The Lee County Bar Association (LCBA) recently joined the Lee County Association of Women Lawyers, the Isaac Anderson Jr. Bar Association and the LCBA Young Lawyers Division to present the inaugural LCBA Diversity Luncheon & Workshop to the organizations’ members, community leaders and students of Ave Maria University Law School.
The June 11 event featured an address by incoming Florida Bar President Michael Higer, a panel discussion, question-and-answer session and interactive breakout activities to engage participants in the realities of diversity and inclusion in the law profession, the workplace in general and in society.
In 2015, research by The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division revealed some startling trends. In a random sample email survey of 3,137 women YLD members (with 464, or 15 percent, responding), 43% of respondents reported that they had experienced gender bias during their careers, from opposing counsel, an employer or the court. Almost a third of respondents had resigned from a position due to lack of advancement, lack of work/life balance, gender bias or employer insensitivity.
These findings spurred 2017 LCBA President Kelly Fayer to form a new Diversity & Inclusion Committee, with Attorney Timothy A. McCann II and Regional Counsel Ita M. Neymotin as its co-chairs and Judge Devin George as its judicial liaison. The inaugural Diversity Workshop represents the first of many professional development and community outreach activities to be coordinated by the committee.
Florida Bar President Higer said, “I am very thankful for the opportunity to speak with lawyers who care deeply about our profession and our service on behalf of our members, the Court and the public.”
In addition to Higer, panelists included Jeanne Sweeney, CEO of the Above Board Chamber of Florida, and accounting firm owner and Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator Gail Markham. They addressed bias in the workplace and daily interactions and the progress they’ve witnessed in those arenas over the decades.
Judge Tara Pascotto-Paluck described her journey to the bench, the importance of mentors and how a little tactful education of parties in basic courtroom decorum can help law practitioners overcome tacit bias. She said, “As a legal community, it is not only our responsibility, but our honor to engage in the conversation discussing diversity and equality. Thanks to the Lee County Bar Association for starting the dialogue.”
Finally, Irena and Yoanna Nikolova described their mother-daughter journey toward safety, stability and a brighter future after leaving an abusive household.
The LCBA is partway through its year-long #KindLee Campaign, which serves to inspire random acts of kindness by sharing kind acts across social media with the #KindLee. For more information about the #KindLee Campaign, visit www.leebar.org/kindlee.
About the Lee County Bar Association
The Lee County Bar Association, a 501 (c)(6) not-for-profit organization, has served the citizens and legal community of Lee County since 1949 and has a current membership of almost 800. For more information, visit www.leebar.org or contact President Kelly Fayer, Esquire at (239) 415-3434 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Executive Director David Seitz at (239) 334-0047 or email@example.com.