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Diversity & Inclusion Committee

Leadership Academy

The Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Academy provides leadership training to highly qualified members, in particular to those who are underrepresented within the association.

2024 Leadership Academy Overview

Application Process

The 2024-2025 application window opens March 1, 2024 and closes May 3, 2024. To apply you must be a current plaintiff AAJ member. Application requirements also include:

  • Personal Statement: Please attach a brief written statement (one to two pages) describing (a) why you believe you should be selected to participate in the 2024 AAJ Leadership Academy; (b) what you expect to gain from your participation; and (c) examples of your level of engagement in AAJ.
  • Photo: Attach a photo with your application (optional).
  • Reference & Recommendation Letter: Please list two references, one of which must be a written letter of recommendation from someone who can speak to your leadership potential, and how you would contribute to and benefit from the 2024 AAJ Leadership Academy.
  • Resume: Please attach a resume that includes your educational background, work history, professional and civic activities, and other information that would help demonstrate your aptitude and potential for leadership.

Please email diversity@justice.org for more details on the application process.


Trial lawyers selected for the 2024 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 18 & 19, tied to AAJ’s Annual Convention in Nashville, TN.
  • Session 2: September 24 & 25, tied to AAJ’s Fall Board Meeting in Washington, DC
  • Session 3: February 20 & 21, 2025, tied to AAJ’s Winter Convention in Puerto Rico.

A special thank you to Brenda S. Fulmer, Fulmer Family Foundation, for the generous ongoing support of AAJ’s Leadership Academy and to our 2024-2025 AAJ Leadership Academy sponsors:

 Romanucci Logo  StarknStark logo

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

Roshawn H. Donahue 

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

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

Srinivas Hanumadass | Singleton Schreiber, LLP, San Diego, 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 | Bullock Ward Mason, LLC, 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



Class of 2023

Monier Abusaft | Law Office of Mo Abusaft |    Spartanburg, SC

Matt Adair, Esq.  | Miller Weisbrod Olesky, LLP | Dallas, TX

Andre Archuleta | Curtis & Co. Law Firm | Albuquerque, NM

Emma Brockway | Doyle Dennis LLP |   Houston, TX

Rashanda Bruce | Robins Kaplan LLP |   Minneapolis, MN

Sara Couch | Motley Rice LLC |   Mt. Pleasant, SC

Nabilah Hossain | Cotchett, Pitre, and McCarthy |   Burlingame, CA

Devin Kelly | Roxanne Conlin and Associates, PC   | Des Moines, IA

Katherine Kiziah | Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, P.A.  | West Palm Beach, FL

Jami Oliver | Law Offices, Inc. |   Dublin, OH

Sarah Schindler | Kolsby Gordon Robin & Shore |  Philadelphia, PA

Chinsu Shajan | Stark & Stark PC   | Hamilton, NJ

Rachel Sykes | Pearson Butler   | South Jordan, UT

Mark Troutman | Gibbs Law Group LLP   | Columbus, OH

Selina Valdez | Marc Whitehead & Associates   | Houston, TX

Anita Washington | Bey & Associates   | Cincinnati, OH

Matthew Whitley | Greene & Schultz Trial Lawyers | Bloomington, IN

Courtney Winston | Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen   | Richmond, VA

Nabilah Hossain

Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy LLP Burlingame, CA
(Class 10)

" Leadership Academy gave me the clarity to see the difference between a manager and a leader and provided me with the skills, strength, and validation to be a true leader in my own voice. Best of all, I now have a circle of incredible like-minded advocates I can confide in and grow with. This experience was a privilege I encourage everyone to take advantage of."

Jared Smith

Jared Smith Law, PLLC Georgetown, KY
(Class 7)

"AAJ's Leadership Academy was a transformative experience that provided me with powerful insight into my leadership style. More importantly, it equipped me with the necessary skills and instilled the confidence to lead authentically. The greatest takeaway for me has been the camaraderie built with a network of exceptional, like-minded leaders who serve as a source of ongoing support and inspiration. I highly recommend this program to anyone seeking to take their leadership potential to the next level."

Rashanda Bruce

Robins Kaplan LLP Minneapolis, MN
(Class 10)

"My participation in AAJ’s Leadership Academy was an invaluable experience that exceeded my expectations. Leadership Academy allowed me to discover the type of leader that I am and how I show up in various spaces, and better understand how my leadership style impacts others. I have a deeper appreciation for those who I interact with and now have additional tools that I can use to bridge our differences and make more meaningful relationships. I feel wiser and a stronger leader not just as an attorney, but as person. One of my biggest takeaways from Leadership Academy was the relationship that I created with the other 17 members of my class. We have stayed connected and are each other’s biggest cheerleaders. I highly recommend Leadership Academy to everyone, you will not regret it."

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.”