Not Your Average DEI Podcast

Not Your Average DEI Podcast is a monthly podcast by jurisADVANCE, the diversity consulting service line of JURISolutions Legal (JSL), with a primary focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the legal industry. Each month, a host from JSL’s DEI Team will be joined by a key legal or diversity leader across the country to share, learn, and ultimately grow as one legal community.

Not Your Average DEI Podcast

Episode 15 - Theodora Lee

February 13, 2024

Theodora Lee, Senior Partner with Littler Mendelson, P.C., joins JSL’s Vickie Hubbard and Cindy Towers for Episode 5 of Season 2 of Not Your Average DEI Podcast! Theodora, Vickie, and Cindy explore Theodora’s extensive legal career and the challenges she has experienced as a woman of color attorney, and discuss Theodora’s success as the owner of Theopolis Vineyards.

Theodora Lee, a Senior Shareholder/Partner and Trial Lawyer in the San Francisco and Walnut Creek offices of Littler Mendelson, defends employers in complex wage and hour class actions, discrimination class action lawsuits and general employment litigation. Ms. Lee has extensive courtroom experience and specializes in all aspects of employment and labor relations law, including wrongful termination litigation; National Labor Relations Board matters, including representation cases, unfair labor practice proceedings, grievance arbitrations; Title VII and FEHA proceedings, including race, sex, religious and age harassment and discrimination; and unfair competition proceedings. She also counsels employers on day to day employment issues such as covenants not to compete, hiring and termination of employees, the Equal Pay Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, the California Business and Professions Code, the Family and Medical Leave Act, federal and state wage and hour issues, pre-employment screening, litigation avoidance, reductions in force, the development of personnel policies and procedures, workplace violence, employee terminations, employment agreements, drug and alcohol testing, and risk management protocols. Ms. Lee’s energy and enthusiasm for labor and employment law translates into an intense focus on providing value to clients through innovative and superior quality work with exceptional client service.

Ms. Lee is a settlement commissioner, Early Neutral Evaluator, AAA certified arbitrator and mediator, and has concluded more than 5,000 matters through use of private arbitration or mediation, including large, complex, class actions, multi-party litigation actions, and individuals suing their employers. She has been a contributing writer to numerous employment law publications and presents seminars on a wide variety of employment issues and regularly conducts in-house employment law training programs, including Pay Equity, Implicit Bias, Managing the Whistleblower, among other topics.

Ms. Lee regularly appears on TV and Radio, including NPR and PBS, speaking on various employment topics. She is an Advisor to the Executive Committee of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the California Lawyers Association and serves as a Board Member of various community organizations, including YMCA – San Francisco. She is Co- Board Chairman of the Dallas Post Tribune Newspaper. She is Past President of Bay Area Black United Fund and the Alameda County Community Food Bank, and Past Vice President of the United Negro College Fund San Francisco Advisory Board. She has been recognized as one of the Leading Law Firm Rainmakers by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, named to the Best Lawyers in America© and named as a Super Lawyer – Northern California. She is an elected member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). Ms. Lee has received an AV® Peer Review Rating from Martindale-Hubbell for the last 25 years and has been named one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.

Apart from the practice of law, Ms. Lee is an award-winning vintner, and owner of Theopolis Vineyards. In the wine world, Ms. Lee is known as Theo-patra, Queen of the Vineyards. Wine Critics, including Robert Parker, Antonio Galloni Presents Vinous and Wine Enthusiast Magazine, have consistently bestowed on wines from Theopolis Vineyards 90 Plus Points. She is a graduate of Spelman College and the University of Texas School of Law.

Not Your Average DEI Podcast

Episode 14 - Kim Cuccia

January 4, 2024

Kim Cuccia joins JSL’s Vickie Hubbard for Episode 4 of Season 2 of Not Your Average DEI Podcast! Kim and Vickie discuss the value of supplier diversity programs in the legal industry and the importance of considering diverse-owned law firms for outside counsel opportunities.

Kim Cuccia is Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary for NiSource Inc. She provides leadership and oversight for all legal matters related to NiSource’s gas and electric utility operating companies in its six-state service area. Prior to her current role, Cuccia was Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Legal Regulatory for NiSource.

Cuccia has been a member of NiSource’s legal department for 14 years. She previously served as General Counsel for Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, responsible for legal strategy and planning for the company during NiSource’s restoration effort in Greater Lawrence, Massachusetts. She also led the business team established to respond to the state investigations into the Merrimack Valley Incident.

