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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.

2023 Leadership Academy Overview

Application Process

The 2023-2024 application window has closed. The next application window is scheduled for March 2024. Please email diversity@justice.org for more details on the application process.


Trial lawyers selected for the 2023 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 13 & 14, tied to AAJ’s Annual Convention in Philadelphia, PA.
  • Session 2: September 27 & 28, 2023, tied to AAJ’s Fall Board Meeting in Washington, DC
  • Session 3: February 8 & 9, 2024, tied to AAJ’s Winter Convention in Austin, TX.

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

Thank you to our 2022-2023 AAJ Leadership Academy Sponsors, Allen Allen Allen & Allen, PC, and Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm.

Thank you to our 2023-2024 AAJ Leadership Academy Sponsors, Andrus Anderson LLP, Bey & Associates LLC, and Grant & Eisenhofer, PA and Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm.


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.

Sample Curriculum

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.

AAJ follows the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines. It is strongly recommended that individuals attending our in-person events be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. If you are not fully vaccinated, it is strongly recommended that you test prior to attending our in-person events.  People with symptoms or a positive test should not attend the in-person event without first receiving a negative test.

AAJ partners with the Center for Creative Leadership to plan and conduct the education components of Leadership Academy.

Blue and Green triangle with the text "Center for Creative Leadership"

Leadership Academy Graduates by Class

Class of 2013

N. John Bey | Bey & Associates, LLC, Atlanta, GA

Vanessa Cantley | Bahe Cook Cantley & Nefzger, Louisville, KY

Trudy Fenster | Law Offices of Trudy Fenster, PC, Christiansted, Virgin Islands

Brenda Fulmer | Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, PA, West Palm Beach, FL

Brandi Gatewood | Gatewood Law, PLLC, Forest, MS

Katie Hubbard | Attorney at Law, St. Louis, MO

Priscilla Jimenez | Kline & Specter, PC, Philadelphia, PA

Brian Kent | Laffey Bucci Kent, LLP, Philadelphia, PA

Ricardo Martinez-Cid | Podhust Orseck, PA, Miami, FL

Curtis Osborne | Osborne Law Firm, PC, Charlotte, NC

A. Layne Stackhouse | Shrader & Associates, Houston, TX

Tad Thomas | Thomas Law Offices, PLLC, Louisville, KY

Tim Williams | Dwyer Williams Cherkoss Attorneys, PC, Bend, OR

Genevieve Zimmerman | Meshbesher & Spence, Ltd., Minneapolis, MN

Class of 2014

Rick Barrera | Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm, Albuquerque, TX

June Bashant | Rouda Feder Tietjen & McGuinn, San Francisco, CA

Lea Bucciero | Podhurst Orseck, PA, Miami, FL

Seth Cardeli | Levin & Perconti, Rockville, MD

Jennifer Greene | Scott Vicknair, LLC, New Orleans, LA

Raymond Jones | Law Offices of Raymond R. Jones, Washington, DC

Kristina Kastl | Kastl Law, PC, Dallas, TX

Annika Martin | Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, New York, NY

Jim O'Brien | O'Brien Law, LLC, Toledo, OH

Anastasia Pavich | Pavich Law Group, PC, Chicago, IL

Alyssa Segawa | Galiher DeRobertis & Waxman, LLP, Honolulu, HI

Leslie Wright | Rubio Law Firm, PC, Birmingham, AL

Class of 2015

Lauren Barnes | Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, LLP, Seattle, WA

James Bilsborrow | Weitz & Luxenberg, PC, New York, NY

Wendy Fleishman | Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, New York, NY

Julian Gomez | The Julian C. Gomez Law Firm, PLLC, McAllen, TX

Lexi Hazam | Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, San Francisco, CA

