September 2020 Newsletter
President's Message
Greetings BWLA Members, Sponsors, and Friends,

The BWLA Board of Directors and Scholarship Fund Board have been hard at work preparing for a wonderful bar year! We plan to continue to bring fun and useful programming to our members! Last month, both boards, while exercising strict social distancing protocols, gathered for our Annual Board Retreat where we brainstormed innovative ways to continue to safely and effectively serve our membership in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are excited for what is in store for the 2020-2021 bar year! You will hear more about our plans at the Fall General Meeting, which will be held virtually next week on Wednesday, September 16, 2020. Additional information, including the RSVP link, is provided below in the newsletter.

I hope you were able to enjoy BWLA's first ever virtual Annual Fundraiser Panel, "Women of Color in Politics: Leading the Charge to Transform Democracy" last week! The fundraiser was well-attended, and we have received much positive feedback regarding the discussion, our moderator, and our panelists. We will be sharing highlights from the panel discussion soon!

BWLA is incredibly grateful to our sponsors, including Title Sponsor, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, who continued to support the fundraiser, even after it transitioned to a virtual format. I would like to send a special thank you to our sponsor McDermott Will & Emery LLP for providing BWLA with the technical support necessary to hold a seamless virtual event!

Due to the support of our sponsors, BWLA was able to award $16,000 in scholarships to five hardworking law students and provide $10,000 in Summer 2020 Law Student Hardship Grants to 20 law students. BWLA was also able to financially sponsor two BWLA law student members in the Diverse Attorney Pipeline ("DAPP") Displaced Student Stipend Fund and Fellowship Program. Without the consistent support of our sponsors, BWLA could not have such a meaningful impact on so many law students.

Last month, BWLA's membership also showed up and showed out by being incredibly generous in donating to our Annual School Supply Drive! Due to the generosity of our membership, we are not only donating supplies to children at the Domestic Violence Shelter previously supported by BWLA, but also to a couple of local schools in need.

The last month has truly been amazing, and I look forward to what BWLA will accomplish over the next month. Despite current circumstances, there is no limit to what our resilient organization can, and will, accomplish!

I hope to see many of you at the virtual Fall General Meeting next week! In the meantime, stay safe, and enjoy the last glorious days of summer.

Kenyatta S. Beverly
2020-2021 BWLA President

Upcoming Events
Virtual Fall General Meeting

Please join BWLA on Wednesday, September 16, 2020, from 5:30-8:00 p.m., at the Fall General Membership Meeting for an evening of networking with fellow attorneys, judges, and law students.

Fellowship with us as we hear from BWLA committees about their exciting plans for the 2020-2021 bar year. Please click here to review BWLA's Committees. If you are interested in volunteering for a Committee, you can sign up here!
Our guests include Lindsay C. Jenkins, Criminal Chief of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois and Joy L. Monahan, Associate Director, Legal Diversity and Outside Counsel Programs at AbbVie Inc.

Lindsay and Joy will speak to our membership about exciting career opportunities at the U.S. Attorney's Office and AbbVie Inc.!
You do not want to miss this meeting, so please RSVP here to hold your spot! 
BWLA Virtual Town Hall Series

The BWLA Civil Rights Action Committee will host a three-part Virtual Town Hall Series to create a forum for BWLA members to engage directly with community activists and public officials to determine 1) the challenges facing the community 2) the potential opportunities to address those challenges (via legislation, reform advocacy or some other legal effort), and 3) how BWLA can play a role to advance those opportunities as it concerns the promotion of civil rights and liberties as it relates to our communities. Save the dates and register below!

Part One: Community Activism  September 23, 2020 at 6:00 p.m.

In Part One of this series, local community activists will highlight their perspectives regarding the state of the city of Chicago, including how their efforts have made an impact, challenges they've encountered and opportunities to substantially engage with BWLA and like organizations to advance strategic initiatives.


Ameena Matthews, Community Psychologist, Chief Executive Director, Pause for Peace

Tio Hardiman, Executive Director, Violence Interrupters, NFP/WVON Radio Host

Dushaun Branch Pollard, Community Organizer, North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council (NLCCC)

Part Two: Political Advocacy in the State of Illinois 
October 7, 2020 at 6:00 p.m.

In Part Two of this series, elected state officials will highlight current and proposed legislative (or other) efforts to address criminal justice reform and any other related efforts they've advanced in their respective districts/wards.


Bria Scudder, Assistant Deputy Governor, Office of the Governor, State of Illinois

Senator Robert Peters, IL Senate, 13th District

Representative Carol Ammons, IL House of Representatives, 103rd District

Senator Christopher Belt, IL Senate, 57th District

Part Three: Advancing Reform in Chicago
October 21, 2020 at 6:00 p.m.

