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With Mom

Those of you who follow along might recall that one focus of mine this year is to work on a more integrated life. It is a different, and I believe more holistic approach than work-life balance. I wanted to circle back around a give you an update on my progress. For one thing, and this may seem small, but it’s a really healthy development, I have been doing a lot more cooking. From pulling out the smoker and throwing down on some chicken and ribs to baking fish, and tossing salads with veggies fresh from the farmers market. I’m going to try to keep it up. Along the same lines, I have enjoyed getting back into breaking bread with, and hosting friends. My sweet, funny friend and fellow Diva Michelle and her constant companion Alice came for a visit, as did  my wonderful friend and former student, Cameron McCree.


Diva Michelle


Alice gets comfortable

On another front, I mentioned being in the moment with friends and family, and more frequently spending time with them. Here, I’d have to say it’s been a mixed bag. I have spent many quiet hours with Mom sitting in the unseasonably pleasant weather. Sometimes we have conversations, and other times I listen to what is on her mind. Many of those days, she enjoys a nice summer treat. It has been good. Not all our days are easy though, but I have been more patient with the tough days, making a real effort to redirect her when she is fearful or combative. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes, I am not. But I have been responsive and present, really present during our time together. 2014-07-20 18.56.24I say it’s a mixed bag though, because there are many folks I think of during the day, who I need to call, or who I’d like to see, and I’ve yet to follow through. For example, I have been missing my great-nephews and need to plan something with them, and I’ve not been on a walk with my neighbors in a few weeks. On the other hand I did get to spend some time with the Chrome Divas. We rode to Natural Falls and Grand Lake Damn in Oklahoma, and grabbed lunch in Disney, Oklahoma in a tiny little diner that serves great milkshakes. It was fun to see everyone, and to ride together again. We couldn’t have asked for better weather, and the scenery was lovely.IMG_0049IMG_0045I also mentioned getting back into providing service as a witness, in a manner that is much more hands on.  Still on the to do list is to volunteer with Legal Services. Attorney Marshall Prettyman told me he would supervise my work, and numerous colleagues stand ready to serve as resources for me. I’ll get there.


Melissa Jones, our fantastic Sunday Supper Coordinator

In the meantime, I have enjoyed working at Sunday Suppers our church serves on the 4th Sunday of every month. They’re held at Trinity Methodist Church and this past weekend, we served 97 adults and 24 children, a healthy, fresh, delicious meal. The extraordinary Melissa Jones is our leader and she does a fantastic job of organizing and coordinating us all. Sunday Supper Sunday Supper2This past supper, I worked as a dish washer “Busting Suds for The Lord,” and went at it so diligently, that I sweated so much my hair was wet. That’s saying a lot, because I enjoy and can take the heat. (I guess that means I can stay in the kitchen, huh? Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Another opportunity to witness in terms of faith, though for sure, it’s a different kind of service, was to be a part of a panel of people of faith who support the LGBT Community. The panel was arranged by the Human Rights Campaign, as part of Project One America, “a comprehensive, multi-year campaign to dramatically expand LGBT equality in the South through permanent campaigns in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas.” Reverend Lowell Grisham welcomed everyone as the program started. Pastor Abigail, Noah Meeks, Cathy Campbell of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Reverend Britt Skarda, Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church in Little Rock, I  each spoke openly about how our faith and life experience influence our decision to be advocates for the LGBT community. Dr. Sharon Groves, Director of the Religion and Faith Program at HRC,  moderated the panel. You can read a blog post about the event here. Although the panelists opened the discussion, there was much sharing between everyone in the room, and the powerful testimonies were moving and memorable. This week, HRC released ‘the results of the largest survey of its kind to-date on the needs, experiences, and priorities of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Arkansans,” and announce the state’s new Director, Kendra Johnson.


Of course life is unpredictable, so during this time the air conditioning went out in both the car and the house (yes, I know–first world problems, but they had to be dealt with nevertheless). It was also a busy time for travel and meetings and such. I took a quick trip to Dallas for the NALP Foundation Board of Trustees meeting. The trip, in hindsight did not proceed as quick as planned however, because the weather wreaked havoc in Dallas and there were numerous cancellations and ground stops. This meeting was focused on strategic planning and visioning. Some of the discussion centered around branding, but we also looked at our current emphasis and asked whether that’s the proper focus for the organization and also thought out loud about what else we might be/do. I’ve mentioned the NALP Foundation in the blog before, but I’ll note here for those of you with an interest in law and the practice of law, the Foundation publishes important research that you might find to be of interest. My fellow trustees are smart, interesting people who are leaders in the profession and care deeply about the practice of law and legal education.

