The Florida Bar
www.floridabar.org

Palm Beach County Bar Association Diversity Summit

Date: September 24, 2009, 11:45 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Contact: Patience A. Burns, Palm Beach County Bar Association, (561) 687-2800, pburns@palmbeachbar.org


Attendance:
250 luncheon guests
192 cocktail reception attendees

Budget figures:
Income
Sponsorships (from law firms and other voluntary Bars) $300 each (26 sponsors) - $7,800
Registration Fees $35 per person (250 registrants) - $8,750
2.5 CLER per attendee

Total Income - $16,550

Expenses
Speaker Travel $1,494.75
250 lunches at $25 per person plus room setup fee - $6,506.09
The Florida Bar CLE Credit Application - $45
Reception (192 tickets) - $1,431.36
A/V Equipment - $858.44
Planning Committee Meeting Lunches - $352.73
Gifts for Chairs - $142.84
Printing of Programs - $65.37
Complimentary registration for 35 judges $1,225

Total Expenses - $12,121.58

Net profit - $4,428.42

High-profile participants:
Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Peggy Quince – keynote speaker
Florida Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga – panelist
Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente – panelist
Florida Supreme Court Retired Justice Harry Lee Anstead – panelist
Chief Judge Peter D. Blanc - panelist
Retired Judge Edward Rogers – panelist
And several of Palm Beach County’s prominent lawyers on panels

Host Organizations:
Hosts: The Palm Beach County Bar Association with support from F. Malcolm Cunningham, Sr. Bar Association, Hispanic Bar Association, South Palm Beach County Bar Association, Palm Beach County Justice Association, and Florida Association for Women Lawyers (statewide and local chapters).

Sponsors: The sponsors were made up of a litany of local voluntary bar associations and over 20 law firms. The firms include: Richman Greer, Carlton Fields, Holland & Knight, McCabe Rabin, P.A., John M. Howe, Leopold~Kuvin, Ackerman Link Sartory, Labovick & Labovick, Akermann Senterfitt, Greenberg Traurig, Ruden McClosky, Gelfand & Arpe, P.A., Squire Sanders, Casey Ciklin Lubitz Martens & O’Connell, Jones Foster Johnston & Stubbs, P.A., Gordon & Doner, Shutts & Bowen LLP, Schuler, Halvorson & Weisser, Proskauer Rose LLP, Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, Schwarzberg & Associates, Mellon, Gunster, Lesser Lesser Landy & Smith, Lytal, Reiter, Clark, Fountain & Williams. Citibank was also a sponsor.

Focus:
-A Diversity Task Force created by the Palm Beach County Bar put together the event and outlined and planned the Summit’s agenda.
-Participation in the Summit included nearly every local voluntary bar in Palm Beach County.
-Promotion: Letters were sent to area judges, lawyers, and law firms strongly encouraging them to attend the Diversity Summit, and endorsing a better approach to hiring and mentoring lawyers of diverse backgrounds. Leaders in the profession were specifically sought out too.
-The dialogue was not limited to legal professionals. It was an open forum for government agencies and the business community to join members of the bench and law firm representatives in discussion of new programs to increase the diversity of Palm Beach County’s local legal community. Diversity was embraced by the professional crowd of Palm Beach County as a whole.
-The central focus was on developing new diversity initiatives and opportunities for firms and agencies to attract and retain diverse legal talent.
-Participating attorneys were categorized as government agency, private, or justices/judges.

Format:
The summit was arranged in five segments. They consisted of: a luncheon that served as an ice-breaker and networking opportunity, a keynote speech given by Chief Justice Quince, a Townhall meeting with panel discussions made up of Supreme Court Justices Quince, Pariente, Labarga, and Retired Justice Anstead, along with several successful West Palm Beach attorneys, roundtable sessions of prominent West Palm Beach legal minds, and an overview presentation of the evolution of diversity in Palm Beach County. The summit lasted approximately four hours.

