MIP Event Recap: Insights from NCBA’s Minority Corporate Counsel Panel

Robyn, a Black woman with black hair that is tied back, wears a white blouse. By Robyn Magee 

The legal landscape is evolving, and diversity in the legal profession is becoming increasingly important. Recognizing this, the Minorities in the Profession Committee of the North Carolina Bar Association recently hosted an enlightening event – the “Minority Corporate Counsel: Being Diverse in Corporate Law” panel. The purpose of this event was to provide a platform for students and alumni interested in corporate law to connect with and gain insights from diverse in-house attorneys and legal professionals in the corporate sector.

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Get To Know New Members: Michelle Dewkett-Kochhar

Michelle, a woman with long dark brown hair, wears a black blouse and light brown blazer. By Michelle Dewkett-Kochhar

MIP’s Get to Know New Members is a new blog feature to spotlight new members to the MIP Committee from North Carolina’s community of diverse attorneys and legal professionals. Members have the opportunity to introduce themselves to the broader community through a brief set of interview questions. Everyone, meet Michelle Dewkett-Kocchar.

What law school did you attend and what was your graduation year?

Campbell Law School, 2019.

Describe a typical day in your life.

After taking my puppy to the park for our morning play time and meeting our friends, I spend my day in the office working talking to clients and working through workers’ comp cases before coming home and making dinner for my husband and me. I love to spend my free time baking, reading, going on walks with my husband and dog, and just watching TV with them and our three cats.

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MIP’s Diverse Perspectives: Sidney Minter

By Sidney Minter

MIP’s Diverse Perspectives is a monthly blog feature to spotlight a member from North Carolina’s community of diverse attorneys and legal professionals. Members have the opportunity to share a personal perspective through a brief set of interview questions.

This month’s perspective is courtesy of Sidney Minter.

What law school did you attend and what was your graduation year?

North Carolina Central University School of Law; 2011.

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MIP’s Diverse Perspectives: Sylvia Novinsky

By Sylvia K. Novinsky

MIP’s Diverse Perspectives is a monthly blog feature to spotlight a member from North Carolina’s diverse community of attorneys and legal professionals. Each month, an MIP member shares their personal perspective through a brief set of interview questions.

This month’s perspective is courtesy of Sylvia Novinsky.

What law school did you attend, and when did you graduate?

I attended the Washington College of Law, at The American University. I graduated in 1992.

What inspired or prompted you to become an attorney?

I became an attorney because I wanted to speak out for others who were silenced or otherwise afraid to advocate for themselves.

My parents were born and raised in Argentina. They came to the United States with no language and very little money. My father went to school until the sixth grade and then had to work to help his family. My parents left Argentina in the hopes of living in a country where they could have freedoms their country did not provide. Additionally, being Jewish in Argentina is not always safe.

Living in a dictatorship is very scary. Upon returning to Argentina, I remember my parents telling me not to speak English in the streets for fear of the government hearing. I remember being stopped in the Argentine airport and watching my father get walked into a private room where government officials questioned him. I remember my mother being very scared. I remember the fear I experienced seeing soldiers on the streets with machine guns strapped across their bodies thinking, “Who are they looking for? What will they do with those guns?” I remember my cousin being brought into a police station because it was rumored they were speaking out against the government. I remember being told that women don’t go to college.

The freedom and ability to become a lawyer in only one generation is the promise this country delivers. In the U.S., I was able to go to college, become a lawyer, provide for myself financially, and practice our religion openly and safely.

Please describe a barrier or obstacle you have overcome in your professional career.

A huge obstacle for me was being a first-generation high school, college, and law student — the lack of knowledge and money are incredible barriers.

I learned English in the first grade from an amazing teacher. Her kindness and patience led me to a love of reading and a love for learning.

I did not know any lawyers. I gained so much from high school and university mentoring programs and caring school administrators. They challenged me to do things I didn’t think I could. I gained my confidence by trying, sometimes failing, and trying again.

I learned how to take care of myself financially and make sure I could always provide for myself and my family, while working for issues I care deeply about.

I am so grateful to my parents who gave up everything for me to achieve our dreams.

What message of encouragement do you have for others who may have experienced similar challenges or adversity as an attorney historically underrepresented in the legal profession?

You are not alone. Reach out to a school administrator, or legal affinity groups to find mentors. Their guidance and support can make this path a bit easier. Surround yourself with a cheerleading group who wants to see you succeed! Believe in yourself — when it feels like everyone else is smarter, more connected, more confident — know that you can do it! And finally, don’t forget to give back to others who are coming up behind you.

What one piece of advice, guidance, or wisdom would you give to new North Carolina lawyers?

Never stop learning. Take risks. Put yourself in uncomfortable situations and learn from them.

