Business Law Section Strengthens its Diversity Fellowship Program

The Business Law Section, one of the Bar’s largest, is marking a 50th anniversary by focusing on COVID-19 recovery — and strengthening a Diversity Fellowship Program, said newly installed Chair Leyza Blanco.

“It’s helping feed the pipeline of leadership of the section, and it’s helping us really develop greater diversity,” Blanco said. “And it’s really come full circle, to serve as chair at a time when, obviously, issues of social justice and equality are so important.”

A shareholder at Sequor Law who specializes in bankruptcy, asset recovery, and cross-border insolvency, Blanco is a former chair of the Bankruptcy/UCC Committee.

Blanco said she was drawn to the committee that oversees the Diversity Fellowship Program when she started climbing the leadership ladder years ago.

“I understand that I am the first Hispanic chair of the Business Law Section, for starters,” she said. “I am obviously a minority, female Hispanic, and certainly underrepresented in the area where I practice.”

Immediate past Chair Jacob “Jay” Brown recently announced the eight newest members of the Fellowship Program, who must be 36 or younger or have been Bar members for less than 10 years.

Fellowship Program participants are assigned a social mentor and a substantive mentor and are given a $2,500 stipend for two years. The stipend has been increased this year by more than $700, Brown said.

When they aren’t attending meetings, program participants, among other things, help with membership recruitment, organize section events, and write white papers for legislative positions.

“It doesn’t work out all of the time, certainly there are some people who come in and either don’t take advantage of the fellowship, or they use it, and we don’t hear from them again,” Brown said. “But we have a number of them who are remaining active and that are taking not just leadership positions, but high-level leadership positions.”

This year, Brown named two former Fellowship Program participants Outstanding Members of the Year — Giacomo Bossa, managing partner with Morris and Associates, in Doral, and Michelle Suarez, partner and founder of Florida Entrepreneur Law, P.A., of Ft. Lauderdale.

Bossa now serves as incoming chair of the Business Litigation Committee, one of the section’s largest, Blanco said. Suarez is second vice chair of the Corporations Committee and the new chair of the Inclusion/Mentoring/Fellowships Committee, Blanco said.

Blanco said a number of Fellowship Program members are now serving as “second vice chairs” of section committees.

“In two years, we’re probably going to have the most diverse slate I have ever seen of any year of the section,” she said. “All but two of my appointees were female, so it’s pretty exciting.”

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