Diversity Conference

Rupen Shah, chair

It has been a humbling experience and a privilege for me to serve as the chair of the Diversity Conference this past year. The conference has accomplished much, but we still have much to do. I thank each and every member of the conference for the opportunity to serve as your chair. This past year was very busy and exciting. This was the first time I, as a Diversity Conference chair, represented the conference and participated in Executive Committee and was an equal voting member. 

Our programs are focused on actions taken by courts, legislators, and executors on important issues of law and “Are they contradictory or complimentary to the rule of law.” Our last year’s presentation has been recognized to be a milestone in the way that the Virginia State Bar is presenting CLEs. In 2014 the Better Annual Meeting Committee (BAM) has adopted the CLE presentation in the debate format.  Our incoming president, Kevin Martingale, at the last Executive Committee meeting, recognized our last year’s program and complimented the Diversity Conference on its spirited debate format.

Show case CLE (20 hr. Credits approved)
This year we put together a showcase CLE with Attorney General Mark R. Herring as our featured speaker. The topic was: “Marriage in Virginia and changing status of family in Virginia.” Are the actions of Attorney General complimentary or contradictory to the rule of law?

The Moderator:  The debate followed by the key note speaker was moderated by Manny Capsalis, past president of Virginia State Bar and the Virginia Law Foundation.

The Participants:

  • Steven W. Fitschen, president, National Legal Foundation, Virginia Beach.
  • Prof. Rena M. Lindevaldsen, associate dean of Academic Affairs, Liberty University School of Law, Lynchburg.
  • Charles B. Lustig, of Shuttleworth, Ruloff, Swain, Haddad & Morecock PC, Virginia Beach. 
  • Shannon Price Minter, legal director, National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), San Franciso, CA.
  • Dr. Joseph P. Price, associate professor, Department of Economics, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
  • Malcolm P. “Mic” McConnell III, lead medical malpractice lawyer for Allen, Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen, the oldest and largest personal injury firm in Virginia. 

Rule of Law Program and Students’ Day at the General Assembly and the Virginia Supreme Court:
The Diversity Conference’s other major event of this year was the Rule of Law and Student Law Day at the General Assembly and the Virginia Supreme Court in the fall where over 300 high school and middle school students from the Richmond area participated in the Rule of Law and Student Law Day at the General Assembly and the Virginia Supreme Court. It is was spearheaded by The Honorable Cleo Powell, Supreme Court of Virginia, along with the tireless help of Kathy Mays Coleman.

Students were allowed to ask questions and were given forthright answers to those questions from members of the Diversity Conference and leaders of the community.

The students were divided into small groups where members of the Diversity Conference, the Young Lawyers Conference, and other lawyer volunteers led small group discussions and presentations on the Rule of Law and other law-related topics.

Because of the success of this event, plans are in place to implement this event again in the fall of this year along with other smaller Rule of Law Programs throughout the middle schools and high schools in the state.

Hill-Tucker Pre-Law Institute
The Diversity Conference partnered with the VSB Young Lawyers Conference in the promotion and fund-raising for the Hill-Tucker Pre-Law Institute. The conference applied for and obtained a grant of $10,000 from McGuireWoods. The grant of $15,000 is pending before the Virginia Law Foundation this year to fund this institute. The institute is named after legendary civil rights lawyers, Oliver S. Hill and Samuel W. Tucker. The goal is to raise $40,000 for this year’s program.

The institute was held at the University of Richmond. For one week, high school students were introduced to the legal profession by living on the University of Richmond college campus, and attending mock law classes and seminars on the law, test-taking strategies, the college admissions process, and career opportunities in the legal profession. The students met with law professors, judges, guest lecturers, and bar members. At the end, the students participated in a mock trial.

The institute attracts high school students from throughout the state of Virginia, with an emphasis on areas and schools with higher percentages of minority and diverse students or at-risk students. The purposes of the Institute are to educate the students on basic fundamentals for successful law careers and to provide them with an opportunity to experience the field of law first-hand in the hopes of attracting them to pursue a law career which they may think is out of reach for them. Members of the Diversity and the Young Lawyers Conferences will serve as instructors and mentors.