Sylvia K. Novinsky is the Pro Bono Resource Center’s inaugural director. Sylvia is tasked with supervising all of the Pro Bono Resource Center’s activities including serving as a clearinghouse for pro bono projects across the state, managing pro bono reporting and recognition, facilitating impactful pro bono projects which directly serve North Carolinians who would not otherwise have representation, uplifting the work of legal aid and other legal non-profits, coordinating trainings and CLEs for attorney volunteers, and recruiting and connecting volunteers directly to projects.

Sylvia comes to this role after nearly twenty years of service to the University of North Carolina School of Law, where she most recently held the role of Assistant Dean for Public Service Programs. During her tenure at Carolina Law, Sylvia founded and advised the UNC Law Pro Bono Program. She has also served as the institution’s Associate Director for Public Interest Law, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, and Associate Dean for Student Affairs. Sylvia also spends time inside the classroom as an adjunct professor, teaching “Spanish for American Lawyers” and “Leadership for Lawyers.”

Prior to her work in higher education, Sylvia worked as a legal aid attorney. After law school, Sylvia litigated federal employment-related issues and administrative unemployment, wage and hour claims, and consumer cases, for Peninsula Legal Aid in Virginia. She then served as Legal Director for the Center for Immigrants’ Rights in New York, New York, where she supervised a statewide hotline for immigrants and advocates and represented domestic workers on employment matters.

Sylvia grew up in Queens, NY, and is from Argentina. She is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Industrial & Labor Relations and The American University’s Washington College of Law. She is licensed to practice law in Maryland, the District of Columbia and New Jersey. She is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association serving on the Pro Bono Activities Committee, the Minorities in the Profession Committee and the Government and Public Service Section. She is also a member of the NC Advocates for Justice’s Hispanic and Latino Division.

MIP’s Diverse Perspectives: Clayton Morgan

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Clayton, a Black man, wears a white shirt, red tie and navy suit. He is smiling and standing with a wood-paneled wall behind him.By Clayton Morgan

MIP’s Diverse Perspectives is a monthly blog feature to spotlight a member from North Carolina’s diverse community of attorneys and legal professionals. Each month, an MIP member shares their personal perspective through a brief set of interview questions.

This month’s perspective is courtesy of Clayton Morgan.

What law school did you attend, and when did you graduate?

I attended the Wake Forest University School of Law and the Wake Forest Graduate School of Management, and graduated with my joint JD/MBA degree in May, 1991.

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MIP’s Diverse Perspectives: Giovonni Wade

Giovanni Wade is a young woman with black hair and brown eyes. She is pictured smiling against a white background, and she is wearing a white shirt and a yellow blazer.By Giovonni Wade

MIP’s Diverse Perspectives is a monthly blog feature to spotlight a member from North Carolina’s community of diverse attorneys and legal professionals. Members have the opportunity to share a personal perspective through a brief set of interview questions.

This month’s perspective is courtesy of Giovonni Wade, Director of Diversity Initiatives, University of North Carolina School of Law. 

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MIP’s Get to Know New Members Series

Keisha Murray

Keisha Murray

Cherell M. Harris

Cherell M. Harris

By Keisha Murray and Cherell M. Harris

MIP’s Get to Know New Members is a new blog feature to spotlight new members to the MIP Committee from North Carolina’s community of diverse attorneys and legal professionals. Members have the opportunity to introduce themselves to the broader community through a brief set of interview questions.

This month’s blog post features Keisha Murray, who is a member of the MIP Communications Committee, and Cherell Harris, who chairs the MIP Communications Committee.

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MIP’s Diverse Perspectives: Evin L. Grant

Evin L. Grant

By Evin L. Grant

MIP’s Diverse Perspectives is a monthly blog feature to spotlight a member from North Carolina’s community of diverse attorneys and legal professionals. Members have the opportunity to share a personal perspective through a brief set of interview questions.

This month’s perspective is courtesy of Evin L. Grant, Policy Director, North Carolina Department of Administration.

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Adelante! Moving Forward Event

By Preetha Suresh Rini

The North Carolina Bar Association’s Minorities in the Profession Committee (MIP) presented the annual ¡Adelante! | Moving Forward event on Saturday, January 29, 2022, via Zoom.

Preetha Suresh Rini (Robinson Bradshaw) and Giovonni Wade (UNC Law) co-chaired the event and participated in the program.

The event was presented to inform law students from diverse backgrounds about the skills necessary to succeed in law school, to transition from law school into the workforce, and to effectively network with professionals in the legal community and beyond.

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MIP’s Diverse Perspectives: Alison Ashe-Card

By Alison Ashe-Card 

MIP’s Diverse Perspectives is a monthly blog feature to spotlight a member from North Carolina’s community of diverse attorneys and legal professionals. Members have the opportunity to share a personal perspective through a brief set of interview questions.

This month’s perspective is courtesy of Alison Ashe-Card, Associate Director, Diversity & Inclusion, Wake Forest University School of Law, Winston-Salem, NC.

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