Statistics show increasing diversity in law schools and in legal hiring, but the number of diverse equity partners in law firms has remained static. Despite sincere commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion, many are still unfamiliar with real barriers that women and attorneys of color face in the legal profession. How did we get here? Why do we feel compelled to battle other women and people of color to succeed? How can women and people of color change the narrative on diversity? Can equity (as opposed to equality) be achieved?
- Aneelah Afzali - Muslim Association of Puget Sound
- Catherine Romero - Microsoft
- Sadé Smith - Northwest Defenders Division
- Lauren Parris Watts - Helsell Fetterman
Jean Y. Kang
Aneelah Afzali, Esq - Muslim Association of Puget Sound
Aneelah Afzali, Esq. is the founder and Executive Director of the American Muslim Empowerment Network (AMEN) at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS). She also serves as a Board Member of the Faith Action Network and on the Steering Committee of the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Aneelah made partner at a law firm and led as General Counsel of a local healthcare IT company. The Washington State Bar Association honored Aneelah with its Excellence in Diversity award, and Washington Law and Politics recognized her as a Rising Star multiple years. Six years ago, Aneelah left her legal career to pursue service and knowledge, two things her faith emphasizes. Since then, she has served as a community activist, interfaith leader, and justice advocate. Aneelah graduated from the University of Oregon Honors College, and was a Chayes International Service Fellow at Harvard Law School. She also received the following recognition: 2017 Most Influential People by Seattle Magazine; 2018 Humanitarian Leadership Award by International Rescue Committee; 2018 “American Muslim of the Year” by CAIR; 2018 “Rising Brand Star” by Adweek; 2019 WomenIkon Achievement Award; and 2019 JACL’s Aki Kurose Education Award.
Catherine Romero, Microsoft
Catherine manages the Customer Security & Trust team that monitors and assesses compliance with privacy and product safety regulations across Microsoft’s businesses worldwide. In this role, she works with executives accountable for compliance to implement new requirements in the business and continuously improve compliance processes. On an annual basis, she contributes to a compliance update for the Regulatory and Public Policy Committee of the Board. She previously supported Microsoft’s engineering and development teams for Office 365, Exchange Online, Outlook.com, and Outlook endpoints (Outlook Mobile, Universal Outlook, Outlook Client, Outlook for Mac, Outlook Web Access). Catherine started her legal career as a business, corporate and securities attorney at Perkins Coie in Seattle. Before joining Microsoft, she held other in-house legal positions and had her own law firm for several years that was a Microsoft vendor. Prior to her legal career, Catherine spent seven years as a Boeing engineer working on commercial airplane and DOD programs. Catherine is the General Counsel of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) and a member of the Executive Committee, as well as a founding Director of the HNBA/Microsoft Intellectual Property Law Institute.
Sadé A. Smith Esq. has been a public defender since 2012. She received her JD from the University Of Illinois College Of Law. Sadé is currently the Criminal Justice Chair of the NAACP Seattle King County. She is also on the boards of School’s Out Washington, and Washington Women Lawyers. She was a Washington Leadership Institute Fellow in 2017. She has practiced criminal, civil, and family law. She leads, and facilitates monthly free community legal clinics in her work with the NAACP. She presents on criminal justice reform and racial equity. She has presented at schools, organizations, Microsoft, and for the ‘Washington Initiative for Diversity.’ She consults on criminal justice reform. She is currently building a curriculum for ally-ship and accomplice-ship and community collaboration for collective liberation. She is also developing programming for creating equitable work environments, employee retention, and long-term diversity and inclusion. Sadé advocates for sweeping Criminal Justice Reform, Community empowerment, Abolition, decolonization, racial, gender, and religious equity in education, healthcare, and employment.
Lauren Parris Watts
Lauren Parris Watts’ practice focuses on representing and advising individual clients and small to medium-sized business clients in employment matters. She counsels clients on a variety of issues including compensation and severance agreements, non-competition and non-solicitation restrictions, wage disputes, disability accommodations, FMLA and other leave rights and misconduct investigations. At her firm, Lauren serves on the Executive Committee and co-chairs the Diversity Committee. Her efforts to improve her firm’s parental leave policies were recently recognized in the Spring 2019 edition of Seattle University’s Lawyer magazine in the article “Women in the Lead”, and she is grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as a resource for other attorneys as they work to implement diversity initiatives at their respective firms. Lauren graduated from the Washington Leadership Institute in 2017 and is currently part of Ladder Down, a program designed to empower women lawyers to help each other succeed. In her time away from the office, Lauren serves on the Seattle Girls’ School Board of Trustees and will join SU’s adjunct faculty as a legal writing professor next semester. She most enjoys spending time with her husband, their two children, and their wonderful au pair.
Moderator: Jean Y. Kang
Jean is a civil litigator at Smith Freed Eberhard, handling complex litigation suits. Jean’s previous work experiences include construction defect, bad faith/IFCA/CPA, personal injury, and insurance fraud. Prior to civil work, Jean served as a criminal deputy prosecuting attorney in King and Cowlitz County.
Jean was elected to the WSBA Board of Governors for District 7 South and serves as a Pro Tem Judge at various counties in Washington. Since 2015, Jean has served as an arbitrator for King County Superior Court. Dedicated to issues around diversity, inclusion, and equality, Jean was a member of the 2017 class of the Washington Leadership Institute and currently serves as an advisory board member. Jean has served on the state board for Washington Women Lawyers as the VP of Professional Development for the last three years. Jean is also on the board for Washington Initiative for Diversity and the advisory committee for the Northwest Asian Weekly. Jean speaks Korean fluently and volunteers in the Asian-American community.
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Additional details: This is an informational program only
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