THE SAN MATEO COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION RECEIVES 2013 DIVERSITY AWARD FROM THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA. The San Mateo County Bar Association (SMCBA) has been selected to receive the 2013 Diversity Award for Bar Associations, issued by the State Bar of California. The award will be presented during the State Bar Annual Meeting Diversity Awards Reception in San Jose on Saturday Oct. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the Marriott Hotel. The Award was established in 2001 by the State Bar Board of Governors to recognize outstanding efforts to promote diversity in the legal profession and, in particular, to recognize efforts that ensure the full and equal opportunity of all persons for entry and advancement in California’s legal profession.
The bestowal of the Diversity Award on the San Mateo County Bar Association follows five years of focused efforts by the local law community. In the fall of 2008, SMCBA took a dramatic step to change the face of its membership by creating a Diversity Task Force, giving organizational substance to a proposal that had been set forth by two local attorneys, Kristina Chung and Enrique Martinez. The Diversity Task Force began a Speaker Series, inviting noted members of the bar and bench to address diversity related topics. In its inaugural year of 2009, under the leadership of SMCBA’s first Hispanic president, Nancy Ligon de Ita, the Diversity Task Force hosted California Supreme Court Associate Justice Carlos Moreno and State Bar President Holly Fujie. In 2010 the SMBCA elevated the status of the diversity task force to a standing board committee, and in the years that followed, the committee hosted California Supreme Court Associate Justice Kathryn Werdegar, civil rights attorney Dale Minami, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye, California Supreme Court Associate Justice Goodwin Liu and civil rights attorney Eva Patterson. It organized a reception honoring the 50th Anniversary of Distinguished Service by African-American Justices in California. And it established an annual award recognizing a firm or individual who has “demonstrated a meaningful and consistent commitment to increasing and maintaining diversity in San Mateo County at all levels of the legal profession.” The first award was presented in 2011 to attorney Joseph Cotchett, followed in 2012 by recognition of the firm of Ropers, Majeski, Kohn and Bentley. The Diversity Committee also provides an opportunity for minority attorneys in San Mateo County to network and find ways to contribute to their community. After its first year in existence, the SMCBA credited the Diversity Committee with helping to increase its membership by 104 new members, with 35 percent of those members belonging to minority groups. As of 2013, overall minority membership has increased by approximately 20 percent.
Committee Member Nancy de Ita said: “The San Mateo County Bar Association was started in 1916. In 2009, I was only the 10th female president. Given the diverse population that our legal community serves, our task force was formed to encourage an increase in the number or attorneys and judges in our county from diverse backgrounds. We contacted the specialty bars to attend my installation and to co-sponsor events with us. Our annual diversity event speakers were so positively received, that our peninsula law firms were delighted to be sponsors. SMCBA was so proud of these events that our task force grew into a standing committee. Two of our recent San Mateo judges, appointed, were members of our diversity committee. Our diversity committee lawyers have gone to our local junior and senior high schools to encourage students of all backgrounds to consider law school. We have a long way to go, but we are going in the right direction.”
Diversity Committee members include James “Kevin” Allen, Esq., Chairman; Deborah Kemper, Vice Chair and SMCBA Assoc. Exec. Dir.; Jamay Lee, Esq.; Amarra Lee, Esq.; Brock Lyle, Esq.; Chinhayi Cadet, Esq.; Enrique Marinez, Esq.; Gemma Mondala, Esq.; Jason Cueva, Esq.; Mara Feiger, Esq.; Jeff Hayden, Esq.; Kelly Shindell, Esq.; Kenyon Mark Lee, Esq.; Kristina Chung, Esq. (Chair, 2009); Linda Noeske, Esq.; Michael J. Leon Guerrero, Esq.; Nancy de Ita, Esq.; Protima Pandey, Esq.; Peter Goldscheider, Esq.; and Theresita Perez, Esq.; Former Chairs include Sadhana “Sandy” Narayan, Esq. (2010); James Biernat, Esq. (2011); and Daly City Mayor Raymond A. Buenaventura (2012). Information about the San Mateo County Bar Association and the Diversity Committee can be received by contacting the SMCBA’s Associate Executive Director Deborah Kemper at Deborahk@smcba.org or 298-4018.
Susan E. Cohn is a member of the State Bar of California. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.