Seven Years of Conclaves on Diversity In The Legal Profession

Seven Years of Conclaves on Diversity In The Legal Profession

Conclave on Diversity in the Legal Profession

Click here to see details and registration information on the 2015 8th Annual Conclave on Diversity.

For the last eight years, the LSBA has convened a Conclave on Diversity in the Legal Profession. The LSBA chose to host a “conclave” rather than a “meeting” because a conclave signifies “an assembly or gathering, especially one that has special authority, power, or influence.” See The purpose of the conclave is to encourage discussion among judges and attorneys, primarily hiring and managing attorneys within law firms and law departments, about the importance of diversity within the legal profession and how to improve diversity within the profession in Louisiana. The LSBA has hosted the conclaves with the Louisiana Supreme Court and several local and specialty bar associations.

Please consider the benefits of serving as a sponsor for the 2016 Ninth Annual Conclave on Diversity


Timeline of the Diversity Conclave in the Legal Profession


Year VIII - On March 6, 2015 the Conclave recognized progress in civil rights with this year's theme: "Celebrating 50 Years of Civil Rights: Moving the Pendulum Forward."  Freedom Rider Henry “Hank” James Thomas was welcomed as a speaker and special guest. Thomas, who was jailed in Mississippi’s notorious Parchman State Prison Farm for his activities in the 1961 Freedom Rides, is best known as an American civil rights activist and one of the original thirteen Freedom Riders, men and women who bravely boarded the first Greyhound bus that traveled South in 1961 to protest the segregation of buses and trains. While addressing participants of the program, his words “We’ve made progress, but there is much more to be done” were met with a standing ovation. A highlight of the Conclave was the interactive session facilitated by Judge Wendell L. Griffen, titled “Inclusion 8.” Judge Griffen incorporated an exercise called the Privilege Walk, which served as a moving and dramatic way of confronting participants about the myth of meritocracy. Other topics of this year’s Conclave included “The Changing Landscape and Effects of Marriage Equality,” “Navigating the Troubled Waters of Immigration,” a civil rights discussion titled “Just How Far Has the Pendulum Moved? Striving for Justice” and a provocative discussion of the current criminal law system, “Moving the Pendulum to Justice, Fairness and Accountability.” Keynote Speaker, Kim M. Keenan, the CEO and President of Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council, was introduced by Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson. Ms. Keenan spoke passionately about minorities and the historical impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, their effect on communities then and now, and discussed the awakening of communities through social media.The Freedom Rider Exhibit, a traveling exhibition by the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History, in partnership with American Experience and funded through the National Endowment for Humanities, was a special feature of this year’s Conclave. The 60-foot long exhibit documents the Freedom Rides from May – November of 1961.

Year VII - The Seventh Annual Conclave, held at the New Orleans Riverside on March 21, 2014, boasted an attendance of over 300 attendees. This was the highest attendance in the history of the Conclave and a clear demonstration of just how interested the legal profession is in addressing diversity and inclusion issues. In addition, the Conclave was available to attorneys throughout the state, for viewing at their desks or on their cell phones, via a live feed provided courtesy of the Southern University Law Center; and for the first time ever, viewers at a satellite location at Southern University Law Center, received CLE credit for viewing the Conclave offsite. This year’s theme was “Inclusive Professionalism: Harnessing the Power of Our Differences” and was sponsored by a host of local and specialty bar associations across the state and in cooperation with the Louisiana Supreme Court. The day began with four separate breakout sessions, a first for the Conclave, including an invitation-only breakfast session for managing partners. Luncheon keynote speaker was best-selling author and champion of diversity and inclusion issues, Dr. Arin Reeves (Nextions, Inc.) who spoke passionately while infusing her presentation with scientific facts and research studies about bias, inclusion and diversity. A highlight of the Conclave was the return of renowned diversity expert, Verna Myers (Verna Myers Consulting Group, LLC). She delivered an interactive presentation, titled “What If I Say the Wrong Thing” that built on her previous year’s session. This year she focused on “interrupting bias” or what individuals can do when they feel they are experiencing or witnessing bias. 

