Midyear Meeting

New Jersey lawyer expected to be first woman of color to lead the ABA


Edwards Wildman Palmer partner Paulette Brown.
Photo by Kathy Anderson

Paulette Brown is on track to become the first woman of color to serve as ABA president.

On Sunday, Brown made her first formal appearance before the ABA Nominating Committee as a candidate for president-elect. And because she is running unopposed, her election is virtually assured. Under ABA rules for selecting its presidents, the Nominating Committee will formally select Brown as president-elect nominee at the 2014 ABA Midyear Meeting in Chicago. Then she will be elected by the House of Delegates at that year’s Annual Meeting in Chicago before starting her one-year term as president at the close of the 2015 Annual Meeting in Chicago.

The Nominating Committee met Sunday during the 2013 ABA Midyear Meeting in Dallas.

Brown is a partner at Edwards Wildman Palmer in Madison, N.J. A sole practitioner for many years, she’s now a member of her firm’s labor and employment group. She has served in the House of Delegates since 1997, and is a past member of the Board of Governors. She currently co-chairs the Commission on Civic Education in the Nation’s Schools. She serves on the Task Force on the Future of the Legal Profession, and she is a council member for the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

“I know it sounds hokey, but I believe I’ve contributed in a number of ways, and I believe I can contribute more,” Brown said. “More can be done to demonstrate that the ABA has value. I hope I can use my persuasive skills to show American lawyers the great work we do.”

Brown said she recognizes the significance of her candidacy as a woman of color. “It does have significance,” she said, “and it has significance to the community of lawyers of color. When I tell people I’m running, one of their first reactions is, ‘I’ve got to join!’”

Bernice Donald, a U.S. appellate court judge in Memphis who was the first woman of color to serve as an ABA officer when she served as secretary in 2008-11, said Brown’s candidacy “is a signal moment which speaks to the ABA’s commitment to leadership in the legal profession, regardless of race or gender. If anyone feels excluded, we can’t lead the profession.”

Two candidates have announced that they are running to become chair of the House of Delegates starting in August 2014. They are Patricia L. Refo, a member of Snell & Wilmer in Phoenix, and Mark I. Schickman, a member of Freeland Cooper & Foreman in San Francisco.

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