Diversity forum focused on barriers hampering inclusion in legal profession

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– Photos courtesy of OCBA

The Oakland County Bar Association held a diversity and inclusion forum, “Inclusion—It’s Time,” at the Southfield office of sponsor Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer, & Weiss on Thursday, April 25.

The forum was organized to engage participants, primarily legal professionals, in an open and honest round table discussion to identify barriers hampering inclusion of diverse lawyers in Oakland County.
“The objective was to better understand the issues surrounding diversity topics by educating one another about their differences, asking and answering tough or sensitive questions, identifying next steps, and ultimately moving the needle by taking action to promote inclusion in the legal community,” said a spokesperson for the OCBA.

Approximately 60 participants attended the forum, including members of the judiciary, OCBA leadership and staff, leaders of affinity bars, such as Wolverine Bar and Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, and the LGBTQA Section of the State Bar of Michigan.

Guest speakers included Kathleen La Tosch, owner and principal of La Tosch Consulting; Gregory Conyers, director of Diversity for the State Bar of Michigan; and Tim Cordes, founder of Cordes Law PLLC.

“Participants listened, learned, and shared personal experiences about challenging situations they faced in their lifetime – particularly as a legal professional,” the spokesperson noted.

“Inclusion—It’s Time” was organized by OCBA President James Parks, a partner at Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer, & Weiss. Parks, whose interest and focus on this topic led him to initiating the diversity forum, viewed the meeting as a first step to helping remove impediments to inclusion. Participants in the forum will be contacted and surveyed about next steps.

The Oakland County Bar Association is the largest voluntary bar association in Michigan serving more than 2,700 members. Its mission is to serve the professional needs of its members, improve the justice system, and ensure the delivery of quality legal services to the public.