Natasha Wilson Chairs Magic City Bar Association’s 2nd Annual Women in the Legal Profession Symposium

Lightfoot attorney Natasha Wilson chaired the Magic City Bar Association’s 2nd Women in the Legal Profession symposium. The 1st Women in the Legal Profession symposium was held in 2006. Natasha was also the co-chair of that inaugural event. The symposium came about as an effort to explore the unique experiences of African American women attorneys in the legal profession. Currently, there are 15,766 members of the Alabama State Bar. By gender, 71.7% are male and 28.3% are women. When the numbers are broken down by race, 93.5% are Caucasian, while African Americans make up only 6% of that number. Of that 6%, less than 3% are African American women.

Study after study – including 1998 and 2000 studies by the NALP Foundation (a research group associated with the National Association of Law Placement) – show that minority female lawyers have exceptional attrition rates in large law firms, defined as 25 attorneys or more. By some measures, nearly 100% of these women leave law firms within eight years. Other studies put the number closer to 66% within five years. The alarming attrition rate of African American women lawyers is not only isolated to large law firms, but is also evident in other areas of the legal profession as well. To that end, the main theme of this year’s program was “Retaining Women of Color in the Legal Profession” and consisting of three panel discussions.

Sharing their thoughts on “Visible Invisibility: The ABA Report – The Issues, The Response, The Solutions” were attorneys Dana Bolden Hill, Cynthia Ransburg-Brown, Lisa Sharp, and Jacqueline Smoke. The panel was moderated by attorney Alicia F. Bennett.

Providing insight on “The Road Not Taken: Alternative Career Paths for Women of Color, Getting the Job, and Succeeding in it” panel were attorneys Celeste Armstrong, Professor LaJuana Davis, Daisy Holder, Erica Sheffield, Delores Simmons Owens, and Sabrina Simon. This panel was moderated by attorney LaVeeda Morgan Battle.

The third panel discussion was entitled “Judging the Judiciary: The Black Woman in the Black Robe” and was moderated by Former United States District Court Magistrate Judge Vanzetta Penn McPherson. Panelists included Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Helen Shores Lee, Municipal Court Jurists, Judge Annetta H. Verin, Judge Agnes Chappell, and Judge Katrina Ross.

Though the pattern of attrition for African American women attorneys in the legal field is undeniable, there are those who have broken through barriers and whose experiences can inform the experiences of those African American attorneys with fewer years in the profession. The MCBA hopes through this program that the dialogue on how the legal profession can facilitate the full and vigorous participation of this group of talented attorneys will continue.

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