In the final installment of this three-part series, city officials will highlight the current strategy to adequately address criminal justice reform and BWLA members will seek guidance for how we can contribute to current efforts.


We hope you'll join us for what will be an incredible series!
Black Partner Panel: Building and Sustaining Your Business Development Network

Thursday, October 15, 2020
3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. (Virtual)

SAVE THE DATE for the Corporate Counsel Committee's Black Partner Panel event! This event will include a lively and enlightening discussion between Black partners from different law firms who will candidly share their unique paths to partnership.

Insight will be provided on business development methods, how to navigate the firm environment, and common pitfalls to avoid. You do not want to miss this event!

Keep an eye out for updates on this exciting event in future BWLA communications!


Hon. Patricia Brown Holmes, Partner, Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP

Gerald L. Pauling
Partner, Seyfarth Shaw LLP

LaKeisha C. Marsh
Partner, Akerman LLP

Bobby Earles
Partner, Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Consider Serving As An Election Judge!
The outcome of the fast-approaching November 3, 2020 election is essential to our country's future! Now more than ever, we should seek to be engaged in the process.

In addition to spreading the word on voters' rights, consider serving as an Election Judge. The application can be found here.
Past Events
On Saturday, August 8, 2020, the BWLA Board of Directors and Scholarship Fund Board of Directors gathered for the Annual BWLA Board Retreat.

We enjoyed a day full of bonding while planning a fun and informative 2020-2021 bar year!

We are incredibly grateful to BWLA Recording Secretary Weeya Young for hosting this all-day event at her beautiful home!
IDOC Summit of Hope

On August 26, 2020, BWLA Civil Rights Action Committee members and BWLA Past Presidents Chastidy Burns and Erica Kirkwood participated in the Illinois Department of Corrections Summit of Hope where they provided voting rights guidance to over 250 returning citizens.

The Summit of Hope is an event geared towards providing men and women with the necessary tools to make a successful transition back to the community. Chastidy and Erica did a great job and were very well received.

Special thanks to BWLA Board Member at Large Camile Lindsay Kumi and the Summit organizers for providing this platform for BWLA to reach this critical population of new voters!
Mentoring and CLE Opportunities
The Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism invites BWLA members to take advantage of its new lawyer mentoring program for free CLE credit and to build lasting and powerful mentoring relationships. 

Participants may engage in this program virtually. More information can be found here.

BWLA's membership is also invited to enjoy the following free online CLE: Advancing Women in Law Summit Course (1.0 Hours of Diversity and Inclusion CLE Credit in Illinois).
Employment Opportunities
Heidrick & Struggles seeks Senior Labor and Employment Counsel candidates for a fantastic opportunity with Meijer, Inc. This position requires relocation to Grand Rapids, MI. Interested parties may contact Sonya Som at

Additionally, BWLA recently added the following employment opportunities to the BWLA Job Board:

  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Managing Attorney at the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism

  • General Counsel at Civis Analytics

  • Adjunct Faculty at UIC John Marshall Law School

  • In-House Counsel opportunities at AbbVie Inc., The Harley-Davidson Motor Company, and McDonald’s Corporation

  • Office of the Public Defender openings

Current opportunities, including the positions identified above, can be found here.

BWLA updates employment opportunities on our website ( bi-monthly.

Email all employment opportunities to

BWLA Member Achievements
Congratulations to Quarles & Brady LLP Partner and INTREN, LLC Board Member Sherina Maye Edwards on being named interim CEO of INTREN, LLC!
Congratulations to Foley & Lardner LLP Partner Jeanne M. Gills on being named to the Crain's 2020 Notable Women in Law list!
Congratulations to Wynter C.N. Jackson on her new role as Vice President of Labor Relations at Transdev North America!
Congratulations to BWLA Vice President Nakhia Morrissette on being chosen by Diversity MBA as a Top 100 Under 50 Executive Leader!
Congratulations to Seyfarth Shaw LLP Partner Gerald L. Pauling on being the first Black partner elected to Seyfarth Shaw's Executive Committee! Be sure to check Gerald out during BWLA's October 15th Black Partner Panel!
Congratulations to Markena Peavy for being chosen by Diversity MBA as a Top 100 Under 50 Emerging Leader!
Congratulations to Leslie Richards-Yellen on her new role as Director of Global Diversity & Inclusion at Debevoise & Plimpton!
Congratulations to Melanie Stewart on also being chosen by Diversity MBA as a Top 100 Under 50 Executive Leader!
Congratulations to Judge Thaddeus Wilson on his installation as President of the Illinois Judicial Council!
BWLA Member Spotlight
Omoyele ("Yele") Ajayi

Associate Attorney
Blacha Law Office
BWLA Committee Chair, Yele, shares why BWLA matters to her:

"As a new attorney, the Black Women Lawyers’ Association (BWLA) has been fundamental to my growth and development. From the beginning, I was welcomed into the organization with open arms and given the resources I needed to excel. The women of BWLA have helped me gain access to experiences and opportunities that I may have never discovered otherwise. 