Kelly Hyman | The Hyman Law Firm, PA, West Palm Beach, FL

Adam Langino | Langino Law, Chapel Hill, NC

Jennifer Lipinski | Gordon & Partners, PA, Stuart, FL

Danielle Mason | Attorney at Law, Montgomery, AL

Kristen Miller | Attorney at Law, New York, NY

Kevin Monsour | Bruce Law Group, Louisville, KY

Jason Penn | Law Office of M. Edvard Shprukhman, Baltimore, MD

Adrian Vega | Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm, Albuquerque, NM

Zachary Wool | Barrios Kingsdorf & Casteix, LLP, New Orleans, LA

Class of 2016

Carla Aikens | Carla D. Aikens, PC, Detroit, MI

Caragh Fay | Fay Law Group, PA, Rockville, MD

Yvonne Flaherty | Lockridge Grindal Nauen, PLLP, Minneapolis, MN

Rachel Gusman | Graves McLain, PLLC, Tulsa, OK

Laurel Halbany | Kazan McClain Satterley & Greenwood, Oakland, CA

J.D. Hays | J.D. Hays Law, PLLC, Boulder, CO

Kate Jaycox | Robins Kaplan, LLP, Minneapolis, MN

Nicholas Johnson | Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, PLLC, Palm Beach Gardens, FL