Professor Michael Z. Green

Professor Michael Z. Green

In addition to making the meeting, I was happy to get to Dallas, because it afforded me an opportunity to see my very good friend Michael Green, who was recently elected as a Fellow in the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. I’m excited for, and proud of him for achieving this well deserved recognition. Michael is a prolific scholar who writes on matters of importance to the practice of law and working people, He’s also an AAA arbitrator and Secretary of the American Bar Association Labor and Employment Law Section . More than that though, he is a terrific person and I’m happy to say, one of my closest friends and now, a fellow Fellow! I invited him to dinner with the Board, and he invited me to his law school’s reception for the new dean, Andrew P. Morris. Things worked out perfectly as the reception was being held at Belo Mansion, which wasn’t very far from the offices of Alston and Bird, where our board meeting was held, thanks to the gracious hospitality of the firm and our trustee Liz Price.

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Dean Andrew P. Morriss, Texas A & M School of Law

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Texas A & M School of Law reception, Belo Mansion

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Michael met me at Alston and Bird for a reception sponsored by the fire, and was able to meet a number of the trustees, as well as our NALP Foundation Administrative Staff, President Tammy Patterson, and and Senior Vice President, Michelle Nash. The reception for Dean Morriss was very well attended and I had an opportunity to meet  the Dean, A & M (formerly Texas Wesleyan) Law School alums and many members of the local bar. During his remarks, the dean gave Michael a shout of for his recent election into the College. It was an enjoyable event.

After the law school reception, we met the NALP Foundation Trustees for dinner at Perry’s Steakhouse and Grille, which is know for its pork shops. These are no ordinary pork chops, they are huge. Neither of us who order them was able to make a dent in our dinner. There was enough food left to take out for a small family. As always, our dinner consisted with warm, funny conversation and an the opportunity to catch up, on a personal level, with that was new with everyone.

Perry's porkchop

Perry’s porkchop

Our board meeting wrapped up at lunchtime the next day, and I literally flew back to Northwest Arkansas to be able to attend the Odom Law Firm Seafood Jubilee that afternoon. This is an annual tradition and is attended by the who’s who in the state. There are tubs and tubs of crawfish, and boiled shrimp, plenty of cold beer, and lots of meeting and greeting and even a little trash talking. I love it, and make the effort go if there’s anyway I can make it. I had a special reason for attending this year. Denise Hoggard, a dear friend was coming to town to attend and to solicit support for her candidacy for Arkansas Bar Association President. We were going to dinner afterwards, and as I love Neecy and her company, I didn’t want to miss her. And we  did have dinner at East Side Grill, kicking off the weekend before she had to head back to Little Rock, after what had been a busy work week for the two of us.

The fabulous Denise Hoggard

The fabulous Denise Hoggard


A big hug from Bobby Odom

Early the next week, it was time for me to hit the road again to Hot Springs, Arkansas for the annual EEOC TAP, or Technical Assistance Program. By the way, I mentioned Hot Springs in the last post, but neglected to mention that it is the site of the Arkansas Bar Association Annual meeting every year, and for many of the Bar Association’s other CLE programs.  I don’t think that I’ve posted pictures of Central Avenue and beautifully restored bathhouses, and I thought you might enjoy seeing them.

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This year, I was had the honor of being invited to dinner the night before the conference with EEOC staff, including the General Counsel of the EEOC, P. David Lopez, a brilliant and passionate advocate for employees and Katharine Kores, the Memphis District Office Director who helped develop the ADA training for all EEOC attorneys. It doesn’t get much better than that for a labor and employment law academic, and I was grateful for the invitation. GC Lopez gave an overview of EEOC litigation and initiatives the next day, that for a law nerd like me was riveting. Dinner was in the Superior Bathhouse Brewery which features a casual menu and wide variety of beers (as you might expect, though none brewed in-house, yet).

EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez

EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez

My session, was entitled, “Tricky HR Situations,” and it’s one the conference participants enjoy, because (I think) of the format. Dan Herrington of the Friday Law Firm and I have presented this session twice. Our presentation takes the form of a talk show.