Since joining NiSource, she has held positions of increasing responsibility including serving as chief counsel for all Columbia Gas Companies and leading the company’s safety management system (SMS) deployment.

Cuccia is a member and serves on the executive legal committee of the American Gas Association and various bar associations. She is active in NiSource’s diversity and inclusion efforts and joined the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity in 2021 pledging her commitment to increase diversity and equity in the legal profession. 

Not Your Average DEI Podcast

Episode 13 - Heather Choi

November 3, 2023

Heather Choi joins JSL’s Vickie Hubbard for Episode 3 of Season 2 of Not Your Average DEI Podcast! This fireside chat with Heather, Partner and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Baker Botts, covers her career trajectory from an Associate to a Partner and now to her dual role, as well as her advice for young women of color attorneys in Big Law.

Heather Choi is Baker Botts’ first-ever Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer. Heather is responsible for all aspects of the firm’s global equity and inclusion strategy. She collaborates with firm leadership to integrate diversity best practices, with a focus on shaping programs around recruitment, retention, promotion and client engagement. Heather also chairs the Baker Botts Diversity & Inclusion Committee – working closely with the firm’s executive leadership to drive and accelerate institutional diversity and inclusion priorities.

In her leadership role, Heather serves as an ambassador for Baker Botts and collaborates with clients as they advance their own diversity and inclusion priorities. Heather believes that creating a more equitable and inclusive workforce is paramount, and that where we work should reflect the world around us. She is committed to advancing this principle at Baker Botts and within the legal profession as a whole.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Heather has spent her entire legal career with Baker Botts. In tandem with her role as Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Heather is a leading corporate investigations and competition partner who represents corporations and individuals in complex criminal and civil enforcement matters before the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other federal and state enforcement agencies.  She represents clients across a broad range of industries including automotive, energy, diversified manufacturing, beverage distribution, and technology.

Not Your Average DEI Podcast

Episode 12 - Leslie Davis

September 12, 2023

Leslie Davis joins JSL’s Vickie Hubbard for Episode 2 of Season 2 of Not Your Average DEI Podcast! In this episode, Vickie and Leslie touch on the importance of mentorship and the power of allyship in the legal industry, and discuss Leslie’s career trajectory and her role as CEO of NAMWOLF.

Leslie D. Davis is a respected leader, experienced advocate, and logical strategist who has been a tireless champion for equity in the legal profession. As the Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms, Inc., Leslie is uniquely aligned with NAMWOLF’s mission having been a law firm partner and rainmaker, all while successfully negotiating the challenges that come with being a woman of color in the corporate legal profession. 

For over two decades, Leslie has served as lead counsel for many jury trials, bench trials and arbitrations, obtaining favorable verdicts for her clients in complex and high-stakes cases. In addition to being a skilled lawyer, Leslie is a transformational leadership coach who prides herself on helping clients reach their highest potential. She is a sought-after speaker and has helped many organizations and educational institutions with her presentations on diversity, core energy leadership and social media.  Honored by a number of professional, academic and community organizations, Leslie continues to use her talents and influence to support the needs of both the legal field and the broader community through her training, pro bono and community service contributions.

NAMWOLF is celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2021, a milestone that coincides with a moment of challenge and disruption in the legal profession. The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted every business and social justice issues are increasingly a catalyst for change. Corporate legal departments are responding by demanding more diversity from their outside counsel and legal services providers. In the recent Survey of the Industry by the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium, 61% of the 200 in-house legal professionals polled said launching a Diversity & Inclusion program was their top priority. But, achieving this goal is often hampered by engrained behaviors and the failure to establish best practices and benchmarks to make diversity goals a reality.

Leading the NAMWOLF team, Leslie is having a substantial impact by educating corporate legal departments about the moral and business imperative for increasing diversity.  NAMWOLF is well positioned to provide guidance and resources for those legal departments seeking to increase opportunities for minority-owned law firms and legal service providers. NAMWOLF’s vision and mission supports 200+ MWBE law firms, operating in 42 states, in every major practice area. Under Leslie’s leadership, NAMWOLF will expand programming and outreach to major U.S. corporations interested in achieving meaningful change in their legal departments.

Leslie is a proud Hawkeye having earned her J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law and her M.A. and B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from The University of Iowa.  She resides in Chicago with her husband, Theodore and two children, Niel and Ellyss, who provide the sparkle in her eyes and the resolve in her step.

