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WER June 2020 Front Page
Volume LXX, Issue IV

Published June 11, 2020

MWL News

Upcoming MWL Events

PLEASE NOTE: All MWL events are remote via Zoom. Please see our event page for more details. 

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2019-2020 Board of Directors

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2020-2023 Strategic Plan


MWL Welcomes Your Comments

Editor’s Note: In the rapidly changing landscape of the past few months, MWL is working to be responsive to current events. With that being said, the articles included in this issue of With Equal Right were requested – and in most cases written – before the tragic death of George Floyd and the resulting call-to-action here in Minnesota and across the nation. With equity as a core value of MWL, many of the articles included in this issue of With Equal Right deal with an array of topics that are paramount to creating an equitable workplace for all attorneys. What is happening in our community continues to make us painfully aware of the work that remains to strive for a just society. But we are hopeful too. As indicated in MWL’s statement regarding George Floyd, to be true to the mission MWL has set for itself to “advance the success of women lawyers and strive for a just society,” MWL’s community will continue to walk toward this injustice and be present and active in future issues of this publication and in work across the organization.

From the President

By: Amy Taber

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It is hard to believe that this is my last WER article as President. To say that it has been a different year than I anticipated would be a huge understatement. I will say, however, that it has been a remarkable year for many, many different reasons. When I originally finished this article on May 17th, my focus was on our communities and everything people were dealing with as a result COVID-19, in particular our communities of color. Then, before WER went to production, George Floyd was killed at the hands of law enforcement.

As a result, I revised my original article to the best of my ability in the time I had to do so, fully recognizing that no matter how much time  I had, I would not be able to find the “right” words to express my anger, heartbreak and resolve to do better in the wake of yet another unarmed black American being killed.  But, with the time and space I have here (and many other places), I will speak up and speak out because being silent is unacceptable.

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Member Spotlight: Ann Jenrette-Thomas

Describe your professional background and your current employment position?

My personal motto is, "Lifting as I rise." My career path has paid homage to this motto. I started my career working at a few nonprofit organizations, including the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, an advocacy organization for survivors of rape, incest, and other forms of sexual assault. I went to law school so that I could make a more meaningful impact in society vis-à-vis social justice causes. As the daughter of immigrants, neither of whom had a college degree, I was unfamiliar with the ranking system of law schools. I chose my law school based on the progressive courses they offered, like Gender and the Law, Critical Race Theory, and an Antidiscrimination Clinic. Despite going to a fourth tier law school, I was honored to earn a clerkship at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in their Staff Attorney's office where I supported the judges with pro se appeals. Thereafter, I served as a Legislative Attorney for the New York City Council, meeting with constituents and drafting legislation related to health, aging, and government oversight

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The Mansfield Rule

By: Stephanie Sarantopoulos and Emily McNee

Achieving diversity in the legal profession continues to be a top priority for law firms and corporate legal departments alike, with an increasing emphasis placed on diversity and inclusion efforts over the past two decades.  Legal communities across the nation have implemented varied programs and approaches and set their own diversity goals, seeking ways to improve these efforts with regard to their female and diverse attorneys.  Over the years, we have seen the call for unconscious bias training, as well as the revisiting of mentorship and sponsorship programs.  One such effort making recent strides, named the Mansfield Rule, specifically measures whether law firms—and now legal departments—have affirmatively considered women and minority lawyers for leadership positions, with the goal to increase the representation of diverse lawyers in law firm leadership by broadening the pool of candidates considered for these plum opportunities.

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Survey Reporting and Collaboration: Moving from Checking a Box to Making a Difference

By: Daniel Taylor

As technologies advance, it’s hard to go a day without hearing about the new gold rush that is data mining. New approaches seeking objective measures have developed along with new products and vendors that improve aggregate data collection methods and produce insights into advancing diversity within the legal profession.  Despite the changing landscape in data collection trends, clients remain focused on benchmarking firms’ performance and reporting on shared progress.  Nevertheless, on its face the survey process is transactional in nature – questions asked-questions answered, form provided-form submitted, deadline stated-deadline met. This raises a pivotal question and opportunity: How can surveys about diversity and inclusion also deepen relationships and collaboration between clients and firms? 

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Diversity in the Walz Administration: Commission on Judicial Selection  

By: Lola Velazquez-Aguilu & Molly Hough

Lola Velazquez-Aguilu was appointed by Governor Walz as Chair of the Commission on Judicial Selection (the Commission) in January of 2018. For years, Ms. Velazquez-Aguilu has worked with a variety of organizations within the bar to support efforts to diversify the bench. Her passion for this work stemmed from her initial frustration during the early years of the Dayton administration when, contrary to her hopes and expectations for the new administration, several highly qualified diverse candidates were passed over for judicial appointment. Achieving progress has come down to several things: (1) diversifying the Commission; (2) increasing transparency about the process for becoming a judge; and (3) actively recruiting diverse talent, who all too often count themselves out; and (4) improving the process for selection by eliminating the historic barriers experienced by diverse candidates.

