BWLA was founded in 1987 with the mission of promoting diversity and inclusion in the legal profession through identifying and addressing issues unique to African-American female lawyers, judges and those in academia; improving the administration of justice by increasing the participation of African-American women and other minorities throughout the legal system; and advancing civil and human rights.

This year’s Law Day theme of “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society” is well-aligned with our emphasis on the importance of having a voice within our communities and using that voice to affect change.

During my term as 2018-19 BWLA president, #BeTheChange has been the driving theme behind our activities, programs and projects, as we have dedicated our efforts to using our voices to cultivate an environment of sisterhood, service and success among our membership and throughout the community.

We began the bar year supporting women in need with food and fellowship at a domestic violence shelter as our Women Everywhere Agency Day service project; we have come together several times throughout the year to discuss the dynamic life and achievements of Michelle Obama at our “Becoming” book club brunch sessions; and we even recently held a Grit and Grace Roundtable to encourage women to lead by example in practicing grace and wellness when meeting life’s challenges.

The members of our organization have also taken their voices throughout the Chicago area to be leaders and role models in the community through our many service projects.

This year, we started the BWLA Street Law Program in partnership with West Town Academy, an alternative high school on the West Side of Chicago, where our volunteer attorneys teach lessons on topics such as restorative justice, rights and responsibilities during an arrest and banking basics.

The program includes a law school, law firm and courthouse visit to even further motivate the students by showing them what they can be and how they can impact the world through the legal profession.

Finally, we are always striving to use our voices to reach back and facilitate the success of the pipeline by training law students and young attorneys to grow their skills and to promote their assets and abilities through our professional development programs.

We hosted a new program this year focused on courtroom etiquette designed to have black female judges show newer attorneys how to present themselves in our unique professional setting during courtroom proceedings.

We also held our traditional law school exam, resume review and mock interview workshops to provide guidance to students as they study and seek employment at the beginning of their careers.

As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”

BWLA is proud to celebrate Law Day and the sentiment of self-expression to promote change and improvement among ourselves and throughout the society.