Year VI - On March 8, 2013 at the Renaissance Hotel in Baton Rouge, the Sixth Annual Diversity Conclave hosted approximately 250 people. This was the first time the Conclave was held outside of New Orleans. Although the venue changed, the great attendance and participation demonstrated that interest and energy surrounding this statewide diversity conversation did not. Also for the first time, the Conclave was viewed by members across the state via a live feed, courtesy of the Southern University Law Center. The theme for this year was “Leveraging Diversity Through Inclusion: Insight for Action”. Luncheon keynote speaker Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, inspired the audience with riveting accounts of his many past and current civil rights cases. Renowned diversity expert Verna Myers enlightened participants in an interactive workshop on inclusion and strategies on becoming more inclusive within their organizations.

Year V - The fifth annual Conclave, which again was co-hosted with several local and specialty bars, experienced record attendance of 275 people on March 2, 2012, at the New Orleans Marriott on Canal Street. The theme was "The Professional Workplace: Conquering the Myths and Creating a Competitive Advantage." The Conclave included a three-hour interactive workshop (facilitated by Hon. Wendell Griffen and Manny Brandt), breakout sessions, and panel discussions. Highly credentialed speakers provoked discussions regarding the scope and meaning of cultural competency, the professional and financial importance of a diverse and inclusive legal profession for practitioners, judges, and the administration of justice, and practical tips to create a more inclusive legal profession. The exercises and discussions demonstrated the impact of cultural incompetence and the absence of inclusion on our profession and the administration of justice. Our very own Louisiana Lieutenant Governor, Jay Dardenne, wowed the audience with his musically infused keynote address during lunch. Attendees received up to 7.83 CLE hours, including ethics and professionalism.

Year IV - The LSBA partnered with a host of local and specialty bars to present a full day diversity workshops for approximately 200 attendees on March 18, 2011, at the New Orleans Marriott at the Convention Center. During the Conclave, titled "The Professional Workplace: Implementing Solutions and Cultivating an Inclusive Atmosphere,"  presenters facilitated exercises during a three-hour workshop to make participants culturally aware and skillful in cross-cultural situations. Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of The National Urban League, was the keynote speaker during the networking lunch. The afternoon panel discussions addressed hot button topics that impact the professionalism of attorneys, office dynamics, and the ability to attract and keep clients; and discussed how the lack of diversity initiatives can impact an organization's productivity and financial health.

Year III - The LSBA held its third annual Conclave on Diversity, titled “The Professional Workplace: Diagnosing the Issues and Finding the Cure,” on March 5, 2010, for an audience of approximately 170 participants. This Conclave was even more interactive and allowed participants to gain tangible information to develop cultural competency skills in order to address everyday diversity issues in their offices and in their practices. During a networking lunch, Lt. General Russel L. Honoré, USA (Ret.), the keynote speaker mesmerized participants with the impact of diversity on Louisiana history and children. The program culminated with two practical panel discussions that allowed participants to examine the use of cultural competence tools in every day legal practice.

Year II - Held March 13, 2009, the second annual Conclave on Diversity in the Legal Profession:“Continuing the Conversation” continued the diversity discussion. The second Conclave did not simply regurgitate information provided during the first program. The program was more interactive and allowed the participants to gain skills to address everyday diversity issues in their practices during a three-hour workshop. After a networking lunch, participants received practical information from two groups of panelists.

Year I - The first conclave, “Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges, Making Cents” on March 7, 2008, began a discussion among 120 attorneys regarding racial, ethnic, gender, and generational diversity. The highly credentialed speakers provoked discussions regarding the importance of diversity, educated on ways to improve diversity, and exposed how internal, personal, and organizational biases impede diversity.

The next Conclave, at the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center on March 4, 2016, will build upon the conversations that have already occurred.

Please consider the benefits of serving as a sponsor for the 2016 Conclave on Diversity!

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