Reimagining Law: How to Create a Sense of “Belonging” in the Legal Profession

In this episode of Reimagining Law, we talk to Cook County Circuit Court Judge Diane M. Shelley and Kenyatta S. Beverly, Labor and Employment Counsel at The Davey Tree Expert Company. Judge Shelley and Kenyatta talk about COVID-19’s impact on women of color lawyers, the importance of diversity in law firms and on the bench, and how legal organizations can recruit and retain diverse attorneys.

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  • 1:08 – Data shows that COVID-19 has led to alarming job loss and retention challenges for women of color, impacting their ability to climb the economic ladder for years to come. How can women of color lawyers successfully navigate the challenging times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • 3:54 – We know that recruiting diverse talent is a priority for law firms, but what about the courts? How can court systems recruit diverse judges?
  • 5:54 – As an institution, why is it important that we have diversity on the bench?
  • 7:37 – Why are women and diverse attorneys walking out the door of legal organizations? And why is it important for organizations to acknowledge the multicultural experiences of their workforce rather than, for example, assuming that all women are the same?
  • 11:26 – How can bar associations help to promote a diverse and inclusive profession?
  • 14:36 – Can you speak to the importance of mentoring in your life? And how can mentoring support the next generation of diverse legal professionals?

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Judge Diane M. Shelley

Judge Diane M. Shelley was elected judge from Cook County’s 5th Judicial Subcircuit in 2006 after practicing law for approximately 25 years. She was retained in 2012.

Immediately prior to becoming judge, she headed litigation at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.  She conducted over a hundred municipal jury trials before being assigned to the Law Division Jury Trial Section. She is presently assigned to an individual commercial calendar handling complex commercial litigation from inception through trial.

Judge Shelley is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago with a degree in political science and a minor in economics, and a graduate of the University of Iowa College of Law where she received a Reginald Hebert Smith Fellowship. She began her legal career at Florida Rural Legal Services working with migrant workers.

Judge Shelley is the President of the Illinois Judges Association and former Chair of the Illinois Judicial Council. She is also a member of the Special Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Justice and Mental Health Planning.

Judge Shelley has been a Commissioner at the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism since 2018.

Kenyatta Beverly

Kenyatta S. Beverly is Labor and Employment Counsel for The Davey Tree Expert Company, one of the largest employee-owned companies in the U.S.

Kenyatta has practiced law in both the public and private sectors for 12 years. She has served as the Director of Labor Relations for a Chicago charter school network, as Labor Relations Counsel for the State of Illinois, as an Administrative Law Judge at the Illinois Labor Relations Board, and as an Associate Attorney at Rooney Rippie & Ratnaswamy LLP and Mayer Brown LLP.

Kenyatta is the President of the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago, Inc. (BWLA) and a member of the BWLA Scholarship Fund Board. Kenyatta has been an active member of BWLA since 2010, and she has been elected to serve on the Board of Directors in multiple capacities.

Kenyatta received her B.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and earned her J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School. Kenyatta is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She is also an avid fisherwoman, enjoys weightlifting, has a green thumb, and often struggles to bake.

Connect with Kenyatta

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kenyattasbeverly
BWLA Website: www.bwla.org
The Davey Tree Expert Company Website: www.davey.com

About Reimagining Law

The Reimagining Law video series explores how legal and judicial professionals are adapting the delivery of services to meet the unique needs of today’s consumers. Reimagining Law is produced by the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism.

Recorded on February 10, 2021

Check out more episodes of Reimagining Law here.

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