Promoting Racial Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity within the Bar: We Are “REDI” for Lasting Change, 0121 COBJ, Vol. 50, No. 1 Pg. 4

PositionVol. 50, 1 [Page 4]

50 Colo.Law. 4

Promoting Racial Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity within the Bar: We Are “REDI” for Lasting Change

Vol. 50, No. 1 [Page 4]

Colorado Lawyer

January, 2021



In Last month’s Message, I collaborated with leading lawyers Annie Martínez and Christine Hernández, who described how local attorneys and judges are leading efforts toward a diversity-focused CLE requirement. Tis month, I continue the focus on racial justice, equity, diversity, and Inclusivity (REDI) by shining the spotlight on four talented, energetic, and committed lawyers: Christine, as well as Patricia Jarzobski, Jon Olafson, and Michelle Sylvain. These lawyers, along with many other committed change agents in our community, are leading important REDI initiatives, both within the CBA and beyond.

REFOCUS 2020 Strategic Plan

Equity, diversity, and Inclusivity are not new priorities for the CBA. The CBA’s REFOCUS 2020 Strategic Plan (Strategic Plan),1 introduced in spring 2016, makes diversity one of seven key areas of focus. Specifically, the “E” in REFOCUS stands for our objective to “Engage Under-Represented Populations.”

To meet this objective, Bar leadership are instructed to “[e]ngage under-represented and statewide populations by improving and ensuring their inclusion at all levels of the CBA . . . .”2 As the Strategic Plan explains, “To truly represent the profession, the CBA must reflect it as to gender, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and identity, and other traditionally under-represented populations. The newer generation of attorneys knows institutions that are diverse and inclusive, and they will tolerate nothing less.”

By 2016, the CBA had begun to make progress with diversity in leadership but recognized that “continued progress depends on a diverse membership and leadership pipeline. . . . For the CBA to be diverse and inclusive, sustained efforts are required. These include knowing where we are, addressing barriers, valuing and welcoming diverse people, and providing training to avoid implicit bias.”3

The Strategic Plan was intended to guide the CBA through June 30, 2020. But in January 2020, the CBA Executive Council (EC) extended the Strategic Plan through June 30, 2023, noting that it continues to represent the Bar’s priorities. Engaging diverse and statewide populations will likely always be a core goal of the CBA.

Patricia Jarzobski: EDI Joint Steering Committee Chair

To help implement the “E” objective, the CBA and the DBA formed the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity (EDI) Joint Steering Committee (JSC). Former CBA President Patricia Jarzobski, principal with her own personal injury law firm, the Law Office of Patricia Jarzobski, P.C., chairs the JSC. Other JSC members are attorneys John Baker, Catherine

Chan, Courtney Holm, Ryann Peyton, Melissa Schwartz, Mario Trimble, and Judge Mariana Vielma, as well as CBA Staff Liaison Emy López and CBA Executive Director Amy Larson.

The JSC first started meeting and working to enhance EDI within the Bar in mid-2018, and it has continued to do this important work for the past two-and-a-half years. After preparing the first-ever “EDI Action Plan,” the JSC formed four teams to advance the plan’s four key elements:

1. building a leadership pipeline;

2. messaging around promotion and outreach;

3. implementing tools to succeed in EDI goals across the CBA and DBA; and

4. creating accountability and transparency.

Under Patricia’s leadership, JSC members chair each of these four teams, collaborating with diverse and dedicated bar members, including past presidents of the diversity bar associations, CBA and DBA past presidents, and judges.

Much of the work to implement the EDI Action Plan is underway. For example, the EC has begun to more systematically attend and promote diversity bar programs and events; collaborate on joint projects with the Presidents’ Diversity Council, which comprises leaders of all the diversity bar associations in Colorado; and highlight diverse leaders in publications and articles (like this one). The EC is also building a diverse leadership pipeline, which involves the following:

■ recruiting CBA members from traditionally under-represented populations to apply for leadership opportunities within the Bar;

■ promoting the pipeline and Bar leadership specifically to diversity bar leaders, including their dynamic and talented past presidents;

■ making the leadership appointment process transparent, simple, and encouraging;

■ promoting the pipeline and openings at Bar events;

■ using a new leadership application form that makes clear the CBA’s commitment to diversity; and

■ adding to the pipeline based on responses to a September 2020 leadership survey.