Not Your Average DEI Podcast

Episode 11 - Dr. Ella Washington

July 5, 2023

Dr. Ella Washington joins JSL’s Vickie Hubbard and Krystle Martinez for the first episode of Season 2 of Not Your Average DEI Podcast! In this episode, Vickie, Krystle, and Kimberly tackle the topic of microaggressions in the workplace.

Dr. Ella Washington is an organizational psychologist and DEI expert with a wealth of experience through her involvement as the Founder and CEO of Ellavate Solutions, a Professor of Practice at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, and the co-host of Gallup’s Center of Black Voices Cultural Competence Podcast. Within all of these roles, Dr. Washington continues to deepen her research pipeline and thought leadership as a Gallup Senior Scientist studying inclusive leadership, strengths and other DEI workplace topics. She has global consulting experience in the human capital space, which has allowed her to impact clients across a myriad of industries including financial services, sports & entertainment, oil & gas, higher education and government. Previously, Dr. Washington worked at Gallup and led the Diversity and Inclusion practice where she provided insight to clients on issues of culture, strategic DEI and engagement. A pivotal moment for her personally and professionally, she is eager anticipating the release of her first solo book published by Harvard Business Review Press, The Necessary Journey: Making Real Progress on Equity and Inclusion. 

Not Your Average DEI Podcast

Episode 10 - Kimberly Leefatt

January 12, 2023

Kimberly Leefatt joins JSL’s Vickie Hubbard and Krystle Martinez for the tenth episode of Not Your Average DEI Podcast! In this episode, Vickie, Krystle, and Kimberly tackle the topic of equity within law firms.

Kimberly Leefatt is an attorney practicing in California and a proud alumna of Howard University School of Law. Prior to joining the Natural Resources Defense Council in 2021 as a staff attorney in the litigation department, Kimberly practiced for about 6 years as an associate with private law firms. Informed by her work spanning litigation, transactional, and regulatory compliance, Kimberly has not only developed a multifaceted practice in environmental law, but also an acute awareness of the challenges faced by diverse attorneys. Having participated alongside and served on numerous DEI committees in the legal space, Kimberly has leaned into her experiences as a black woman in an attempt to improve the legal industry for diverse people within her networks. She now shares her experiences, both professional and personal, to provide legal professionals with insights into the successes and failures of DEI efforts, from the perspective of a black female attorney that those efforts intended to serve. Her TikTok handle is @w.deliberate.interest. Through the platform, she reflects on her experiences as a diverse attorney and provides commentary on DEI efforts and allyship.

Not Your Average DEI Podcast

Episode 9 - Jayzen Patria

December 6, 2022

Jayzen Patria joins JSL’s Chief Diversity Officer, Vickie Hubbard, for the ninth episode of Not Your Average DEI Podcast! In this episode, Vickie and Jayzen take a deep dive into Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and what makes an ERG program successful.

Jayzen Patria is a personal branding expert, diversity advocate, and keynote speaker. He helps transform organizations through the power of their people finding their true brand voice and bringing their best authentic selves to work every day.

Jayzen is a 25-year learning and development veteran of Fortune 100 companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and NBCUniversal, and he has worked with some of the world’s top entertainment, media and tech brands. At NBCUniversal, Jayzen led executive development and is noted as the architect of the Talent Lab, their uniquely branded corporate university.

Inspired by his multicultural background, he is a life-long equality advocate serving in roles to champion diversity, including leading global ERGs for fifteen years and creating development programs for female and other underrepresented employees.

Jayzen has been featured at international conferences, is the host of the popular Lead With Your Brand! podcast and is proud to serve on the American Red Cross’ National Diversity Advisory Council and the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

Not Your Average DEI Podcast

Episode 8 - Jocelyn Armstrong

October 31, 2022

Jocelyn Armstrong joins JSL’s Chief Diversity Officer, Vickie Hubbard, for the eighth episode of Not Your Average DEI Podcast! In this episode, Vickie and Jocelyn discuss attrition and retention, the difference between mentorship and sponsorship, and so much more!

Jocelyn M. Armstrong, Esq. is the Director of Inclusion and Outreach at the Ohio State Bar Association (Ohio Bar). She leads programming and integration of inclusion, diversity, and equity in association culture. Additionally, she oversees outreach to new lawyers and law students as well as OSBA member committees and sections.

Jocelyn is committed to advancing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and broader community. Prior to joining the OSBA, Jocelyn worked as district director for Ohio’s 3rd Congressional District. She was also the Assistant Executive Director and Diversity Coordinator at the Columbus Bar Association. As a volunteer leader, Jocelyn was a member of the African American Law Alumni at Capital University Law School and served as President of the John Mercer Langston Bar Association (2015).

