Attorney at Law Magazine had the opportunity to talk to the executive board of the association, including President La Zette Ringgold-Kirksey, President-Elect Nancy O. Tinch, Recording Secretary Danielle Williamson, Corresponding Secretary Michelle Greer, Treasurer Kay Harding, and Members at Large Nickola Sybblis and Carol Ann Smith. AALM: How would you describe the main goal of the association in your own words? Do you believe the association meets its mission? How can it continue to improve its reach? ABWA: The main goals of the Alliance of Black Women Attorneys of Maryland Inc. are to promote the interests of African-American women attorneys, improve the skills for the efficient practice of the profession, and increase the viability and recognition of African-American women attorneys. The ABWA meets its mission through mentorship with focus on leadership and professional development. The ABWA continues to improve its reach through its membership. As our membership grows personally and professional, we positively impact each other and our profession. We firmly believe our motto: “Our history requires it. Our legacy demands it.” AALM: What is the goal of the association’s leadership in the coming year? ABWA: Our goal is to help promote the aspirations of our members by supporting them on their accomplishments in the legal profession as well as in the community. Provide advice to law students as they strive to integrate into the legal arena. Mentor newly barred attorneys. Give back to those less fortunate and in need in the community. AALM: Tell us about some upcoming events the association has planned for members. ABWA: Some of our upcoming events include the Admittees Reception in September; the Judicial Reception in October; the Day in New York, the Annual Tea and the Supreme Court Group Admission in December. Throughout the year, we will also hold various community service events. AALM: Tell us about any current or planned partnerships with other local associations. How will these partnerships benefit members? ABWA: Several of our events will be jointly hosted with other associations, including the Women’s Bar Association, the Monumental City Bar Association and the Bar Association for Baltimore City among others. These partnerships are something that we have fostered in the past. This is tantamount in our effort to introduce our members to networking opportunities, while furthering the goals of ABWA. AALM: What benefits are there to attorneys to join your association? ABWA: Attorneys who join ABWA will find strength, encouragement, resources and support for all of their legal endeavors. This was the intention of our first founding president, Jeanne Hitchcock (1979-1985) back in 1979 when ABWA was formed. Furthered by Donna Jacobs (1985-1987), Donna Hill Staton (1987-1988) and others such as Delegate Lisa Gladden (1994-1995), Judge Angela Eaves (1995-1996), Judge Lynn Stewart Mays (1997-1998) followed by a host of other prolific women to the present day. AALM: What advice do you have for a new member or an individual considering joining? ABWA: Joining ABWA is not a decision that one would ever regret. The members create an environment that brings clarity to one’s purpose as a woman of color in the legal profession. AALM: What advice do you have for a member looking to increase their involvement in the association? For a member hoping to join the leadership? ABWA: Our advice to a member looking to increase their involvement in the ABWA is to identify your areas of interest, learn the expectations and time commitments of each, and choose the activity that fits best with your schedule. We welcome the participation of each and every member, whether staffing a table at an event for an hour, coordinating program logistics on their own time, or participating in judicial interviews several weeknight evenings. What is important is that members are fully committed to the activity of their choosing. For those interested serving on the executive board, please note that the skills and institutional knowledge needed to serve on the executive board are learned through active participation in the ABWA. Members are encouraged to have at least one year of active participation before running for an executive board position. AALM: What changes in the legal community does the leadership anticipate will affect the association and its members? How are they seeking to overcome these challenges or benefit from the advancements? ABWA: The ABWA anticipates that issues of social justice, civil liberties, and wage and workplace equality will continue to gain importance. Younger lawyers increasingly see these issues impacting their lives more so than seasoned or established lawyers. Moreover, young women lawyers of color are affected more by disparities in these areas and are likely to place more emphasis in addressing them in both their professional and personal lives. Additionally, as communities of color increase in size and influence, these issues call for a broadened perspective as they intersect with multicultural and socioeconomic diversity. Because many legal issues will be decided in court, the ABWA anticipates the need for judges who engender a broadened perspective in resolving them. The ABWA’s role in selecting judges is paramount in that effort. AALM: As more students enter the field, how is the association helping to integrate them into the legal community? ABWA: The ABWA helps to integrate law students into the legal community in a number of ways. To help defray law school costs, the ABWA offers student scholarships. The ABWA also selects two law students to serve on the executive board as law student representatives. Other law students, whose memberships are free, are encouraged to join and become active members. Lastly, the ABWA hosts a New Admittees Reception to welcome the newly admitted attorneys, encourage their participation in ABWA with free membership for one year, and provide admittees still seeking employment a networking opportunity with practicing attorneys. AALM: As you look back on your chapter’s history what role do you believe the association has played in the community? How do you hope to see that role develop in the future? ABWA: In keeping with the history of the ABWA, we have looked for opportunities to help our community, from volunteering and providing necessities at My Sister’s Place – a homeless shelter for women and children – to mentoring of young women at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women our adopted school. We also have been called upon to provide perspective on issues affecting the African- American community, such as gender bias and sexual assault. Members of the bar and the bench who hold positions of influence see the alliance as critical allies in making a lasting community impact. In the future, we hope to strengthen the ties we have developed and expand our role in the community as our membership grows.
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