For the first time, the division of the Allegheny County Bar Association that addresses the needs of African American attorneys hosted a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Program on Nov. 16.
The Homer S. Brown Division (HSBD) of ACBA utilized leadership from Black women attorneys to present CLE information on the PA Disciplinary Board.
The CLE is program that mandates attorneys earn a certain number of credits to maintain their law license. Attendance at this session goes towards those credits.
In the past the Homer S. Brown Division has facilitated social programming, network programming and programs open to the community at-large on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, but this is the first time that the division is moving to programming that is beneficial to the ACBA members from a legal and educational instruction.
The CLE was not based on subject matter that was keen to a specific demographic within the ACBA.
“It was important for the topic to be of interest to a diverse group of members to the bar. We wanted a topic that would appeal across practice areas as well as age groups,” said Tyra Oliver, committee member and Immediate Past Chair of the Homer S. Brown Division.
Led by Tracy McCants Lewis (Professor, Duquesne University School of Law) and Shanicka Kennedy (Allegheny Public Defenders Office), 46 members of the association were brought to speed on the suggestions for best practices and consequences of attorney misconduct.
Chairwoman Quinntarra Morant, said that it is important for the bar to have a “wide range of diverse speakers.”
Morant serves as the liaison between the Homer S. Brown Division and the ACBA Board of Governors.
“When we had an opportunity to find two African American women that would speak to a topic that was important a to a lot of our members, we just felt the need to jump on that (opportunity),” Morant said.
“I think it’s important for that our other members of the bar see that we’re a very active and vital division of the Allegheny County Bar Association,” said Lewis. “This presentation did that today.”
Lewis and Kennedy have presented CLE information to other organizations in the past where they received favorable ratings.
“They are dynamic speakers who are well prepared,” said Oliver.
Brian Knavish, director of Marketing and Media Relations said that women presenting to the bar is “encouraging” and that he thought the session was “successful.”
“The ACBA is working hard to promote diversity,” Knavish said.
Though it was the first time for the division to host a CLE, the 46 attorneys in attendance easily eclipsed the usual participation at CLE events of 30.
Of those 46, six were minority attorneys.
“I think the expectation may be that if diverse attorneys are presenting the CLE, the only ones that may attend are other diverse attorneys…That couldn’t be more untrue,” said Kennedy. “Today 70, 80 percent were non-diverse lawyers.
That speaks volumes about the level of support we have in the bar association.”
Despite the presence of African Americans completing law school in Pittsburgh, retaining those lawyers in Allegheny County has been a challenge.
“The problem is, once they graduate, they go to other areas such as Philadelphia or DC. We are working on having programs that are attractive to keep minority students and attorneys that have been here for awhile as well,” said Morant.
Lewis said that the activity of the Homer S. Brown Division can help make Pittsburgh an ideal city to practice law.
“On a national level, hopefully people will see that we do have an active minority division in our bar association so that perhaps this will make Pittsburgh an attractive city for lawyers to relocate,” she said.
(Samson X Horne is a contributing writer to the New Pittsburgh Courier. He can be reached at email@example.com.)
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