The CBA Nominating Committee will soon begin to interview and select candidates for 2021–22 leadership positions. The committee will choose a president-elect from Region 1 (the DBA) based on the current presidential rotation process specified in the CBA bylaws, as well as four vice presidents, one each from Regions 1; 3 (Boulder County, Larimer County, Thirteenth Judicial District, and Weld County bar associations); 5 (El Paso County, Fremont/Custer, Heart of the Rockies, and San Luis Valley bar associations); and 7 (Continental Divide, Ninth Judicial District, Northwest Colorado, and Pitkin County bar associations). The president-elect will serve a one-year term and each vice president will serve a two-year term on the EC.

As the 2016–17 CBA past president (the fifth woman to serve in this role in the Bar’s then 119-year history), Patricia is chair of this year’s CBA Nominating Committee. She is also a past president of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association (CWBA), a past board member of the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations, a multiyear member of the 17th Judicial District Judicial Nominating Commission, a 2018 recipient of the University of Denver (DU) Sturm College of Law’s “Law Stars” Professionalism Award, and a 2015 recipient of the CWBA Foundation’s “Raising the Bar” Award. Patricia also mentors numerous diverse attorneys in our community, both formally through the Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program (CAMP) and informally through her personal commitment to speak with anyone who reaches out to her for guidance.

The JSC’s innovative work “has launched Colorado as an emerging contemporary leader on the national stage.”4 JSC member and CAMP Director Ryann Peyton—herself a tremendous leader in our community and chair of the JSC’s Leadership Pipeline team—agrees, and credits Patricia for much of that success: “Every so often, a great leader emerges within the profession with the necessary combination of drive, co-operativeness, and impeccable work product that she grabs your attention and emboldens your trust. When you meet Patricia Jarzobski, you know immediately that she is that leader.”

Ryann further notes that wherever Patricia goes “she elevates and innovates.” As JSC chair, “Patricia has been instrumental in motivating committee members, engaging stakeholders to lay the groundwork for the committee’s success, and providing the necessary vision for the committee’s work.” Ryann is confident that “without Patricia’s involvement, this initiative would be nowhere near as robust and successful as it has been. Because of Patricia, the CBA and DBA are poised to become national leaders in the implementation of meaningful diversity, inclusion, and equity efforts within bar associations.”

CBA delegate to the ABA, former EC member, and Continental Divide Bar Association leader Courtney Holm agrees, observing that “Patricia is a thoughtful, deliberate, and inspirational leader.” Courtney has worked with Patricia on both the JSC and the EC when Patricia served as president. She notes that Patricia “devotes a great deal of time and energy to her teams. Patricia is determined to remove the barriers that prevent access or participation in the bar association. She recognizes that a group with different perspectives works more productively and to a better final product than a homogenous group. Patricia is leading the charge to energetically modernize the systems in our legal arena, so keep your eye on her and listen for the bugles.”

Patricia grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, but she is very drawn to the ocean. Surfing is one of her favorite activities, and her favorite aroma is the tropical smell of Oahu when exiting the airport. We are so fortunate to have Patricia’s leadership and energy at the Bar.

Jon Olafson: REDI Committee Chair

As noted, EDI has long been a priority for the CBA. And this year, racial justice has catapulted to the forefront of the CBA’s EDI objectives, partially in response to the tragic and wrongful deaths of Black men and women that led to worldwide protests last spring. Recognizing in July 2020 that the Bar and our broader legal community are “REDI” for lasting and systemic change, the EC formed the REDI Committee, a standing committee chaired by EC member and Lewis Brisbois partner Jon Olafson. Other REDI Committee members are CBA President-Elect Joi Kush, CBA Immediate Past President Kathleen Croshal, and EC members Kyle Aber, Judge Edwin Felter, Judson Hite, Judge Amanda Hopkins, Zaki Robbins, Robin Rossenfield, Spencer Rubin, Bonnie Schriner, and me, as well as CBA Staf Liaison Jessica Lindzy and CBA Executive Director Amy Larson.

Under Jon’s leadership, the REDI Committee has drafted (and the EC has approved) (1) revised mission and values statements that emphasize the Bar’s commitment to racial justice, equity, diversity, and Inclusivity; (2) a second external statement regarding the CBA’s commitment to racial justice and racial equity (the CBA had issued a...

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