Don’t Forget About Women Lawyers of Color

[For Black History Month, we invited some of our alumni to provide their reflections as guest bloggers of the month. This post is from Kristen D. Hardy L’14.]

When probing and prodding at the legal profession’s existential, ever-persisting diversity and inclusion (D&I) crisis, race and gender are routinely discussed in separate vacuums. Thus, inclusion efforts focusing on the improvement of gender diversity have largely come to consider only one subset of women — the majority. Similarly, inclusion efforts targeting racial diversity also tend to focus on the majority, which in most cases refers to men. Articles and conferences promising to break down barriers and unpack bias for women lawyers either completely ignore, or barely mention, the added layer of complexity for women lawyers of color. And without the voices of minority women attorneys, spaces promising to offer diverse perspectives begin to feel homogeneous and exclusive.

There is no denying that many women, regardless of race or background, share similar instances of gender bias and discrimination. But women of color must grapple with a separate set of unique challenges that remain largely disregarded. When the D&I conversation shifts to improving gender diversity, the challenges associated with women of color are frequently, perhaps unintentionally, ignored. Consequently, solutions intended to eliminate barriers for all women in the profession are falsely presented as equally effective for White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Indigenous women. This phenomenon is not only isolating, but arguably detrimental to the progression of minority women within the legal profession.

Double-Bind and Double-Barreled Bias

Most know, at least anecdotally, about the double-bind bias apropos to women in leadership. This type of implicit bias is a haphazard blend of gender stereotypes and ostensible leadership characteristics that gum together to form what feels like a catch-22 for women.

Continue ReadingDon’t Forget About Women Lawyers of Color

FCPA Enforcement in the Trump Administration: Nevertheless, It Persists

Whenever a new president transitions into the White House, there is almost always a level of uncertainty around how the new administration will handle certain hot button issues now in their purview. As logic dictates, we often look to the newly minted president’s campaign promises to ascertain their stance on these issues. But with the election of President Donald Trump, many of us looked to Twitter and old interviews from the then-businessman turned reality TV maven to determine what would come of a myriad of laws and loose ends. One of the laws that many speculated could come under attack is rooted in preventing corporate corruption, and geared towards the promotion of respectable business practices, both domestically and internationally – the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 [“FCPA”].

What is the FCPA?

The FCPA ascended from a cauldron of toil and trouble – or more aptly stated, came into existence as a result of corruption, scandal, and an unveiling of the pervasive bribery of foreign officials perpetuated by U.S. companies. The botched break in of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Shaking hands with hidden moneyHeadquarters at the Watergate office complex ultimately led to the discovery of slush funds used to bribe domestic political parties and certain foreign government officials. In order to conceal these payments, companies misrepresented their corporate financial statements, allowing the cycle of corruption to continue domestically and internationally. These findings not only tainted the view of U.S. businesses, but revealed just how awful corruption is for business. Recognizing the need to restore confidence in U.S. businesses and mitigate future corruption, Congress enacted the FCPA.

Continue ReadingFCPA Enforcement in the Trump Administration: Nevertheless, It Persists

The Benefits of Bar Associations

A gavel with scalesPicture this: you have finally been accepted as a member of the Bar in your respective state. Job offer in hand, you anxiously await the first day of the rest of your life – your first full time law position. The Sunday night before your first day of work, you peruse the attorney profiles on your new firm’s website. Viewing the profiles with a clear head, that is, a mind free of finals, bar prep, and interview details, a section catches your eye for the first time: PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS. The organizations that your colleagues belong to vary in category. Some groups appear to relate to practice areas, while others are seemingly dedicated to specific causes. Now you begin to wonder – do I need to join any specialty bar associations?  What purpose will it serve? If I decided to join, how do I narrow down the best organizations for me?

It is commonplace for states across the country to have a bevy of specialty bar and legal associations that cater directly to a specific segment of the legal community. Attorneys’ specialties and practice areas vary, so it can be difficult to find your footing as a new lawyer outside of your specific firm or corporation. This is just one of the ways these organizations can help. While it isn’t necessary to join any specific organizations, the benefits are plentiful. Joining an association, whether local or national, generally provides you with the opportunity to network with your peers, grow your practice, continue your legal education, and commit yourself to work that is personally important to you.

When I graduated from law school, the first organization I committed myself to was the Wisconsin Association of African-American Lawyers (WAAL). Formerly known as the Wisconsin Association of Minority Attorneys (WAMA), WAAL was established in 1988 with the mission of dedicating itself to ensuring diversity in Wisconsin’s legal community. Since its inception, WAAL has been actively involved in community affairs throughout Wisconsin. My first introduction to WAAL was during my 1L year at its annual welcome reception, where Marquette and University of Wisconsin law students are invited to mingle with WAAL members. Through that reception, I met numerous Wisconsin attorneys, and formed relationships that have helped carry me through my career today. As a member of the Board of Directors since 2014, my admiration for the organization and its partners has only grown.

Continue ReadingThe Benefits of Bar Associations