FAMU College of Law Students Address Women’s Issues during Annual Law Conference
ORLANDO, Fla. – More than 120 attendees converged on The Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) College of Law campus in the Parramore District of Downtown Orlando for the annual Women’s Law Conference themed “Womanhood and Lawyerhood: Can You Have it All?” on Saturday, March 19, 2016. The conference was hosted by FAMU’s Women’s Law Caucus (WLC), and provided a platform for engaging discussion of contemporary and emerging topics in Women’s Law.
“We host this event, in part, to facilitate networking opportunities for attendees,” said Sheri Fairure, third-year law student and current president of WLC. “In addition, through this event, we provide access to information to inspire and motivate women as they progress through various stages of their legal careers.”
The one-day conference featured a keynote address by A. Felecia Epps, Dean of FAMU College of Law. Epps began her tenure with FAMU on January 4, 2016 after a national search, becoming the third permanent, and first female dean of the college.
To a musical collage featuring songs celebrating the strength of womanhood, Dean Epps profiled seven women who embodied the theme of the conference. She also shared personal accounts of her experiences in law school, the military and legal academia, at times posing the question of the conference’s theme to audience members during the interactive address.
“It is critical for those entering the professional stage of their career to have a planned path in sight,” said Dean Epps. “I applaud the efforts of groups like the FAMU Women’s Law Caucus to assist aspiring and seasoned professionals in forging their path.”
This marked the first public keynote the new Dean has provided since her appointment. Prior to joining FAMU, she served as professor of law at the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), where she also served as associate dean for Academic Affairs and professor of law from 2008-2014. Epps joined UALR in 1999. Epps’ teaching and scholarly focus is on criminal law, criminal procedure, and legal counseling. She also served as a legal officer and judge advocate general for the United States Marine Corps.
The first panel, Managing Micro-Aggressions in the Workplace, focused on pay equity, career paths and obstacles women in positions of power face. The panelists included the Honorable Faye Allen, Judge, Ninth judicial Circuit of Florida; College of Law graduate Ella Gilbert, Staff Attorney with the City of Port St. Lucie; and Phyllis Taite, FAMU College of Law professor. FAMU College of Law Professor Jennifer Smith served as the moderator.
The conference’s second panel, Women’s Medical Malpractice Issues, focused on personal injury law in regards to births, pregnancies, infections and gynecological waivers. Smith again moderated this panel, which featured panelists Vanessa Lee Brice, a College of Law graduate; Jonathan T. Gilbert; and Ronald S. Gilbert. All panelists represented Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter, a large personal injury law firm in Orlando that served as one of the sponsors of the conference.
Prior to lunch, participants attended Your Law Degree: More than the Courtroom, a panel that focused on various employment opportunities available to those who have Juris Doctor Degrees. The panel, moderated by College of Law faculty member Lori Ross, featured several College of Law graduates including Sopi Mitil, Legal and Regulatory Support Liaison for Verizon Wireless; and Karen Skyers, Attorney, Government Law & Lobbying Practice Group at Becker & Poliakoff, PA. Mitil is a two-time president of FAMU WLC, who facilitated the inaugural and second Women’s Law Conference. Vicki Pyles, Account Executive with Lexis Nexis, and UF Law graduate, was also a panelist.
Following Dean Epps’ presentation in the school’s Ceremonial Moot Courtroom, the panel discussions resumed with Legal Tea: Womanhood and Lawyerhood: Can You Have it All?, held in the Atrium. The panel focused on the traditional notions of womanhood, wifehood, and parenthood associated with entering the legal profession. The panelists included College of Law Professor Patricia Broussard, and graduates Ananis Makar, president and founder, Law Office of Makar, PA, and Cameryn Justice Rivera, Law Office of C. Justice, LLC. Melinda Holloway, attorney, Melinda S. Holloway, PC, also served as a panelist.
The final panel, Triple Threat, focused on the difficulties being a professional, minority and a woman in the white-male dominated legal industry, and was moderated by College of Law Professor Lundy Langston. The panelists included SaMee Burrage, Senior Associate Investigations and Criminal Litigation/Regulatory Groups with WilmerHale; Kim Keenan, President and CEO, Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council; and College of Law graduate Dorissa Griffin, Chief of Staff and Staff Counsel, Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council.