Someone from the EEOC plays the role of  moderator, and Dan and I take (typically) opposing views of the issues. In fact, one of the biggest chuckles from the audience is when one of us says, “Write down this date I agree. ” Deb Abney Moser Finney, an EEOC Program Analyst, who played provocateur during the session, who was our “moderator” last year. This year it was Bill Cash, the Director of the EEOC’s Little Rock Area Office, who has a wonderfully wry and understated sense of humor. As we put our presentation together, our goal is to pick controversial and cutting edge topics. The hypothetical are projected onto a screen for the participants, and then we open the discussion with Dan and I weighing in, and taking lighthearted jibes at each other. One of the scenarios we crafted this year involved an employee from Colorado, with a seizure order to transferred to Arkansas. In our hypo, she legally used legal medical marijuana, in Colorado, to control the seizures, but stopped once she arrived in Arkansas. Soon after her transfer, she dropped a coffee pot in the break room, was injured, required to take a drug test. You can figure out the rest. The participants really got into it, and so did Dan and I which makes it fun. For all the scenarios, we both provide case law, citations to the regs and statutes, and policy arguments for the positions we take, our EEOC moderator chimes in with the Agency’s likely position.


Katharine Kores (left) and Deb Abney Moser-Finney

I like to stay to the end of the TAP Program, but I left early this year to hightail it back for Mom’s birthday that day (circling back to the theme of this post).

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Later that week, I flew to Chicago to participate in the ABA Labor and Employment Law (LEL) Section’s Leadership Development Program (LDP). As described in LEL Section materials:

The Leadership Development Program (LDP) is designed to support Section members interested in expanding a current leadership role or growing their knowledge of the Section so that they can assume a leadership role in the future. These individuals reflect diversity and help the Section support ABA Goal III. It is our hope that at the conclusion of this program, LDP participants will have a better sense of how the Section operates and of leadership opportunities available, and will be better able to focus their future Section involvement.

Brenda Sutton-Willis & Cassie Springer Ayeni,, Co-Chairs of the LEL LDP

Brenda Sutton-Willis & Cassie Springer Ayeni, Co-Chairs of the LEL LDP

The LEL Section operates on the basis of consensus and this is reflected in everything we do. This means that there is a balanced perspective for all the Section’s activities. Union and or employee representatives, management lawyers,  and neutrals share leadership responsibilities, and those affiliations are taken into account along with diversity and geography in selecting the LDP participants. You can see the consensus principle reflected in the Co-Chairs of the LDP Program this year. They are: Woody Anglade, Deputy Executive Director for the U.S. Senate Office of Compliance; Cassie Springer Ayeni, Springer and Roberts; Jeffrey A. Dretler, Fisher & Phillips; and Brenda Sutton-Willis, California Teachers Association.


Examples of the LDP session topics include: Section of Labor and Employment Law Overview, Structure and Organization, Effective Communication and Working Effectively in a Diverse ABA, and Understanding and Resolving Conflicts.  My role in this year’s program was to present a luncheon talk on mentoring. You can view the Prezi I put together here. I was worried about it, because although I am the beneficiary of tremendous mentoring, and have been a mentor myself, I don’t think of myself as an expert on the topic. But thankfully it was well received.



More important than being a speaker, though, was having the opportunity to interact with the rising start of our section. I always learn from them and from the other speakers, and enjoy the camaraderie of and warm friendships I have with our Section leadership.


LEL Leadership, (L-R) Joyce Margulies, Gail Holtzman & Stu Manela

LEL Leadership, (L-R) Joyce Margulies, Gail Holtzman & Stu Manela


While I was there, I was able to visit the offices of the ABA Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar, which are housed on the same floor as the conference room in which the Leadership Development Program was held.  I enjoyed the tour of the place where the so much of the work of the Legal Ed Section is done. In addition, because the Legal Ed Section was preparing to present the proposed Standards for Approval of Law Schools to the ABA House of Delegates in August (the stuff of another post), I was able to visit with Barry Currier and Becky Stretch about that while I was in there.


Barry Currier, Managing Director of Accreditation and Legal Education at the American Bar Association

Barry Currier, Managing Director of Accreditation and Legal Education at the American Bar Association

I flew out early from the LDP so that I could return in time to participate in the One America panel I mentioned earlier. It’s difficult to know exactly what the best allocation of one’s time is. Some things are not easily categorized as personal or professional, complicating the calculus of how to think about the time spent.  But, I am being much more intentional about my choices as I continue to strive work an integrated life.


Chicago River