August 22, 2007

Jenner & Block is committed to maintaining and promoting an inclusive environment and it is this goal which is celebrated annually in an evening devoted to diversity.  Over 100 guests attended the Firm’s Sixth Annual Diversity Dinner held last month and were treated to an emotional address by guest speaker Theodore M. Shaw, Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

The event began with a cocktail reception to introduce the recipients of the Jenner & Block Minority Scholarships, awarded to first-year minority law students.  Partners Reginald J. Hill and Charlotte L. Wager, Co-Chairs of the Hiring Executive Committee, outlined the eligibility requirements for the scholarships, citing academic merit, community service and activities in law school, and personally introduced the scholarship recipients to the reception guests.

The recipients of the 2007 scholarships are:
Olushola Ayanbule, Angela Davis, Julia Ferguson, Phillip Harris, Precious Jacobs, Kimberly LaRochelle, Jason Lewis, and Erica Roberts.

Ms. Ayanbule attends the University of Virginia School of Law, where she is the mentorship co-chair for the Legal Advisory Workshop for Undergraduate Students and the pro bono coordinator for the Domestic Violence Project.  She is also involved with Women of Color and the Admissions Committee and holds a B.A. in Criminal Justice from the University of Georgia.

Ms. Davis attends Chicago-Kent College of Law, where she is an active member of the Kent Justice Foundation, a member of the Dean’s List, and a Chicago-Kent Achievement Award Scholar.  She attended The College of New Jersey as a Garden State Scholar where she attained a B.A. in English and was a tutor with the Upward Bound Program, working with disadvantaged high school students.

Ms. Ferguson attends the University of Missouri School of Law, where she is treasurer of Missouri’s National Black Law Student Association, 2L representative for Missouri’s student government, and a Board of Advocate candidate, which is Missouri’s honorary advocacy organization that organizes oral advocacy competitions.  Ms. Ferguson attended the University of Virginia where she received a B.S. in Commerce and double majored in philosophy.

Mr. Harris attends the University of  North Carolina School of Law and is involved in the Black Law Student Association and the Carolina Intellectual Property Law Association.  He attended Brown University where he received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and was a member of the National Society of Black Engineers and participated in the ALANA mentoring program.

Ms. Jacobs attends the University of  Illinois College of Law, where she is the Vice President of the Black Law Student Association.  She attained a B.A. in Political Science at New York University.  While in college Ms. Jacobs was the Vice President of the NAACP, a tutor for the United Black Men of Queens, a mentor for Women and Youth Supporting Each Other, a peer counselor for the Academic Achievement Program, and an active member of the Social Justice Group.

Ms. LaRochelle attends the College of Law at DePaul University, where she is a Law Achievement Scholar, a member of Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity, and Treasurer of the Black Law Students Association.  She received a Bachelor in Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan School of Business and during college was a member of the National Association of Black Accountants.

Mr. Lewis attends the Loyola University Chicago School of Law, where he is involved with the Black Law Students Association and will be a staff writer for the Public Interest Law Reporter.  He received a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Michigan and later received an M.A. in Social Science from the University of Chicago.

Ms. Roberts attends Howard University School of Law, where she is a member of the Howard Public Interest Law Society.  She received a B.A. in International Studies from Oakwood College, where she was involved in Huntsville City Schools’ Camp Success Program and offered tutoring to inner city elementary school children.

Mr. Hill also described an award sponsored by Jenner & Block and the American Bar Association.  The Firm is a long standing sponsor of the ABA Legal Opportunity Scholarship Fund, created in 1999 to encourage racial and ethnic minority law students to attend law school and provide financial assistance.  Rita Rodriguez is the 2007 recipient of this award.  She attends the Columbia University School of Law and is a member of the Latino/a Law Students Association and the American Review of International Arbitration.  Ms. Rodriguez graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Anthropology and a minor in African Studies.

The dinner began following a welcome by Ms. Wager,
Chief Talent Officer, and an introduction of Mr. Shaw by Partner Philip L. Harris, a member of the Firm’s Diversity Committee.  Shaw joined the NAACP’s Legal Defense and
Chief Talent Officer Educational Fund, Inc. in 1982 and in 2004 became the fifth person to lead the nation’s premier civil rights law firm in the organization’s 64-year history.

Mr. Shaw’s keynote address included his personal reflections on diversity and the June ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court limiting the use of race in assigning students to public schools.  Citing statistics, he outlined that with Brown v. Board of Education in existence, schools in the United States have become increasingly segregated.   “When we’ve come to the point where voluntary school desegregation becomes unconstitutional, I think we’ve lost our way.  We are in deep denial when it comes to racism in this country, which has been this country’s greatest dilemma,” said Shaw.

Shaw concluded his remarks with his own call to action.  “I’ve been involved in litigating civil rights cases for 25 years and I’m leaving next year. There have been great changes and I’ll never stop trying,” said Shaw.  “As you get older you will struggle perhaps with illness, death, or betrayal.  You will be tempted to get cynical, but hope is a choice.  Choose hope and make other’s hopes a reality.  To do anything else is unacceptable.”

The event concluded with remarks by Partner Michelle M. McAtee, one of the four Co-Chairs of Jenner & Block’s Summer Associates Program, who acknowledged the Summer Associates who had traveled from the Firm’s Washington, DC office for the Diversity Dinner and congratulated the scholarship recipients.