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Panelists' Discussion of the NBA-WLD’s “Report on the State of Black Women in the Law” Underscored the Need for More Progress Across All Legal Sectors

December 11, 2023 10:08 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

By: Robin M. Earnest, Earnest Attorney at Law, LLC.

On December 4, 2023 GWAC sponsored a first of its kind panel discussion on the profound importance of the 2023 NBA-WLD Report on the State of Black Women in the Law. The Report is a revolutionary study of black women's views & experiences across all legal sectors. Thus, it was fitting that the panelists GWAC assembled represented esteemed DEIB advocates from across the major legal sectors—i.e., private, academia, and the government.  The panelists spoke to a packed room in Holland and Knight’s downtown DC offices and were moderated by Morgan Lewis Partner, Grace E. Speights. Grace co-leads her firm’s Mobilizing for Equality task force and is the Global Leader of its Labor and Employment Practice Group. In addition to her practice, Grace chairs GWU’s board of trustees, and is an unwavering supporter of black women in the law.

Grace was joined by NBA past president, and Trial Masters Award recipient, GW Law Dean Alfreda Robinson. As a lead co-contributor for the Report, Dean Robinson explained how the Report’s genesis sprung from a full-throated discussion during a WLD event at the 2022 NBA Annual Conference.  In addition, she discussed how the 2023 Report’s specific statistics support its sobering but important findings. Specifically, she noted how the statistics establish and quantify that, notwithstanding decades of well-intentioned declarations and goals, there are still too few black women lawyers, and too little evidence of significant progress, across every legal sector since around 1930—when there were only about 34 black women lawyers in the country.  

Also noting the sobering impact of the Report’s statistics was GWAC President, and DC Court of Appeals Staff Attorney, Keela Seales. Keela noted that, based on her experience, she was not surprised by the Report’s statistic that 70% of the women reported having personally experienced and/or witnessed discrimination or bias. In addition, she discussed how associating with an affinity bar dedicated to supporting black women can serve as a balm for attorneys experiencing such indignities.  

Holland and Knight Equity Partner and Practice Group Leader Kwamina Williford also spoke and discussed her efforts in the private sector to deepen partnerships with clients around DEIB as chair of the Steering Committee for her firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Engagement Initiative. And Morgan Lewis Associate, and Women’s Bar Association of D.C. President, Kandis Gibson discussed her journey as an attorney in private practice and the WBA’s efforts to address concerns from the Report.

The event followed a November 22, 2023 airing, of a shorter discussion by many of the same panelists, on the DC Bar Communities’ Brief Encounters podcast. Both this event, as well as the podcast episode, were introduced and organized by GWAC’s Employment and Professional Development chair, Robin M. Earnest. Robin practices federal appellate law with Earnest Attorney at Law, LLC.  She also chairs the DC Bar’s Criminal Law and Individual Rights (CLIR) Community.  Thus, it was fitting that this event was co-sponsored by the CLIR Community of the DC Bar.

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