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Combatting the Caregiver Penalty  

By:Sonia Miller-Van Oort & Demetria Dyer

The United States Census Bureau reported that this year’s Equal Pay Day for women was March 31, 2020, and last year’s was April 2, 2020.[1]  Equal Pay Day is how far into a year the average women must work to earn what her average male counterpart already earned in the previous year.[2]  Notably, this day is much later in the year for women of color (e.g., the 2019 Equal Pay Day for African and Black women was in late August, for Native American women it was in late September, and for Latinas it extended to late November).[3]  

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Cultural Competency in the Advocacy of Farmerworkers Rights

By: Andrea Mejia

While our society is constantly shifting and evolving, the legal profession is lagging. Diversity and cultural competency are in demand to effectively serve clients and to ensure equal access to justice for everyone. We must address these challenges.

Over three years ago, I moved from Colombia to Minnesota to attend law school. While pursuing my degree, I had the privilege of joining an immigration clinic as a student attorney and representing a variety of clients from diverse backgrounds. In my work at the immigration clinic, I encountered challenges inherent with working for vulnerable individuals. I quickly learned and understood the importance of being culturally competent in a pluralistic society like Minnesota. I also recognized that, to best serve my clients, I had to first understand the reason behind certain “unorthodox” practices and behaviors in my clients’ cultures. After all, immigration is one area of law that currently faces the formidable challenge of reshaping the status quo that society has placed upon the most vulnerable.

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Diversity and Inclusion: Why Does it Matter?

By: Mary Szondy

I am one of the co-chairs of the Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee. Committee members consist of Dionne Blake, Calandra Revering, Poonam Kumar, Sukanya Momsen, and Jennifer Robbins, my co-chair. During one of our very first meetings, Dionne Blake asked us “why does diversity and inclusion matter?”  When it was my turn, I told this story:

As a sophomore in college, I accompanied my best friend, Tasha, to Target to get a birthday card. Tasha was born in Trinidad.  While looking over the cards, she complained that there were no brown people on any of the cards.  As she made this comment, I realized I had—at age 19—never given a single thought to the images on a Hallmark card. I truthfully cannot remember my response, if any, but her comment obviously made a lasting impression. Her comment made me wonder: what else am I missing?  What else haven’t I thought about because I simply didn’t have to?

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Leadership During Times of Change: An Interview Series

By: Breia Schleuss

As I prepare for my presidential term, I recognize that this is and will be a very changed time for our members, families, practices, courts and communities, as well as for MWL as an organization.  But I have never felt more confident about MWL and the work that we do. For almost fifty years, we have advocated for change – specifically, for increased diversity, equity and inclusion within the profession and across society. We have sought change, embraced change, and continued to equip our members and partners with support, training and resources as we – individually and collectively, daily and over the course of decades – manage through change.

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MWL Foundation News

By: Pam Rochlin

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My article in the Winter 2020 issue of With Equal Right described the formation of the MWL Foundation, how the Foundation supports MWL, and why it is so important for you to support the Foundation. My goal with that article was to familiarize you – our members and MWL supporters – on what exactly the Foundation is, and how vital it is to MWL’s short- and long-term success.

Since writing that article, and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, our Foundation board members have continued to increase understanding and awareness of the Foundation, develop and organize fundraising events and projects, and strategize ways to expand our fundraising capacity through donors/grants, annual giving, and major gifts.

Read More



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MWL's Mission:
"To advance the success of women lawyers and strive for a just society"

Thanks to all
2019-2020 MWL Members

Your support has a direct impact on MWL's mission. Learn more about MWL membership here.

Special Thanks to MWL Premier Members

Diamond Members
Ronda Bayer
Felicia Boyd
Susan Gallagher
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Arleen Nand
Susan C. Rhode
Jenny Robbins
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Hon. Mary Vasaly

View a complete list of MWL's Premier Members here.

MWL Partners

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MWL's 2020 Legal Employer Partners

Dorsey & Whitney, LLP 
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Prime Therapeutics
Stinson LLP
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Fish & Richardson P.C.
Jones Day
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United HealthGroup

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PS Companies
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U.S. Bank
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Xcel Energy Legal Department 

2020 MWL Partner Opportunities

Legal employers demonstrate their commitment to MWL's mission, streamline support with one annual contribution, and enjoy exclusive benefits all year long. Find out more.

MWL's 100% Club

Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd.
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LeVander, Gillen & Miller, P.A.
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