Philadelphia Bar Association Holds Summer Quarterly Meeting Centered on DEI

By Will Becker

On Thursday, July 29, 2021, the Philadelphia Bar Association held its Summer Quarterly Meeting honoring the legacy of Judge A. Leon Higginbotham. The meeting served as both an opportunity for members to connect in person since the pandemic, and also to provide a platform to present the Bar Association’s commitment to the late Judge’s devotion to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). The event’s goals were clear from the start, focusing on how “strong bonds and partnerships between the public interest, government and corporate sectors” are key as they “aim to leverage the power of Philadelphia’s diverse legal community to achieve a more equitable society for all.”

After remarks given from the Bar’s newly-appointed Chancellor Lauren McKenna, the Association presented Brenda Marreno with the 2021 Justice Sonia Sotomayor Award. Marreno, who currently serves as Executive Director of the Public Interest Law Center, has dedicated much of her career towards advancing the principles of diversity and inclusion in law, could not have been a more suitable candidate. Prior to joining the Law Center, Marrero served as the Deputy Director of Operations, and the Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer, for Community Legal Services of Philadelphia

Following this, a panel was moderated by Marcel Pratt, managing partner of the Philadelphia office of Ballard Spahr, on Judge Higginbotham’s legacy, and how DEI goals could be seen with more results in the field of law. The panel featured Gayle Littleton, Executive Vice President and General Counsel to Exelon Corp; Rodolfo Rivera, Chief International Counsel at Fidelity National Investments; and Stephani Lewis, general counsel, IKEA North America. Each offered unique opinions regarding taking DEI seriously in law, which Stephani noted should occur internally just as much, if not more so, than externally. Though implementing serious DEI initiatives in business has been shown to increase business and revenue, every panel member said law firms should be dedicated to taking their initiatives seriously, not purely for monetary benefit. 

During the reception following the event, there was a palpable impression that these ideals resonated with attendees, and the Bar Association’s commitment towards advancing DEI in law firms was steadfast.