Straker Bar Association to host NBA conference

By Debra Talcott

Legal News

The clock is ticking to reserve tickets for the 2012 National Bar Association Region VI Conference to be held May 18-20 at the Auburn Hills campus of Cooley Law School.

This year's event, titled "Lawyers as Leaders: The Black Attorney in Law & Society" will be hosted by the D. Augustus Straker Bar Association of Oakland County, an affiliate of the NBA. The event promises lively presentations on diversity in the law and will draw lawyers and judges from all across Michigan as well as the other states that comprise the 6th Circuit.

Attorney Allen Venable, of Venable Law in Southfield, is the current NBA Region VI Director and conference organizer. He also serves on the Straker Bar Association Board of Directors.

"We expect 200 participants from Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky," says Venable. "The conference fee of $75 will entitle participants to enjoy panel discussions, legal education seminars, casino and museum trips, and a speed networking event during which members of the Black Law Students Association will meet practicing members of the bar and bench."

The breakfast and kickoff presentation, "The Inclusiveness Imperative - Why Diversity and Inclusion Are Key to Global Competitiveness," will feature Joseph West, president and CEO of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association. Panelists will include Vernon Baker, senior vice president and general counsel of Meritor, Inc.; Michelle Carter, general counsel of Allied Human Services; Angelique Strong Marks, general counsel and corporate secretary of Behr America; and Reginald Turner, partner at Clark Hill.

Continuing Legal Education presentations on Ethics, Family Law, and Labor Law as well as a panel discussion on Lawyers as Leaders will round out the day's events. Friday's activities will culminate with a trip to the MGM Casino in Detroit.

Saturday's highlights include the Regional Martin Luther King Drum Major for Justice Essay and Oratory Competition for high school students from 9 until 11 a.m. The winner will go on to represent the four states of Region VI at the national competition in Las Vegas. Other events of the day are the Comerica Bank speed networking reception, an afternoon Chrysler Museum tour, and a panel discussion on the politicalization of the judiciary.

Later that evening, a reception and dinner honoring NBA past presidents will take place at the Somerset Inn in Troy. Former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, Harold Pope, Reginald Turner, and Sharon McPhail will be honored for their "excellence in leadership." Current NBA President Daryl Parks will serve as master of ceremonies for the reception and dinner, which require a separate cost of $75. The conference will culminate with the Region VI business meeting and elections of regional officers on Sunday morning.

"This year's conference will promote the goals of the National Bar Association Region VI, which are to enhance the professional careers and strengthen the social bonds of African American attorneys in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky," says Venable. "The D. Augustus Straker Bar Association's goals are the same as the NBA Region VI goals, except that Straker focuses on African American attorneys in Oakland County. Both organizations will work to achieve these goals over the next year through their various programs."

Sponsors of the NBA Region VI Conference include Cooley Law School; MetLife; the National Bar Association; the Black Women Lawyers Association of Michigan; the Mallory, Van Dyne, Scott Bar Association; the Davis-Dunnings Bar Association; the Wolverine Bar Association; the Vanzetti M. Hamilton Bar Association; the Floyd Skinner Bar Association; and the D. Augustus Straker Bar Association.

The Straker Bar Association is named in honor of pioneering attorney D. Augustus Straker, who became the first African American attorney to appear before the Michigan Supreme Court in 1890. He successfully argued that the "separate but equal" doctrine was unconstitutional under Michigan law in a unanimous decision that came to be called our state's "Great Civil Rights Case" because it preceded the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v the Board of Education by 64 years. Straker went on to be elected as the first African American jurist in Michigan before serving two terms as Wayne County Circuit Court Commissioner.

The Straker Bar Association was founded in 1990 as an organization of diverse attorneys with the mission of increasing minority representation in the legal profession, supporting and encouraging legal practice opportunities for minorities, and facilitating equal justice for underserved citizens of Oakland County.

To register for the conference or to purchase tickets for the dinner, contact Venable at (313) 623-2024 or at

Published: Thu, May 10, 2012