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Program will examine the pandemic’s effect on women lawyers

Senior Editor Top Stories

Leveling the Playing Field During the PandemicPresident Dori Foster-Morales and a handful of other prominent practitioners will discuss, “Leveling the Playing Field During the Pandemic: Creative Opportunities for Women Lawyers,” during a November 18 panel discussion.

Sponsored by the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the noon webinar is the first in a Women’s Programming Series created by the Gender Equality Subcommittee. The program is free and available at Zoom meeting ID: 984 1763 0888 and password: 425616.

LaKisha Kinsey-Sallis, a Diversity and Inclusion Committee vice chair who oversees the gender equality effort, said the series is one way the panel is fulfilling the recommendations of a 2017 study that revealed inequities in pay and advancement that women lawyers still struggle to overcome.

“We hope that it’s the beginning of an ongoing conversation about gender equality issues,” said Kinsey-Sallis, a partner at Fisher Phillips.

Series organizers were struck by the number of recent articles in legal journals and publications about challenges women lawyers face during the pandemic, Kinsey-Sallis said.

Adjusting to a home office, while caring for school-aged children who are also homebound, topped the list.

Losing easy access to the mentors who guide career development is hard enough, Kinsey-Sallis said. Women lawyers have also seen their billable hours fall and careers suffer as their work competes with parenting.

“I think that’s probably one of the biggest adjustments that women have had to make, and it’s probably one of the largest impacts that we’ve seen,” she said.

But the webinar will explore more than challenges, Kinsey-Sallis said. Panelists will also devote much of the discussion to solutions.

“If all of this is true, then there’s got to be something done about it,” she said.

President Foster-Morales, who recently completed a pandemic-themed series of virtual town halls in each of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits, will be the first guest speaker.

Kinsey-Sallis expects Foster-Morales to discuss, among other things, resources that are available to help lawyers adjust to the health crisis, including the Florida Lawyers Helpline, a 24-hour resource staffed by professionals who serve as a gateway to free mental-health counseling and a wide array of other services.

“Our current Bar president has been talking a lot about the pandemic and mental health impacts, so we also thought the topic fit really nicely with her ongoing theme,” she said.

Panel members include Florida Bar board member Nicki Lewis Simon, shareholder and chief diversity officer for Greenburg Traurig, and Jenny S. Sieg, owner, Sieg & Cole, P.A., and president-elect of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers.

They and other legal thought leaders were chosen, in part, to represent a variety of professional perspectives, from corporate and sole practitioner to private entities and voluntary bar leaders, Kinsey-Sallis said.

The potential solutions the panelists will explore include more flexible work assignments to keep women lawyers involved in cases, or more creative assessment of the value they add to a firm when annual reviews roll around, Kinsey-Sallis said.

“We wanted to be at least thinking about how they could adopt solutions that are appropriate for their setting, to ensure that women lawyers don’t get left behind, that they don’t leave the profession, that they’re still on the same partner track, that they still have the same opportunities to network and generate business,” she said.

The next speaker series will explore leadership of professional organizations, Kinsey-Sallis said.

“We want to educate, to demystify, to encourage more women to answer the call to lead our Bar and our local VBAs,” she said.

The following are speakers and panelists for “Leveling the Playing Field During the Pandemic: Opportunities for Women Lawyers” on November 18 at noon.

Introduction and Vice Chair’s Message: LaKisha Kinsey-Sallis, partner, Fisher Phillips, vice chair, Florida Bar Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Moderator: Jenny S. Sieg, owner, Sieg & Cole, P.A., president-elect, Florida Association for Women Lawyers.

First Speaker: Dori Foster-Morales, partner, Foster-Morales, Sockel-Stone, president, The Florida Bar

Panelists:

Jenay Iurato, owner, Iurato Law Firm, P.L.

Caryn Goldenberg Carvo, owner, Caryn Goldenberg Carvo, P.A.

Jennifer B. Compton, managing partner (Sarasota office), Management Committee member, Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP.

Jennifer Suarez Jankes, legal site lead, director, associate general counsel, Citi.

Nikki Lewis Simon, shareholder and chief diversity officer, Greenberg Traurig, former chair, Florida Bar Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

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