Alicia M. McNeal, Esquire
It is with great humility and joy that I write this letter celebrating my 2016-2017 GWAC presidency. The Greater Washington Area Chapter, Women Lawyers Division, National Bar Association is an organization that is very near and dear to my heart. Before I relocated to the greater Washington DC area, I was told to join this illustrious organization. Since joining, I have had the pleasure to lobby for and serve as the first Historian of this illustrious organization. Since that time, I quickly rose in leadership to become President-Elect during the 2016- 2017 bar year and now President. GWAC is more than simply a bar organization, it is a network and a sisterhood of African-American female attorneys that are vested in the success of other African-American female law students and attorneys. I would not be who I am or where I am without GWAC, and for that, I say thank you.
Throughout this bar year, we have focused on expanding GWAC’s brand through a variety of platforms. This year we expanded our social media brand to include the use of Instagram. We used this platform to share photographs and activities of the organization. This social media expansion allowed GWAC to reach more members of the legal community and served as an additional avenue to promote our organization and increase our membership. This year also saw the creation of the resident blogger program which promoted brand recognition, experience in big law and work-life balance. These blog posts gave readers mindful advice, guidance, and perspective for navigating and succeeding in the legal profession.
This year GWAC’s programming focused on social justice issues and increasing diversity in the profession. We started the bar year with a program titled, Black Lives Matter – Town Hall Forum.” This panel was moderated by Past President Melanie Bates and featured speakers that represented prosecutors, defense attorneys, civil rights lawyers and the Metropolitan Police Department. This conversation addressed the Black Lives Matter movement and police accountability. Over the course of the bar year, we addressed Diversity in Arbitration and Ending the School to Prison Pipeline. The former program discussed the history and evolution of arbitration and suggestions on what steps can be taken to increase diversity in this practice area while the latter program focused on the correlation between the disciplinary practices implemented in school settings and slavery, the problems associated with this pipeline and the steps we can all take to end the cycle.
Next, the expansion of the GWAC brand included co-sponsoring events with other local bar associations in the greater Washington DC area. This year we co-sponsored events with the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia, LGBT Bar, Washington Council of Lawyers as well as our sister organization Washington Bar Association and Region XII including the Region XII All-Day CLE, Annual Chillin & Grillin BBQ and the Black History Month Film and Discussion of the movie 13th.
Finally, GWAC celebrated our signature events. The 2017 Annual Networking and Awards Reception hosted was held in the Bank of America Penthouse suite and sponsored by the Boyd Britton Group, overlooking the Washington DC skyline. The 2017 Annual Charlotte E. Ray Awards celebrated Past President, the Honorable Tara J. Fentress. Finally, our featured speaker for the 2017 Annual Judicial Reception was the first African-American Chief Judge of the United States Court of Federal Claims, Patricia E. Campbell-Smith.
This year, GWAC has been the epitome of #BlackExcellence and #BlackGirlMagic. I would like to thank everyone for your support, participation, leadership, contributions, and membership in the Greater Washington Area Chapter, Women Lawyers Division, National Bar Association, affectionately and forever known as GWAC!