Outreach and Serving the Legal Needs of the Community
A major goal of the Diversity Conference is to ensure that the legal needs of Virginians, especially those of diverse origins, are met. The conference partners with the Immigrant Assistance Project (IAP) to reach this goal. Founded in Richmond by Robert F. Redmond Jr., a partner at the Richmond office of Williams Mullen, and Michel Zajur, CEO and founder of the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and also a member of our board, the IAP provides pro bono legal services in immigration and related matters to the underserved Hispanic and diverse communities in the state. Individuals have benefited from legal representation in a variety of ways: receiving unpaid wages, receiving employment authorization, avoiding deportation through prosecutorial discretion, successfully seeking asylum, withholding of removal, and arranging voluntary departures. IAP is located primarily in the Richmond area, and has expanded its work to the Northern Virginia region where the Hispanic and diverse communities are much larger and the need for pro bono immigration work is greater.

So You’re 18 Booklet
The Diversity Conference and board member Rupen Shah, in conjunction with the Conference of Local Bars and the Staunton, Augusta, and Waynesboro Bar, has revamped distribution efforts in rural communities. More than 2,000 students were reached out to. Many thanks to the following distinguished attorneys who devoted their time to make this a successful program happen:  Ron Denny, Graham Butler, Susan Reed, Roland Carlton, Eric Lorenzo. Many volunteers from school boards and school offices (including principals and teachers) participated with enthusiasm and students were very receptive and interested in understanding their rights and responsibilities.

Presentation of Achievement Award at the 2014 VSB Summer Conference in Virginia Beach
Martha JP McQuade is the recipient of the 2014 Virginia State Bar Diversity Conference’s Clarence M. Dunnaville Jr. Achievement Award. McQuade is being honored for fostering, encouraging, and facilitating diversity and inclusion in the bar, the judiciary, and the legal profession.

In her letter nominating McQuade, last year’s recipient, Darrel Tillar Mason, wrote: “Equality is the very foundation of Martha's character. Whether it be arguing for equal locker room facilities as a college student at the University of Texas, calling attention to the inequities among the genders in her first career as a journalist, or advocating for equal pay for women and the advancement of women to the bench in her current legal vocation, she is a constant advocate for equal rights and gender equality in all aspects of her life.”

McQuade is a partner with McQuade Byrum PLLC in Alexandria. She has practiced family law for twenty years. She has served on the Fairfax Bar CLE Committee, the Virginia State Bar Bench-Bar Committee, and the Virginia Supreme Court Judicial Education Committee. She is a past president of the Virginia Commission on Women and Minorities in the Legal System and the Women's Bar Association of the District of Columbia. She is a past chair of the District of Columbia Bar Rules/Regulations/Board Procedures Committee and immediate past chair of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board.

Mason concluded that, “Martha is passionate about diversity and equality. But more importantly, she is willing to step forward and work actively in any forum available to tackle obstacles and advocate for the disenfranchised. . . These are all qualities which make her a worthy recipient of the Clarence M. Dunnaville Jr. Achievement Award.”

The award was presented June 14 during the General Session of the Virginia State Bar Annual Meeting in Virginia Beach.

Website and E-mails
Our website is up and running. Check it out at http://www.dcvsb.org or just go on the bar’s website and click conferences and then click Diversity Conference. Most, if not all of our activities past, present, and future are on it. You will see photographs and videos, upcoming events, a link to join the Diversity Conference, and other useful information. Donations can be made and sponsorship forms can be downloaded from this site.

Fundraising Projects
Because the conference is not funded by the bar, the money to implement all of our efforts has to be raised by us. Therefore, fundraisers have to be a focus in whatever we do. Some of our fundraisers are listed below.

Fore Diversity Golf Tournament
The fourth annual Fore Diversity Golf Tournament was held on June 12, 2014, at the Virginia Beach National Golf Club during the VSB Annual Meeting. Many thanks to our president-elect Ed Weiner, Kai Memmer, and others. Last year’s tournament enjoyed a record turnout of participants. As this tournament is not restricted to VSB members, many teams include non-lawyers who, coincidently, seem to be noticeably good golfers.