BWLA has connected me with inspiring Black women in the legal profession who continue to serve as my mentors and friends to this day. I have also been grateful to receive multiple scholarships from the organization that have eased the financial challenges of law school tuition and bar exam preparation.

Being able to see BWLA highlight the amazing achievements of Black female attorneys has been invaluable to me, and I am always encouraged by BWLA's commitment to promoting diversity, intersectionality, leadership, and hard work. BWLA has shown me that as long as organizations like this exist and thrive, no women of color can fail."
Memorial Service for Justice Charles E. Freeman

A memorial service honoring the late Justice Charles E. Freeman will occur at 2:00 p.m. on September 16, 2020 at the Supreme Court Courtroom located at 200 E. Capitol Avenue in Springfield, Illinois and via livestream.

Please see the attached for more information on the memorial.
BWLA is Excited to Announce the Formation of the Expungement & Sealing Committee! 

Having a criminal record can seriously diminish a person's quality of life in many ways such as limiting employment opportunities, making it more difficult to rent, denial of educational financial aid, and other negative impacts.  

If you are interested in helping to provide members of the community with a fresh start, consider serving on this committee. Training will be provided and cases can be handled remotely. 

Please email Committee Chair Michelle Sieger at 
to express interest. 
BWLA Joins the ISBA Special Committee on Racial Inequality

BWLA President Kenyatta Beverly was appointed to serve as BWLA's liaison to the Illinois State Bar Association's ("ISBA") Special Committee on Racial Inequality.

This committee will provide guidance, coordination, prioritization, and accountability from the ISBA structure to advance racial equality.

The committee's purpose is to identify areas in which the legal system fails to support and promote equal justice, advance policy and legislative solutions across substantive areas, to examine the structures of the profession to eliminate barriers to full inclusion, and to create affirmative approaches to, and professional responsibility for, the advancement of equality, justice, and inclusion.
BWLA Joins the Chicago Bar Association Young Lawyers Section Racial Justice Coalition

BWLA is now a proud member of the new CBA YLS Racial Justice Coalition ("RJC"), an initiative formed to combat systemic racism through service, community engagement, and education.

With over 25 partnering bar associations, legal organizations, and nonprofits, the CBA YLS RJC is committed to collectively impacting social change in our profession and in our communities in furtherance of diversity and equality.

Click here to read the official RJC press release

BWLA President Kenyatta Beverly and BWLA Past President and Scholarship Fund Board Chair Chastidy Burns participated in the recording of the RJC's Voting Rights Campaign PSA.

FLASH Task Force Formation

BWLA is proud to share that we partnered with representatives from other Illinois bar associations to form the Force of Lawyers Against Sexual Harassment ("FLASH"), a task force of Illinois legal professionals united to study and make recommendations to combat the prevalence of sexism, sex-based discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault in the Illinois legal community through direct advocacy, policy implementation, education and peer support. 

The goals and objectives of FLASH are to create and foster a safe, respectful and intersectional professional environment for all Illinois legal professionals that adopts a zero-tolerance approach to sexism, sex-based discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault.

BWLA Board Member at Large Era Laudermilk serves as our liaison to FLASH and will help to ensure that our concerns and recommendations for this critically important issue are reflected in FLASH's work. More information will be provided to BWLA members as updates become available.
The Diversity Scholarship Foundation, NFP is accepting applications for its 2020 scholarships! 

The September 14, 2020 application deadline is FAST APPROACHING!

Apply here
Are you interested in helping with voter outreach from the comfort of your home? Awesome! BWLA has an opportunity for you.

The BWLA Civil Rights Action Committee (CRAC) Voting Rights Education Subcommittee has a new initiative and invites all of you to participate!

BWLA's voter outreach includes a social media video campaign entitled "Black Women/Men Vote." BWLA is requesting that members provide a short video (no longer than 1 minute in length), sharing why you vote and why it is important for everyone to vote. 

You can find our #BlackWomenVOTE sign attached here. If you have access to a printer, we encourage you to print the sign (or get crafty and make your own!) to display in front of you during your video. BWLA will share these videos on our social media in an effort to educate, generate excitement around the upcoming election, and encourage voting. 

Please submit your videos to before noon on Sunday, September 13, 2020.


We also have a Get Out the Vote Social Media Campaign to encourage people to participate in the U.S. Presidential Election this November. We hope the campaign will go viral and spread beyond just our legal community! 

Please distribute the flyers below to your networks and post the flyers to your social media pages.
Click here to download the above flyer.
Click here to download the above flyer.
Thank You To Our 
2020 Fundraiser Sponsors