Nearly 250 enterprising attorneys from across the country will be gathering in San Diego next week, continuing their push to diversify the legal departments of corporate America.
The National Association of Minority & Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF) is holding its regional conference at the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego, beginning Sunday.
The three-day event will feature a variety of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminars, covering everything from labor and employment issues to questions about protecting your patent portfolio.
Presenters will include senior counsel from some of the country's biggest companies, like Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO), DreamWorks Animation (Nasdaq: DWA), Motorola, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and San Diego Gas & Electric.
"(The conference) really does sort of revive you and help you be with like-minded firms and people," said Stacy Fode, a partner with Brown Law Group. "And it also renews your faith in corporations that are trying to do the right things with their diversity efforts. I think that's really inspiring as well."
NAMWOLF is a nonprofit trade association that actively advocates for the retention of minority- and women-owned law firms by public entities and corporations. The group boasts a network of more than 600 attorneys who can provide resources and support to member firms.
NAMWOLF also strives to encourage women and minorities to pursue careers in the legal profession.
San Diego features three law firms that are members of NAMWOLF -- Brown Law Group; Wilson Turner Kosmo; and Andrews Lagasse Branch & Bell LLP.
"NAMWOLF firms are directly addressing diversity from the pipeline perspective," said NAMWOLF CEO and general counsel David Askew. "Our firms are making opportunities for attorneys in the industry, many of whom are female or other minorities who have chosen to practice in a smaller environment. We want to create more opportunities for those lawyers who could work in larger law firms but have decided to go to smaller firms."
The focus of this year's regional meeting is innovation, with seminars on cloud computing and surviving the "bring your own device" revolution.
Askew said organizers made a concerted effort to include more CLE programs this year.
"What it does is it makes our event a go-to event for in-house lawyers, which is the main objective," he said. "We not only put it on for our members, but we want them to connect and network with in-house lawyers."
The conference gives corporate counsel a chance to connect with private attorneys while providing a forum for law firms to attract new corporate clients.
“As a San Diego minority- and woman-owned law firm, I’m honored that the organization has chosen to hold its regional meeting in our community," said Janice Brown, founder of Brown Law Group and a NAMWOLF board member. "This organization has meant a great deal to me as a professional woman, attorney and person committed to diversity and a culture that advocates fiercely for equality, integrity and ethics.”
Robin Wofford, a partner with Wilson Turner Kosmo and a NAMWOLF board member, said the organization has been beneficial to her practice as it allows her to gain insight into the laws of whatever state a case may take her.
"I want my clients to know that we have a network of incredibly talented lawyers across the country," she said. "It gives us the chance to get work where we wouldn't otherwise get our foot in the door."
Wilson Turner Kosmo has been a NAMWOLF member for 10 years, during which time the San Diego firm has grown from 13 attorneys to 25. While all that growth is not attributable to membership in NAMWOLF, the timing of Wilson Turner Kosmo's expansion is not completely coincidental either, Wofford said.
All NAMWOLF member firms have to be pre-qualified by going through a rigorous application process.
"This organization is supportive of those law firms that are entrepreneurial -- that like doing things differently but are still wonderful lawyers," Wofford said.