Jazz 4 Justice Concerts
Another one of our fundraising events was the third annual Jazz 4 Justice concert presented at the new Forbes Performing Arts Center on the campus of James Madison University (JMU) in September 2013. The concert was a show of musical excellence as the JMU Jazz Ensemble and guest performers and guest conductor, our own past VSB President, George Shanks, performed the classic big band sounds of Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, and others. Enjoyable music was appreciated by all who attended, and the venue for the program was spectacular. We were able to raise funds not only for the Diversity Conference, but also for the Blue Ridge Legal Aid Society and the James Madison University Jazz Ensemble. Again, donor and sponsorship participation was generous, and we hope to have more attendance this upcoming year. The next concert is scheduled to be on October 4, 2014 at JMU.

The conference had its first concert of Jazz for Justice at Christopher Newport University (CNU). Under the leadership of Ed Weiner, the Jazz 4 Justice Concert was a great success at their fabulous performing arts venue. The Jazz 4 Justice at CNU helped raise the vital and necessary funds to help the local legal aid society, CNU school of music and the Diversity Conference.

Future Fund Raising Plans
Future fundraising plans are also in the works to solicit funds from major corporations and law firms with diversity incentive programs that can be benefited by their association with the Diversity Conference. Our board members will approach these major corporations and law firms to inquire if such an association with the conference is feasible and whether our missions and goals are compatible. Also, any individual or entity wishing to donate to the Diversity Conference can have their donations tax-deductible under our IRS charitable 501(c) 3 status of Millennium Diversity Initiative, Inc.

Membership
In the beginning of the year we had about 150 members and during the tenure of my presidency our enrollment rocketed from 150 to 675 this year. Special thanks to VSB President Sharon Nelson and her initiative to write a letter encouraging members to join the Diversity Conference. Special thanks to Gene Elliott for encouraging each local bar associations to designate a point person for Diversity Conference and writing a joint letter with the chair of Diversity Conference encouraging others to join.

Any member of the bar can join the conference at no cost. To join on line visit our website at http://dcvsb.org  and fill out the application form for membership; or just send an e-mail or letter requesting to join to the VSB or any of the board members. Please encourage your fellow firm members and attorney friends join this exciting and historical conference.

Future Events and Projects in 2014 -2015
Under the leadership of new Chair Eva N. Juncker, the conference will attempt to maintain past events and projects like the Law School Diversity Conference and Symposium such as the one we held in the past at the University of Virginia School of Law, the Rule of Law Programs in high schools and middle schools throughout last year and at the General Assembly and Virginia Supreme Court. Jazz 4 Justice Concerts will be held at James Madison University and Christopher Newport University. The Hill-Tucker Pre-Law Institute will be held again, and we will continue with the Immigration Outreach Program. We also have new events and projects in the works and in planning stages.

In recognizing geographic diversity, the conference is planning a program in the southwest region of the state. This will be a two-day event, and we hope to have some of the leaders of the bar in attendance with us there. We will have more information on this event as it is finalized.

If you recall, the conference is not afforded any funding by the Virginia State Bar so all of our financial and administrative needs have been up to us to raise and develop. I do appreciate your kind acceptance of me in my role as chair of the Diversity Conference and the consideration you have afforded me, and I ask that you give the same kind consideration and support to Eva Juncker who will serve as our chair for 2014-2015. Please remember that this is your conference, and you can take as much of an active role as you want. We welcome your involvement and participation, and we urge you to take advantage of what the conference can offer you in the advancement of diversity in the bar. The conference welcomes involvement and input from members of the bar interested in issues of diversity of all kind.

I personally am thankful to Karen Gould and her staff to provide and be there for us whenever it was necessary. Their unselfish commitment to the Diversity Conference is evident and without their support I would not have been able to function. They are the heart and soul of the Virginia State Bar and keep this enormous institute in order. 

Updated: Jul 10, 2014