National Bar Association (NBA) President Daryl Parks, the attorney representing the family of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, unveiled 40 young Black lawyers as the nation’s top young barristers of color at the NBA’s annual convention this week.
The group was labeled “2012 Nation’s Best Advocates: 40 Lawyers Under 40.” The NBA, the oldest group of African American legal professionals in the U.S., met in Las Vegas, Nev. July 14-19. IMPACT is a Washington, D.C.-based group that aims to foster civic engagement, increase knowledge of the political and legislative processes, and enhance economic empowerment opportunities.
The organization is the oldest in the country for legal professionals of African American descent and offers opportunities for networking and growth through numerous seminars and forums on the latest happenings within the legal realm.
“It’s been a dream-this is a cross section of not only lawyers from around the country but lawyers from around the world. We have a large contingent from South Africa, Canada and Japan,” said Demetris W. Cheatham, executive director of the NBA, in a phone interview with the AFRO. “It’s a warm, nurturing and familiar environment.” “We want to make sure that we are on the forefront of social issues,” said Cheatham. “With this being such a critical year with the presidential election, we turn our focus back to voter I.D. laws, and we train our attorneys on how to provide election protection services.” Younger lawyers who attend the conferences view the time as an opportunity to soak up as much as they can from older lawyers and share experiences. “We all have different issues that affect us uniquely but overall our issues are similar,” said Lacy Durham, 32, from Minden, La. “We are bigger and better when we are able to come together and unite and present those issues on one accord.”
Durham, who obtained her license in 2006, says her finding mentors “knowledgeable and willing to spend time and educate” can be a challenge, especially when she’s seeking someone who looks like her in the specialty of tax law.
“We make sure that some of our seasoned lawyers, who have been at this for many years, speak directly with our younger lawyers so they can navigate more successfully,” said Cheatham. Other workshops gave free legal advice to the public and spoke with Las Vegas teens about going into the legal field. Attendees of the convention were able to hear Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. of the Rainbow Push Coalition speak, as well as Donna Brazile of the Democratic National Committee. Both served on a panel about voter rights and the new laws I.D. laws that will have significant impact on this year’s election. The NBA was formed in 1925 and now boasts a membership of roughly 44,000 professionals from law professors to practicing lawyers. The organization has 80 chapters and is headquartered in Washington, D.C.