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Diversity & Inclusion Committee

Leadership Academy

The Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Academy is AAJ’s leading program to promote diversity among its membership and leadership, particularly for those who are underrepresented within the association.

2021 Leadership Academy

AAJ’s Leadership Academy provides training to highly qualified and talented members, in particular those who are underrepresented within the association, to help make them more effective leaders in AAJ, in their law firms, and in their communities.

Applications for the 2021 class are due on or before April 23, 2021. Details on the application process are below.

Apply Today

2021 Leadership Academy Overview

Application Process

Applications will be accepted from March 1-April 23.  To submit your application, complete the online form and upload your résumé; personal statement; names of two references, one of whom must provide a letter of recommendation; and a photo (optional).


Trial lawyers selected for the 2021 Leadership Academy are required to attend three, two-day training sessions.  These sessions are tied several of AAJ's signature annual events. 

  • Session 1: July 15 & 16, 2021, preceding the Annual Convention, Chicago, IL
  • Session 2: October 2021, preceding the Fall Board of Governors Meeting, Washington, DC
  • Session 3: February 10 & 11, 2022, preceding the Winter Convention, Boca Raton, FL

A special thank you to Brenda S. Fulmer, Fulmer Family Foundation, for the generous support of AAJ's Leadership Academy.

Navan Ward photograph
From chairing committees and Caucuses, supporting our PAC fundraising, or working on membership activities


Nearly seventy women, 55 minorities, and 7 LGBT members are among those who make up the 96 graduates, with nearly 70 percent serving in a leadership role for the organization in 2018.

Jackie Olinger Rochelle dark jacket
Cultivate lifelong relationships and collaborate with Trial Lawyers from all over the country.


Since 2013, lawyers from all over the country have participated in AAJ’s Leadership Academy.

Membership & Awards Luncheon


Graduates will be recognized for their achievement at the Membership & Awards Luncheon during AAJ’s Annual Conventions.

Leadership Academy highlights

Session I


  • Leadership Academy Overview
  • Goals and Approaches to Success
  • Values & Leadership Behaviors
  • Implicit & Unconscious Bias
  • Lawyering, Change Style Indicators (CSI)


  • MBTI® & Colour Blind®
  • Personality & Team Functioning
  • Team Communication
  • Situation-Behavior-Impact Feedback (SBI)
  • SMART Goal Setting


Session II


  • FIRO-B Interpersonal Assessment
  • Win as Much as You Can®
  • Building Resiliency & Learning Agility


  • Challenge of Change
  • Resiliency Planning & Action
  • SMART Goal Review & Accountability Partnering

Session III


  • Influence Style Indicator (ISI)
  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
  • SBI Review & Practice


  • Key Leadership Feedback & Coaching
  • Networks
  • Lessons Learned & SMART Goals
  • Recap & Wrap



Dates and session topics are subject to change. Sessions are scheduled to be in-person; subject to change due to COVID-19.

Vanessa Cantley in front of floral painting

Vanessa Cantley

Bahe Cook Cantley & Nefzger, PLC Louisville, KY
(Class 1)

“I have a newfound sense of confidence in my ability to be an effective leader. I made powerful friendships that I know will last a lifetime and am excited to use all the knowledge I gained during the Academy to help AAJ meet its goals.”

Brenda Fulmer

Brenda Fulmer

Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, PA West Palm Beach, FL
(Class 1)

“Some of the strongest relationships that I have with professional colleagues were formed through the Leadership Academy experience. I am thrilled to have gained so many new friends through this experience.”

Leslie A. Wright

Rubio Law Firm, P.C. Birmingham, AL
(Class 1)

“I began implementing the skills I took away from our sessions immediately and it has had a profound effect on my profession and personal relationships.”

Raymond Jones in front of the Capitol Building

Raymond Jones

Law Offices of Raymond R. Jones, P.C. Washington, DC
(Class 2)

“If you care about the future of AAJ and moving us forward against some powerful adversaries, I say apply. What you learn will help AAJ grow as an organization and help you grow as an advocate fighting for people. What you learn in a short time will last a lifetime.”