Townhall Meeting - Panel discussions

The topics were broken up into seven 10-minute discussions. Panel discussions were keyed in on diversity, with a thorough analysis and breakdown of what diversity truly is. The group of Supreme Court Justices and esteemed attorneys covered vital subjects as follows:
I.) Costs/benefits for commitment, recruitment and institution of a diverse practice environment
II.) Organizational Awareness of the lack and need for diversity
III.) The Obama Presidency, seizing the moment to face the ongoing challenge of diversity
IV.) Diversity vs. Affirmative Action: despite public opinion, there is a difference
V.) Support for creating diverse recruiting pipelines
VI.) Capturing the power of all of us to institute meaningful and sustained change
VII.) Accountability for diversity goals and outcomes

Roundtable Sessions

The conversations were initially planned to be divvied up into 20-25 minute periods devoted to each topic, instead, the people stayed at the same roundtable for one hour or so and just changed the topics every 10-15 minutes. There was a moderator assigned to each roundtable of 10. The groups at the tables were a “diverse” mix of people from all backgrounds although the strategy was to have a least one firm hiring partner at each table. Attorneys that participated in the panel discussions were accompanied in these sessions by decision makers from local Palm Beach area law firms, agencies, and corporations. Approximately 150 people stayed for the roundtable session.
Dialogue and presentations delved into what qualities describe skilled and diverse lawyers. These skills were viewed and accounted for in Palm Beach County vs. the entire nation.

Session questions

The following link displays the exact questions posed in both the panel and roundtable sessions.

Summation of the Diversity Summit

The following paragraphs are taken directly from the 2009 Diversity Summit Report

The purpose for presenting this data was to underscore why the issue of the lack diversity is one that is still very much alive, relevant, and deserving of our attention. While a handful of managing-level partners of firms stayed for the town hall discussion, the audience to which this data was presented was largely comprised of minority lawyers. It is important to point this out, because over many years of seeing diversity initiatives come and go, this is how they usually start out: a big event (usually called a summit, symposium, etc.), an audience (mostly minority, disabled, gay, lesbian and cross-gender people in attendance) and a long discussion about how to address the issue. Conspicuously absent are usually the decision-makers at law firms, corporations and government agencies who are in a position to bring about change. After the big event, everyone goes their separate ways, and the issue is not addressed again until the next big event with same people from prior big events discussing the issue.

While the Summit was a great start, it was only that – a start. The real important post-summit question is: Where to do we go from here? I readily admit that we do not have all of the answers, but that is not the biggest impediment to progressing toward diversity. The biggest impediment to this and any other diversity effort is not having a mechanism in place that requires the issue to be actively addressed. In recognition of this fact, at the PBCBA’s October board meeting, I proposed, and the Board voted unanimously to approve, an amendment to the Association’s bylaws. The amendment establishes a standing committee dedicated achieving diversity in our legal community. This bylaws amendment not only mandates the existence of the committee, but also mandates that a member of the Board serve as co-chair and report on the committee’s activities at each board meeting.

Why is this amendment significant or necessary? Its significance rests in the fact that prior to this time there has never been any requirement that the PBCBA, as a body, pay any attention to the issue of the lack of diversity. True, for many years there has been a Diversity and Gender Sensitivity Committee, and an Anti-Discrimination Policy was enacted in 2007. However, the committee was never something that was mandated to exist and could have been dissolved at any time. Furthermore, while the committee has always been chaired by dedicated people, nothing required the Association’s leadership to place any focus or to be informed on issues of diversity. Furthermore, the Anti-Discrimination policy does nothing to actively promote and encourage its membership to recognize the need for inclusion.

For the first time in its history, the issue of diversity and inclusion will be a part of the very fabric of the PBCBA. Whether it is addressed will no longer be subject to the whims of change. This bylaws amendment is not only designed to send a message that the PBCBA is truly committed to inclusion, but it is absolutely essential if we are to ever advance toward diversity. While the PBCBA cannot, nor seeks to, exert control over any other organization’s practices related to diversity and inclusion, it can certainly promote the issue and ensure that will not again be pushed aside. Most importantly, for those on sidelines with the notion that the Summit represents only another shooting star for diversity in Palm Beach County’s legal community, we would invite you to take a stand for diversity and vote in favor of the amendment to advance us toward becoming a more diverse bar.

Evaluation/Feedback

The following link displays questionnaire responses provided by attendees of the Palm Beach County Bar Association’s Diversity Summit.

[Revised: 01-04-2013]