Your ABA

Diverse slate nominated to lead the ABA

  • Print.

As a result of actions taken by the Nominating Committee at the organization’s midyear meeting, the top leadership ranks of the ABA have never been more diverse than they are now. The nominees for all four of the ABA’s top leadership positions—president-elect, chair of the House of Delegates, secretary and treasurer—are women, including two African-Americans and one Native American.

The committee’s action sends an important message to the rest of the ABA and the legal profession as a whole, said Hilarie Bass, a shareholder and co-president at Greenberg Traurig in Miami, who was nominated to become president-elect in August (and president a year later) pending her formal election by the House of Delegates when it convenes in San Francisco during the annual meeting.

“One of the challenges of diversity is that we’ve made huge progress in making American law schools more diverse while there is less diversity in law firms,” Bass said. “And that explains why young lawyers, especially women and people of color, are leaving law firms. It’s not just about diversity; it’s about a sense of belonging. Diversity in the ABA’s leadership shows younger lawyers that there is a place for them in the profession.”

The other candidates selected by the Nominating Committee are:

• Deborah Enix-Ross, an African-American woman who will become chair of the House for a two-year term starting in August. Enix-Ross is senior adviser to the international dispute resolution group at Debevoise & Plimpton in New York City.

• Mary L. Smith, who will become ABA secretary for a three-year term starting in August 2017. An attorney with the Office of the Special Deputy Receiver in Chicago, Smith is a member of the Cherokee Nation and immediate-past president of the National Native American Bar Association.

• Michelle A. Behnke, who will become ABA treasurer starting in August 2017. Behnke, an African-American, is principal of Michelle Behnke & Associates in Madison, Wisconsin. Since she serves on the Nominating Committee as state delegate from Wisconsin, Behnke recused herself from the committee’s vote.

The formal election of all the candidates by the House of Delegates in August is virtually assured.

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of the ABA Journal with this headline: “Diverse slate to lead the ABA.”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.