Tim Williams in front of brick wall

Tim Williams

Dwyer Williams Cherkoss Attorneys, PC Bend, OR
(Class 1)

“The networking and friendships alone is worth the price of admission. Additionally, it is a great first step towards becoming a true leader both within and outside of AAJ. Perhaps most importantly, it offers you a chance at self-discovery and revelation.”

Nicholas Johnson in dark suit

Nicholas Johnson

Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, PC Palm Beach Garden, FL
(Class 4)

“In order to attain a level of peak performance in your chosen practice of law, it is of utmost importance that you are able to relate well with your staff, manage your time efficiently, manage the inevitable stress in a healthy fashion, and obtain a work/life balance that will keep you thriving as you continue zealously representing your clients. The AAJ Leadership Academy arms you with these vital intangibles and unlocks your true potential to succeed.”

Joseph Gates

Gates Law Firm, PLLC Little Rock, AR
(Class 5)

“I cannot recommend Leadership Academy highly enough. Not only did I learn critical skills on how to lead and manage others, the intimate structure of the class created lifelong friendships with my fellow Leadership Academy graduates and AAJ staff.”

Amy Heins on dark background

Amy Heins

Shelley Leeke Law Firm Charleston, SC
(Class 5)

“Leadership Academy was the highlight of my year. I learned so much more than I’d expected. You learn through self-assessments, group work, and lots of discussion how what your strengths are, and more importantly, how different approaches all have value. It’s a structured program that manages also to be free flowing and incredibly fun. And the best part was meeting my fellow LA 5 classmates (the best class) – we hit it off immediately, and are still in constant contact. The support you will get from your classmates is like nothing else. I cannot recommend this program enough – it’s a absolute gift.”

Lindsay Cordes in a park

Lindsay Cordes

The Thomas Law Offices, PC Louisville, KY
(Class 5)

“AAJ Leadership Academy was one of the best experiences of my life. Not only did I learn invaluable leadership skills but I met people that I will consider close friends for the rest of my life. It was such a rewarding experience.”

Emily Thomas in a light pink suit

Emily Thomas

Olsman MacKenzie Peacock & Wallace Berkley, MI
(Class 5)

“Leadership Academy is something I wish that every person could experience because it reshaped how I connect and interact with others. As a result of this experience, I am more resilient, I am more focused on what matters, and I am more committed to building relationships to effect positive change.”

Shenoa Payne gray suit

Shenoa Payne

Shenoa Payne Attorney at Law Portland, OR
(Class 5)

“Leadership Academy taught me to be a better person, leader, and team player. It helped me understand how my values, background, and personality shape my decision-making, as well as the decision-making of others, in a way that has made me a more effective motivator, influencer, and supervisor. Understanding that not all leaders lead in the same way, or are influenced in the same way, has been key to developing critical leadership and influencing skills in working with clients, attorneys, judges, juries, and staff. But most of all, I walked away from the program with a greater confidence and an incredible set of new and long-lasting friendships with some of the most unique, diverse, and incredible people I will ever meet.”

Amber Pang Parra

Justinian & Associates San Antonio, TX
(Class 5)

“AAJ’s Leadership Academy may be the single most important thing that you can do to increase your effectiveness as a leader and as an attorney. The skills imparted provide a basis for personal and career development with lessons that enhance clarity, prevent burnout, and stoke the flames of enthusiasm. The process of Leadership Academy is transformative. I am so grateful for having had this opportunity, and to become a part of an amazing group of attorneys.”

Domenic Sanginiti black suit

Domenic Sanginiti

Stark & Stark Attorneys at Law Princeton, NJ
(Class 5)

“The Leadership Academy was an extremely enlightening experience. It challenged my norms and forced me to become more self-aware. Through the exercises and fostering environment, the academy encouraged an openness to new ideas and provided tools to utilize in working with others who share different beliefs and qualities. While I believe the Leadership Academy has taught me ways to become a better leader in the work place and organization settings, I think the skills gained are simply most valuable in life.”