MARY ELLEN CLARK, STEPHANIE MORSE, AND C.J. WEINMAN were among a group of 70 attorneys and judges who convened at the First District Court of Appeal for a half-day workshop by the Tallahassee Women Lawyers, designed to encourage diverse applicants for Bar committee appointments in the next year. The event’s purpose was to inform attendees about their options, the qualifications and experience levels best suited for available positions, and the best way to get a foot in the door for those interested in Bar service. TWL plans to track the number of attendees who apply and receive appointments. The program was funded through a Diversity Leadership Grant provided by The Florida Bar.
Bar’s diversity grants promote inclusion
By Megan E. Davis
The Florida Bar’s Special Committee on Diversity and Inclusion is encouraging local bar associations to apply for grant funding for programs promoting diversity.
The grant program is meant to celebrate and promote awareness of various types of diversity, said Arnell Bryant-Willis, diversity initiatives manager for the Bar.
“Inclusion means areas of practice, gender, race, individuals with disabilities, age, geography, religion, and sexual orientation,” Bryant-Willis said. “It involves a component that services and fosters awareness in the general community and the legal community.”
In its third year, the grant program awards a total of $50,000 annually to local bar associations. To date, it has funded more than 70 projects, including 18 so far this fiscal year.
The grant’s guidelines are purposely open-ended to allow voluntary bars to make creative proposals.
“We’re not telling them what they need to do or how,” Bryant-Willis said. “That’s left up to the organization. Because of the differences in the programs, they are fitting the Inclusion Path to Unity initiative for the Bar in a very comprehensive way.”
Programs have provided education for lawyers and the general public, increased mentorship, and provided avenues for becoming involved.
Tallahassee Women Lawyers
In January, Tallahassee Women Lawyers hosted a half-day workshop to encourage diverse applicants for the Bar’s committee appointments in the next year.
Current Bar leaders helped attendees learn about various positions and qualifications.
“While the group has had a longtime active network to encourage credentialed members to apply for positions and support those applications, this is the first event held with the purpose of shepherding applicants through the process,” said Jennifer Shoaf Richardson, secretary of Tallahassee Women Lawyers.
Both Bar President Gwynne Young and President-elect Gene Pettis spoke about their personal experiences and visions for diversity throughout the Bar’s committees.
Several Bar leaders participated in a panel discussion and attendees were invited to breakout sessions on such topics as Specialty Service Opportunities, Taking Your Involvement to the Next Level, and Getting Your Feet Wet — For Young Lawyers.
In the fall, the Hillsborough County Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division received funding for its Before the Law Was Equal website and community education project.
The group interviewed prominent judges and lawyers who have made significant contributions to the diversity of the local legal community to create video oral histories.
The young lawyers also held a panel discussion on the segregation that existed in the legal community in the past and types of discrimination that still exist.
The YLD hopes to showcase the project at the Tampa Bay History Museum. The materials will also be available online.
The grant program also funded Pipeline Project: Booker High School, proposed by the Sarasota County Bar Association. Judges and lawyers volunteered to speak, teach, and provide instructional services to minority students at Booker High School with an interest in the legal profession.
Voluntary bar associations may receive up to $1,500 individually, and two or more associations may jointly receive up to $3,000 for programs benefiting their members and the public.
Applications are due to the special committee by 5 p.m., Monday, February 18. Proposed projects must be completed before the end of the Bar’s fiscal year on June 30.
“We’re excited this gives voluntary bars an opportunity to reach out and provide service to the community,” Bryant-Willis said.
For more information about the grant program, click on the member services tab on the Bar’s website at www.floridabar.org.