Jocelyn, admitted to the Ohio Bar in 2009, is a native of Toledo, Ohio. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the Max M. Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University and a Juris Doctor from Capital University Law School.

While at Capital University Law School, Jocelyn received the Dean’s Scholarship, Class of 2006 Scholarship, and the Dean’s Public Service Award. Jocelyn remains active in the Capital community as a member of the Law Alumni Association Board and is a frequent panelist for prospective and new students. In 2016, Jocelyn received the Alumni Outstanding Service Award.

Jocelyn also serves as a board member of Bridgeway Academy and an advisory board member for Breaking Bread: Let’s Talk. She is active in her church community including serving as a former member of the New Salem Baptist Church Trustee Board. When she’s not in meetings, Jocelyn enjoys yoga, reading, traveling, and producing the Inscribing Inclusion podcast.

Not Your Average DEI Podcast

Episode 7 - Virginia Essandoh

September 4, 2022

Virginia Essandoh joins JSL’s Chief Diversity Officer, Vickie Hubbard, for the seventh episode of Not Your Average DEI Podcast! In this episode, Vickie and Virginia discuss the obstacles affecting the progression of DEI in the legal industry and effective strategies for overcoming those obstacles.

Virginia Essandoh serves as Ballard Spahr’s Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer. She sits on the Management Committee and Expanded Board and is responsible for overseeing, implementing, and providing strategic leadership to Ballard Spahr’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Working closely with the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council, Virginia advises and collaborates with firm management, including Department Chairs, Office Managing Partners, and administrative professionals to implement the firm’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic goals and inspire the concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion into firm culture.

Before joining Ballard Spahr, Virginia was senior consultant at Altman Weil, Inc. In this capacity, she assisted in developing and implementing diversity and gender initiatives and strategies in private law firms and corporate legal departments, advised on organizational and management structures for law firms and corporate legal departments, and facilitated law firm strategic planning, client satisfaction, strategic marketing, and management structure analysis for her clients.

Not Your Average DEI Podcast

Episode 6 - Vanessa Watson

August 30, 2022

Vanessa Watson joins JSL’s Chief Diversity Officer, Vickie Hubbard, for the sixth episode of Not Your Average DEI Podcast! In this episode, Vickie and Vanessa discuss Vanessa’s decision to join the legal industry, the importance of mentorship and sponsorship to young lawyers, and the issue with retention at law firms.

Vanessa Kaye Watson is the Senior Vice President, Assistant General Counsel for Consumer Solutions at Mastercard.  In this role, Vanessa manages a global team of attorneys responsible for Network and Digital Payment Services, Blockchain & Digital Currencies, Foundry, Consumer Products for Issuers, Acceptance Solutions, Segment and Fintech Solutions and Optimization and Economics.

Prior to her current role, Vanessa served as lead counsel for a few groups: Franchise, Public Policy, Compliance and New Customer Types, North America region of Mastercard’s Data and Services business, Services Lead for North American Markets, and global partnership counsel for Data and Services.

Before joining Mastercard in 2011, Vanessa was a senior associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges. Vanessa graduated from Fordham University School of Law and is a member of both the New York and New Jersey State Bar.

In addition to her day job, Vanessa enjoys and has spent her entire legal career giving back through not-for-profit board memberships, volunteerism, and mentoring.

Not Your Average DEI Podcast

Episode 5 - Darius Treadwell

August 2, 2022

Darius Treadwell joins JSL’s Chief Diversity Officer, Vickie Hubbard, for the fifth episode of Not Your Average DEI Podcast! In this episode, Vickie and Darius discuss Darius’ experience as a legal recruiter, what diverse legal professionals are looking for in a law firm, and Vickie and Darius’ excitement over the launch of jurisADVANCE.

Darius has 20+ years of executive recruiting experience specializing primarily in the legal industry. Darius has been a key contributor at JURISolutions Legal (JSL) for nearly 15 years. His focus has been on assisting top law firms and leading corporations across the country with lateral Partner/Associate placement, practice group acquisition, and all levels of in-house corporate counsel placement. He has experience filling non-legal executive searches for government and public transportation entities. Darius started his executive recruiting career at a financial recruiting services firm focused on the banking, brokerage, and investment management arena. Before entering executive recruiting, Darius worked as an insurance/reinsurance industry specialist in the financial services practice group of a global professional services network. Darius received his B.S. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance and his M.B.A. from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Business Administration. Darius is a former Co-Chair of the Penn Alumni Diversity Alliance and a former Vice President of the University of Pennsylvania Black Alumni Society.