Matthew Nace | Paulson & Nace, PLLC, Washington, DC

Neil Nazareth | Martzell Bickford & Centola, New Orleans, LA

Ashleigh Raso | Meshbesher & Spence, Ltd., Minneapolis, MN

Laura Yaeger | Yaeger Law, PLLC, St. Petersburg, FL

Class of 2017

Lindsay Cordes | Morgan & Morgan | Nashville, TN

Joseph Gates | Gates Law Firm, PLLC, Little Rock, AR

Amy Heins | Monge & Associates, North Charleston, SC

Lisa Lee | The Joel Bieber Firm, Richmond, VA

Luke Metzler | Van Wey Metzler & Williams, PLLC, Dallas, TX

Andre Mura | Gibbs Law Group, LLP, Oakland, CA

Florence Murray | Murray & Murray Co., LPA, Sandusky, OH

Ervin Nevitt | Coplan & Crane, Oak Park, IL

Amber Pang Parra | Justinian & Associates, PLLC, San Antonio, TX

Shenoa Payne | Shenoa Payne, Attorney at Law, PC, Portland, OR

Rebecca Phillips | The Lanier Law Firm, Houston, TX

Domenic Sanginiti | Stark & Stark, Lawrenceville, NJ

Jared Smith | Kentucky Trial Lawyers, Louisville, KY

Emily Thomas | Birth Justice Law Firm, Royal Oak, MI

Christina Unkel | mctlaw, Sarasota, FL

Sean Walton | Walton + Brown, LLP, Columbus, OH

Class of 2018

Alana Analone | Anzalone Law Offices, LLC, Denver, CO

Karen Beyea-Schroeder | Schroeder Law Office, The Woodlands, TX

Guy D'Andrea | Laffey Bucci Kent, LLP, Philadelphia, PA

Diandra "Fu" Debrosse Zimmerman | DiCello Levitt, LLC, Birmingham, AL

Sarah Hansel | Motley Rice, LLC, Cherry Hill, NJ

Srinivas Hanumadass | Panish Shea Boyle Ravipudi, LLP, Los Angeles, CA

Christopher Johnson | Waters Kraus & Paul | Dallas, TX

Lindsay Lawrence | Rittgers Rittgers & Nakajima, Cincinnati, OH

Carlos Llinas | Nelson & Fraenkel, LLP, Los Angeles, CA

Jeff Orenstein | Consumer Law Group, Montréal, QC

Tifanie Owens | Bey & Associates, LLC, Atlanta, GA

Leslie Pescia | Thomas Law Offices, PLLC, Louisville, KY

Brandon Vaughn | Robins Kaplan, LLP, Minneapolis, MN

Derrick Walker | Allen Allen Allen & Allen, PC, Richmond, VA

Lisa Weinstein | Grant & Eisenhofer, PA, Chicago, IL

Class of 2019

John Abaray | Abaray Craddock & Smith, PLLC, Louisville, KY

Tyler Bailey | Bailey Law Firm, LLC | Columbia, SC

Kevin Biniazan | Breit Biniazan, PC, Virginia Beach, VA

Sejal Brahmbhatt | Williams Hart Boundas Easterby, LLP, Houston, TX

Gwen-Marie Davis | GDH Law, Lanham MD

Andre Dennis | The Dennis Law Firm, LLC, Atlanta, GA

Susan Faunce | Berman & Simmons, PA, Lewiston, ME

Amanda Fox Perry | Fay Law Group, PA, Rockville, MD

Danielle Gold | Weitz & Luxenberg, PC, New York, NY

Adam Gomez | Grant & Eisenhofer, PA, Wilmington, DE

Kelli Hooper | Thomas J. Henry Law, Atlanta, GA

Bridget Long | Allen Allen Allen & Allen, PC, Petersburg, VA

Stephanie Luzzi | The Luzzi Law Firm, East Brunswick, NJ

Jared Placitella | Cohen Placitella & Roth, PC, Red Bank, NJ

Jessica Ramirez | D'Arcy Johnson Day, Egg Harbor Township, NJ

Kelley Simoneaux | The Spinal Cord Injury Law Firm, PLLC, Washington, DC

Miranda Soucie | Spiros Law, PC, Champaign, IL


Group of people standing in a long hallway


Class of 2021

Jasper Abbott | Harris Lowry Manton, LLP, Atlanta, GA

Harold Boone | The Boone Firm, PC, Atlanta, GA

Erin Copeland | Fibich Leebron Copeland & Briggs, Houston, TX

Christopher Fitzgerald | Law Offices of Christopher H. Fitzgerald, New York, NY

Eric Hernandez | Hernandez Lee Martinez, LLC, Miami, FL

Casey Johnson | Aitken*Aitken*Cohn, Santa Ana, CA

Tara King | Andrus Wagstaff, Denver, CO

Min Koo | Tosi Law, LLP, Atlanta, GA

Jackalyn Olinger Rochelle | Bailey Glasser, LLP, Webster Groves, MO

Tamarah Prevost | Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy, LLP, Burlingame, CA

Bhavani Raveendran | Romanucci & Blandin, LLC, Chicago, IL

Gladys Proa Santana | Proa Santana Law, LLC, North Aurora, IL

Ibiere Seck | Seck Law, PC, Los Angeles, CA

Bharati Sharma | Weitz & Luxenberg, PC, Cherry Hill, NJ

William Sykes | Claggett & Sykes Law Firm, Las Vegas, NV

Class of 2022

Petra Aaron | GDH Law, LLC, Lanham, MD

Ron Austin | Ron Austin & Associates, LLC, Harvey, LA

Daisy Ayllon | Romanucci & Blandin, LLC, Chicago, IL

Brian Bailey | Gibbs Law Group, LLP, Oakland, CA

Wilson Dunlavey | Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, New York, NY

Kelly Fitzpatrick | Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder, PC, Bridgeport, CT

Lindsey Gale | Domnick Cunningham & Yaffa, Palm Beach Gardens, FL

Jamie Goldstein | Arias Sanguinetti Wang Torrijos, LLP, Emeryville, CA

Bhaveen Jani | Stark & Stark, Lawrenceville, NJ

Yari Lawson | Lawson Raines, LLP, Lawrenceville, GA

Patrick Luff | Luff Law Firm, PLLC, Dallas, TX

Britney McDonald | Marc Whitehead & Associates, LLP, Houston, TX

Melissa Ray | Nichols Zauzig, Woodbridge, VA

Sara Schramm | Blasingame Burch Garrard & Ashley, PC, Athens, GA

Parker Stinar | Denver Trial Lawyers, Denver, CO

Tiega Varlack | Varlack Legal Services, Hayward, CA

Sharon Zinns | Zinns Law, LLC, Atlanta, GA

Anthony Beneduce Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman & Mackauf, New York, NY


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

Morgan & Morgan 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

Birth Justice Law 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.”