CBA Hosts Seventh Annual Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Summit

Written Tuesday, October 25, 2022

On October 19, more than 150 people attended the CBA’s seventh annual Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Summit: The Collaborative Blueprint. The interactive and engaging virtual summit explored strategies for increasing retention in legal organizations and creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive legal community within Connecticut.

CBA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee co-chair Ronald J. Houde, Jr. welcomed participants to the summit: “This year we are focusing on leadership retention and career development. The summit aims to encourage the development of formal and informal opportunities that are realistically achievable by diverse individuals,” Houde stated. “Over the past five years, I’ve seen the true depth and passion in the work of the CBA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. I have also seen an increase in commitment among the various practice sections of the CBA.”

Similar to years past, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee co-chair, Hon. Cecil J. Thomas, presented the data from the Connecticut Legal Community’s Diversity & Inclusion Pledge & Plan Signatories, which showed changes in the diversity of signatory organizations. The signatories represent varying legal sectors from solo and small firms to large firms, as well as public/non-profit legal professionals and corporate counsels. The Diversity & Inclusion Pledge & Plan reflects a reaffirmation of the legal profession’s commitment to approaching diversity and inclusion strategically, collaboratively, and with accountability.

 Featured Speaker Ritu Bhasin
 Featured Presenter Ritu Bhasin leads "Inclusive Coaching Workshop: Coaching for Inclusion and Not Conformity."

Featured Presenter Ritu Bhasin led the interactive workshop, “Inclusive Coaching Workshop: Coaching for Inclusion and Not Conformity.” Attendees learned how, as leaders in the legal profession, to ensure that they are providing coaching, mentorship, sponsorship, and advocacy in an inclusive manner. Activities during the workshop focused on methodology for coaching across cultural differences and the skills necessary to empower and elevate team members without pushing conformity.

During the workshop, Bhasin shared her “Three Selves Framework,” which breaks down an individual into the concepts of “authentic self, adapted self, and performing self.” Bhasin asked attendees, “To what extent have you been encouraging your team members to bring their authentic selves to work?” and discussed methods for managers to leverage the “Three Selves Framework” to help make employees feel more comfortable and accepted in their work environments. Bhasin also shared her inclusive coaching framework, which is meant to help workplace leaders better identify which feedback they provide is constructive and which of it is based on inherent biases.

The afternoon programming was split into hour-long breakout panels. During the first track, attendees had three breakout panel options to choose from:

The first panel option, “Inclusive Leadership, The Foundation of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion within Your Organization,” featured presenters Hon. Rupal Shah, Hon. Anne C. Dranginis, (Ret.), Margaret Castinado, Beck Fineman, Marilyn J. Ford, and Eboni S. Nelson. This diverse panel of lawyers, judges, and law professors broke barriers within their respective legal careers, with each being the first person of their background or identity to achieve their specific leadership role. They shared their personal experiences and explored the meaning of inclusive leadership and how to be an inclusive leader within the legal profession.

Another panel “Promoting DEI in Corporate Legal Departments and when Retaining Outside Counsel,” featured presenters Peter Lee and Marin Lorenson and moderator Moy N. Ogilvie. Attorneys Lee and Lorenson spoke about their companies’ DEI initiatives and how DEI considerations are assessed when retaining outside counsel. While discussing the processes that her company has set in place, Lorenson, who is employed with The Hartford, pointed out that competency in diversity, equity, and inclusion is “an essential component of leadership in today’s world.”

The third breakout panel option, “Promoting Access to Justice While Advancing Racial Justice,” featured presenters Kelsey Bannon, John Doroghazi, Michelle Pallak Movahed, and NaTonia Trammell and moderator Natalie Wagner. The panelists discussed how the access to justice gap relates to racial justice and how the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic accentuated both issues. They also shared the efforts that those within the legal community have made towards mitigating the gap in access to justice and promoting racial justice with new pro-bono initiatives and focused projects.

The second track had three breakout panel options for attendees to choose from:

The breakout panel, “Building and Positioning your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Team for Success,” featured presenters Alfredo G. Fernández, Daryl McGraw, Tara Pollard, and Asker Saeed and moderator Jenn Shukla. This panel, made up of directors of diversity, a diversity committee chair, and a diversity consultant, presented different models that DEI professionals and teams can utilize to bolster their efforts. The panel discussed differences in appropriate techniques, organizational formats, goals, and assessments for success between small and large organizations.

Another panel option for attendees was “Understanding and Addressing Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession,” which featured presenters Jonathan G. Martinis, Dr. Arin Reeves, and Marcy T. Stovall and moderator Daniel A. Schwartz. Focusing on acts of overt discrimination, harassment, and sexual harassment, this panel discussed studies on the impact that these acts have on the legal profession. They also presented on how states, including Connecticut, have implemented new rules of professional ethics to combat these types of transgressions.

The third breakout panel option of the afternoon was, “Words Matter V. II,” which featured presenters Margaret I. Castinado, Aigné Goldsby, Carolyn A. Ikari, and Kimberly Jacobsen. The panelists discussed the evolving terminology related to identity and inclusivity as well as how the use of different types of language directed towards social, racial, and ethnic groups can inflict both intentional and unintentional harm. One panelist, Attorney Kimberly Jacobsen spoke about the responses that negatively affected her when she spoke with others about her diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. She encouraged attendees to “really listen to what a person is telling you before responding” when talking with someone to lessen the chance of inadvertently saying something offensive or upsetting. 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee co-chair Salihah R. Denman provided closing remarks for the Summit, thanking those who attended, stating, “With your help, our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts will move forward.” She pointed to the CBA Future of the Legal Profession Scholars Program as one of many important projects being undertaken to increase diversity in the legal profession.

Thank you to the presenters and Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Summit Committee members for organizing an interactive and engaging event and to all our sponsors for making the event possible.