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VBA University of Richmond Law School Council FREE Spring Symposium
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VBA University of Richmond Law School Council FREE Spring Symposium
VBA University of Richmond Law School Council FREE Spring Symposium


When: Friday, April 13, 2018
12:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Where: The University of Richmond School of Law
Moot Court
28 Westhampton Way
Richmond, Virginia  23173
United States
Sara Tandy

Phone: (804) 513-6700

Registration Information
Online registration is closed.

The Virginia Bar Association, the American Bar Association, and nearly every top law firm in the country have made diversity and inclusion a top priority, and yet the law remains one of the least diverse professions out there. What are the factors and barriers to entry that keep the legal profession this way, and what can we do about it? This event will include both keynote and panel discussions featuring attorneys, academics, and members of the judiciary who identify as members of communities underrepresented in the legal profession, as well as those who work with marginalized populations as part of their practice area. Attendees will gain not only greater awareness of the unique experiences of their colleagues, they will also be given takeaways for how they can implement diversity strategies in their organizations.


Please RSVP online by April 12, 2018.

What to Expect


SESSION 1: The Business Case for Diversity

MCLE Credit Hours: 1.0 Approved

An experienced attorney and subject matter expert on matters of employment law, labor law, and human resource management, Ms. Michael will speak to diversity as a strategic business initiative. She will show how small firms can attract and retain top talent by creating and implementing successful diversity & inclusion initiatives, and the steps one needs to take to get support from senior leadership.

Speaker: Karen Michael, Esq. - President, Karen Michael PLC

SESSION 2: Panel Discussion A – Legal Professionals from Diverse Backgrounds

No MCLE credit for this program

This panel will incorporate the personal experiences of lawyers who come from underrepresented populations (in terms of race, income level, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, veterans status, etc.) who are traversing the legal landscape as members of the profession. Audiences will gain insight into the motivations that brought the speakers to the practice of law, and what they feel their unique perspectives allow them to contribute to their clients and their practice.


Michael HuYoung, Esq., Barnes & Diehl
Rudene Haynes, Esq., Hunton & Williams
Renu Brennan, Esq., Virginia State Bar
Grace Morse-McNeils, Esq., Sands Anderson

SESSION 3: Panel Discussion B – Advocating for the Underrepresented  

No MCLE credit for this program

This panel will highlight the experiences of attorneys who work with marginalized and/or oppressed populations in their role as advocates. The panelists will speak to the unique challenges they face when serving clients from historically underrepresented populations and give insight into factors that make it more challenging (and fulfilling!) to bear up against systemic oppression within the legal framework.  


Paul Crane, Esq., Richmond Law Faculty, Former Assistant U.S. Attorney (District of Columbia)
Heidi Abbott, Esq., Hunton & Williams

SESSION 4: Overcoming Adversity and Lawyering with Authenticity

No MCLE credit for this program

Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland was the first openly gay jurist elected by the Virginia General Assembly. Together with his husband of over twenty years, Richmond attorney Michael Thorne-Begland, Thorne-Begland will speak to the incredible journey that took him from coming out to his peers in his flight squadron to his politically-charged and expulsion from the U.S. Navy in 1995 under “don’t ask don’t tell” which led to a career as a successful prosecutor and eventually a judgeship in Virginia’s 13th General District Court, all while growing their family and Michael’s legal career as in-house counsel for Altria. The two legal powerhouses will speak to audiences about overcoming adversity, the importance of equal protection as a matter of the law, and the power that comes from living one’s life with integrity and authenticity.


Michael Thorne-Begland, Esq., Assistant General Counsel, Altria
Hon. Tracy Thorne-Begland, 13th General District Court


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