclusion and Advancement, Jones Day
  • Kurt Tunnell, Managing Partner, Bricker & Eckler and Chair, Columbus Managing Partner Diversity Initiative
  • Kimberly S. Amrine, Member and Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Frost Brown Todd
  • Myra McKenzie-Harris, Associate General Counsel, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

The panelists concentrated on the need for more diverse talent in law firms and other legal environments as well as strategies for how to attract and retain this diverse talent. A focus was placed on the importance for established members of the legal profession to reach out as mentors and sponsors of diverse attorneys. Panelists urged individuals acting as mentors and sponsors to succession-plan for the assurance that diverse attorneys will succeed them in respected leadership positions. Earl J. Barnes spoke on his strategy of not only encouraging, but, insisting in diverse talent pools when hiring new lawyers at OhioHealth.

The 2016 Annual Meeting Luncheon was attended by hundreds of both male and female supporters of OWBA and OWBF from all across the state of Ohio. Guests were officially welcomed to the luncheon by Justice Sharon L. Kennedy with the Supreme Court of Ohio. Justice Kennedy also swore-in the new OWBA and OWBF Officers and Trustees for the 2016-2017 year. Marilyn McClure-Demers was sworn in as the new president of the Ohio Women’s Bar Association and Sommer Sheeley, Bricker & Eckler LLP was sworn in as the new president of the Ohio Women’s Bar Foundation. 

Graduates of the 2015-2016 Leadership Institute Class were then recognized by Anastasia Wade and Pat Gadja. The mission of the Leadership Institute is to advance inclusiveness within the legal profession by supplementing the professional skills of women lawyers for the benefit of the diverse communities in which they work, live, and serve. The 2015-2016 graduates of the Leadership Institute are as follows:

  • Jill Bigler – Bricker & Eckler LLP
  • Michelle Block – University Hospitals Health Systems
  • Shannon Bockelman – Freund, Freeze & Arnold, LPA
  • Kimberly Bojko – Carpenter Lipps & Leland
  • Marla Gilreath – Nationwide
  • Holly Hunt – Nationwide
  • Gabrielle Kelly – Brouse McDowell LPA
  • Sarah Lynn – Ice Miller
  • Rachel Mauk – Brouse McDowell LPA
  • Julie McConihay – Frost Brown Todd LLC
  • Jessica Rodek – Cardinal Health
  • Jade Smarda – Faruki Ireland & Cox P.L.L.
  • Heather Stuz – Square Patton Boggs (US) LLP
  • Katrina Thompson – Barnes & Thornburg LLP
  • Yukiko Yee – Office of the Ohio Attorney General
  • Amanda Zaremba – The Procter & Gamble Company

Keynote speaker Paulette Brown was then escorted to the stage by special guests Major Shaun Robinson and Master Sergeant J. Alex Ribacci of the Ohio National Guard. Brown’s keynote address fixated on a central theme of the 2016 Conference, “Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession”. During her year as president of the ABA, Brown prioritized diversity and inclusion, pro bono activities, service to the ABA’s members and community service. She spoke on her efforts to reduce implicit bias in the legal profession through awareness and training materials which she has spent her term working to create. Brown touched on both the progress the profession has made in working towards inclusivity as well as on the immense amount of work that still must be done for the advancement of women and minorities in law. Her message was one of hope and a call to action for all members of the legal field to take up the fight against prejudice and exclusivity still present in law firms and every legal environment across the country.

OWBA bestowed several awards during the luncheon to recognize individuals and organizations that had demonstrated tireless effort towards bettering the legal field for both women and minorities.

The President’s Choice Award is intended for an individual who exemplifies the spirit of leadership, dedication and passion for the profession and for the life-long friendships made through OWBA and OWBF. The award was bestowed by 2015-2016 OWBA President Grace Royalty to Yukiko Yee, Office of the Ohio Attorney General, for her commendable work as principal chair of the Government Sub-committee.

The Family Friendly Award is intended for a legal employer in Ohio who best exemplifies the commitment to work-life balance arrangements and assures that lawyers can both take care of their families and pursue successful careers. OWBA presented the 2016 award to Carpenter Lipps and Leland LLP for their flexibility towards lawyers with family commitments and their retention of female lawyers – none of their female partners have ever left to go to another law firm.

OWBA then distributed their inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Awards which are meant to highlight, recognize and honor those individuals and organizations making impactful efforts to address issues occurring at the intersection of gender and race.

The OWBA D&I Sponsor Award is designed to recognize a legal professional who has individually championed the careers of women attorneys and the topic of diversity and inclusion. Anthony Sharrett, partner at Baker and Hostleter, was honored with the 2016 OWBA D&I Sponsor Award for his constant and authentic involvement in promoting the success of women and minorities in the legal profession.

The OWBA D&I Champion Award was created to recognize a company, firm or professional organization that has demonstrated leadership and sustained commitment to diversity and inclusion. For the prominent presence of women and individuals belonging to minority groups in the internal workforce of the organization and the inclusive approach the organization takes to selecting outhouse counsel, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company was presented with the 2016 OWBA D&I Champion Award.

To close the luncheon, newly sworn-in OWBA President Marilyn McClure-Demers spoke briefly on her vision for the 2016-2017 year and said the main three focuses of OWBA will be the power of relationships, recruitment, and giving back.

The 2016 Annual Conference concluded with a reception honoring Paulette Brown, co-sponsored by the several Ohio diverse bar associations including: Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Central Ohio, Columbus Bar Association, Hispanic National Bar Association-Region X, John Mercer Langston Bar Association, Ohio State Bar Association, and Women Lawyers of Franklin County.

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