Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani attorney Nerissa Diaz Moisan moderated the Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law Chicago Chapter Associates Committee’s 2020 Judge’s Panel focusing on diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, considering social injustice, during a pandemic, and for the future. This was the first time the event, in its eight year history, was held virtually.
The esteemed panel of judges included the Honorable Judge Sophia Hall of the Cook County Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Department as well as the Chancery Division, the Honorable Judge Virginia Kendall of the Northern District of Illinois, and the Honorable Judge Rossana Fernandez of the Cook County Rolling Meadows Domestic Relations Division. The panel provided their insight into diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. Additionally, the event honored the extraordinary women who decide cases and serve as role models, while also providing an opportunity for lawyers to learn from the Judges’ experience and inspire better advocates going forward.
Diaz Moisan opened the program with a reflective call to action: “in light of recent events, which have highlighted injustices permeating our society and that raise public awareness – it is clear that there are great strides to be made every day towards equality and social justice. While we process the emotional toll of outrage, pain, and overwhelming amounts of information, we also must make a commitment to working toward making this world a better place for everyone. A part of achieving equality is listening and through promoting inclusion of diverse people and ideas. We encourage you to continue the conversation, to be compassionate, kind, and welcoming of others, their differences, and ideas.”
The Judges shared how their interest in the law began and what drove them to the bench. They addressed the differences between diversity and inclusion and how to ensure retention of diverse ideas and experiences. They discussed the different and often difficult paths that individuals face based on gender, race, class, and experience and how to foster an open and safe community for everyone. The panel discussed the biggest challenges facing women in law and provided advice on how to improve the policies that would better facilitate work/life balance once lawyers become parents. The Judges shared their experience and the positive aspects of the current court practice during the pandemic. Advice was provided to young diverse attorneys on how their advocacy in the virtual and physical courtroom could be more impactful. The Judges were asked how lawyers, law firms, in house counsel, and courts can improve their analysis, discussion, transparency, and, progress toward diversity and inclusion.
The program was impactful, inspiring, and insightful. Biographies for the Judges and moderator can be found here. Information about the Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law can be found here.