Not Your Average DEI Podcast

Episode 4 - Adrienne Fox

June 27, 2022

Adrienne Fox joins JSL’s Co-Founder/President & CEO, Cindy Towers, for the fourth episode of Not Your Average DEI Podcast! Adrienne and Cindy discuss the expansive field of legal procurement, the importance of trust in this area, and the key difference between price and value.

Adrienne Fox is a Director of Global Category Management for Legal Services at Novartis, a global leader in pharmaceuticals. As a seasoned procurement professional, Adrienne has spent 7 years in a dedicated role with legal, focused on delivering value and efficiency in legal spend management at local, global & cross-functional levels. As a strategic business partner to legal, her mission is to drive change and improve the sourcing, engagement, pricing & firm relationship management processes with law firms and legal services providers. Adrienne has been involved with DEI for many years, as a Supplier Diversity Council representative & champion, as a mentor to suppliers, and representing Novartis at supplier diversity events. She is also a chairperson of Disability Mentoring Day at Novartis, an annual event in support of local NJ high school students geared to build confidence and provide students with learning opportunities about career options after graduation.

Prior to procurement, Adrienne worked as a paralegal and compliance manager. Adrienne received a B.S. in Administration of Justice & English from Rutgers College, an ABA approved Paralegal Certificate, and an M.A. in Corporate & Organizational Communications from Farleigh Dickinson University, NJ.

Not Your Average DEI Podcast

Episode 3 - Sela Garcia

May 17, 2022

Sela Garcia joins JSL’s Chief Diversity Officer, Vickie Hubbard, for the third episode of Not Your Average DEI Podcast! Sela and Vickie discuss the importance of representation, Sela’s experiences within the legal industry so far, and the importance of mentorship.

Sela Garcia is a first year civil-defense attorney with Paul Garcia & Associates. She is from and currently works in San Antonio, Texas. Sela attended Texas Christian University (TCU) for undergraduate and The University of Memphis for law school. In law school, Sela was a member of the Moot Court Board and participated in various groups like street law and alternative spring break pro bono programs. Currently, her firm is a member of NAMWOLF and focuses primarily on civil defense litigation in the central Texas area. However, her casework has recently taken her all over Texas, from the panhandle to the coast. She is involved in San Antonio Young Lawyer’s Association (SAYLA), and the Emerging Leaders Initiative of NAMWOLF. In the immediate future, her goals include working more with the San Antonio Legal Services Association on pro bono cyberbullying cases under the new Texas David’s law and getting more involved with her local Bar Association.

Not Your Average DEI Podcast

Episode 2 - Wesley Bizzell

April 21, 2022

Wesley Bizzell joins JSL’s Chief Diversity Officer, Vickie Hubbard, and JSL’s Chief Diversity Consultant, John Perella, for the second episode of Not Your Average DEI Podcast! In this episode, Wesley, John, and Vickie discuss Wesley’s role in moving the needle in diversity within the legal industry, DEI metrics, and why legal may be behind.

Wesley Bizzell (Wes) serves as Senior Assistant General Counsel and Managing Director of Political Law & Ethics Programs for Altria Client Services. Overseeing a comprehensive compliance system covering the regulation of government affairs, Wes provides advice on political law compliance for more than 75 jurisdictions. Previously, he was an attorney in Winston & Strawn LLP’s Federal Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs Practice Group. Wes is extremely active in promoting diversity and inclusion within the legal industry and corporate communities. He is a founding member and serves on the steering committee for Altria’s LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group (ERG) and is the immediate past president of the National LGBTQ+ Bar Association. He has been named by London’s Financial Times and Yahoo Finance as one of the 100 Worldwide OUTstanding Leading LGBT+ Corporate Executives, and Chambers and Partners also named him the 2019 LGBT+ Equality Lawyer of the Year. In 2021, he was appointed to serve as a commissioner for the American Bar Associations’ Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Commission.

Not Your Average DEI Podcast

Episode 1 - Cindy Towers

March 15, 2022

JSL’s President & CEO, Cindy Towers, joins JSL’s Senior Relationship Manager, Vickie Hubbard, for the first episode of jurisADVANCE’s podcast, Not Your Average DEI Podcast. In this episode, Cindy and Vickie cover Cindy’s background, why the time to address DEI in the legal industry is now, and what else jurisADVANCE has planned.