February 2011 President's Column
Events That Matter!
By A. Todd Brown
The advent of a new year ushers in the privilege of presenting several of the Mecklenburg County Bar's and the Mecklenburg Bar Foundation's signature events. As winter turns to spring, we set about the business of paying tribute to our profession and deserving MCB members, educating the public on the importance of the rule of law and acknowledging the critical role lawyers play in society.
On February 3, we kickoff the 2011 MCB/MBF Bar Leadership Institute (BLI). BLI is a leadership development program established in 2001 and designed to identify and encourage leaders within the MCB. It affords participating attorneys the opportunity to develop their personal leadership potential, pursue leadership opportunities with the MCB and local community, consider pressing Bar and community issues with peers and presenters and develop a spirit of lasting collegiality with their fellow participants. Facilitators guide participants through a multi-month program of coaching and leadership development. To benefit the Bar and the community, each BLI class must choose a specific service project(s) to be implemented the year following graduation. It is especially noteworthy that BLI is made possible in large part only through the generous and long-standing financial support of the MBF. Please contact BLI Chair Aretha V. Blake for more information about BLI.
In Grutter v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court acknowledged that educational benefits flow from a diverse law school environment. Somewhat paradoxically, the Great Recession caused massive associate layoffs, nudged partners out the door and reduced or eliminated recruitment programs, but it also spawned a record number of LSAT takers and law school applicants. And although law schools reportedly added about 3,000 seats for first-year students from 1993 to 2008, both the percentage and the number of African-American and Mexican-American law students declined in that period even though students in both groups improved their grades and LSAT scores. Debuting in 2006, the MCB's Diversity Day Conference is a legal career pipeline program that starts at the high school and undergraduate leve to help infuse the pipeline with diverse candidates. Students and parents learn about the law school process and the roles of lawyers in society through three panel discussions: Getting to Law School; Getting through Law School; and To Be or Not To Be a Lawyer. Keynote speakers inspire the students, and participants can engage in one-on-one discussions with lawyers, judges and law students. Law school admissions representatives from NC and SC participate, offering admissions advice and written materials. Contact Diversity Day Chair Marion A. Cowell, Jr. for more information on this year's program scheduled for February 12, 2011 at Johnson C. Smith University.
In 1995, the MBF established the James B. McMillan Fellowship Fund in honor of the late Judge McMillan's service as a federal district court judge in the tumultuous civil rights era. The McMillan Fund advances the administration of justice by awarding summer fellowships to law students who work locally in not-for-profit and state and federal governmental agencies. It has awarded 50 fellowships to deserving students. The McMillan Fund's annual dinner also showcases the MCB's annual Julius L. Chambers Diversity Champion Award. Established in 2008, the Diversity Champion Award recognizes an individual who embodies high ethical standards, unquestioned integrity, consistent competence, and who champions diversity in the legal profession. Together they acknowledge the instrumental roles Judge McMillan and Julius Chambers played in contributing to the dismantling of racial segregation in public schools, in the seminal case of Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. Please contact The Honorable Albert Diaz, Randel E. Phillips and Kristi K. Walters for more information on this year's programs scheduled for February 24, 2011.
The annual MCB/MBF Law & Society Luncheon allows us to celebrate the role of law in society through a program open to the public. This year's keynote speaker, renowned lawyer and mediator Kenneth Feinberg -- recently dubbed the Master of Disaster -- is sure to bring a unique perspective and keep us glued to our seats with insights into the 9/11 attacks, the BP oil spill, and much more. Fittingly, during the luncheon we also present the MBF's highest honor, the Asycue Professionalism Award. Established in 2004 in honor of the life-long contributions of E. Osborne Asycue, Jr. to the legal profession and beyond, this annual award goes to a current or former member of the MCB to recognize exemplary professionalism, which may include outstanding service on behalf of the MCB or the MBF for the benefit of the legal community or the community at large. We look forward to honoring another pillar of the MCB. Please contact Law & Society Co-chairs Allain C. Andry IV and Hon. Carl HornIII for more information on this year's luncheon scheduled for March 10, 2011.
In May, we will celebrate Law Day. Established in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Law Day occurs on May 1 and celebrates our liberties and the ideals of equality and justice under law. This year's national theme, The Legacy of John Adams, from Boston to Guantanamo, honors our nation's first lawyer-president and his belief that lawyers are obligated to take on unpopular and controversial causes, such as Adams' representation of the British officer and soldiers charged with firing into a crowd of protestors and killing five civilians in the "Boston Massacre." More to come on this celebration. In the interim, please contact Co-chairs Valecia M. McDowell and The Honorable David C. Keelser about this year's program to be held during the week of May 2, 2011.
These events exemplify the highest ideals of the MCB and the MBF. They honor our legal profession and MCB members who have contributed mightily to it. Please visit www.MeckBar.org to learn more, and make plans now for you and members of your firms and organizations to participate.