Our 2019 speakers represent hundreds of years of experience in the legal profession as well as first-hand, practical knowledge of diversity and Inclusiveness in the workplace. Our goal is to always present cutting-edge information coupled with practical advice.
Our Plenary Speakers
Afternoon Plenary Speaker Ronetta Francis:
Ronetta Francis is the Founder and CEO of Francis Dynamics Consulting Group, which specializes in executive coaching and leadership development and was founded on the principle that when women own their brilliance and lead with authenticity, they flourish.
Francis has over 23 years combined experience as a senior trial attorney with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and as in-house counsel for Walmart Stores, Inc. At Walmart, she was VP of the US Ethics and Employment Compliance.
Certified as a John Maxwell Team Member Executive Coach, Speaker and Trainer, Francis is a passionate public speaker. In her coaching and training practice, she uses her dynamic “Bloom Where You’re Planted” Executive Coaching and Leadership Development ProgramTM, to support and empower leaders challenge the status quo, embrace their talents and refine their executive presence -- leading to their season of full bloom.
Morning Plenary Speaker Adis Vila:
A member of the Florida Bar and the Washington DC Bar, Adis Vila earned a law degree from the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida, a Diplôme in International Law from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (Geneva, Switzerland), an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and a BA in Mathematics from Rollins College.
Vila was named one of Hispanic Executive's Leading Latinas in 2018. She was honored with the "Woman Trailblazer" Award, Dorothy Height "Hats Off to You" Award, and "Women of Distinction" Award by The University of Akron, Girl Scouts of Colorado, and Delta Sigma Theta, respectively. Her work at the Air Force Academy was recognized with the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award, the "Dare to Dream Award" by the Colorado Springs Diversity Forum, and an INNOVATION Award by The Diversity Journal.
More About Our Concurrent Session Speakers
Christine Arguello In 2008, Christine Marie Arguello became the first Hispanic United States District Court Judge for the District of Colorado, attaining with that appointment another of the historic firsts that mark her distinguished legal career. She was the first Latina from Colorado to be admitted to Harvard University School of Law. She was the first Hispanic to be promoted to partner at one of the then “big four” law firms in Colorado and the first Latina to be tenured and promoted to full professor at University of Kansas School of Law. Arguello is respected for her expertise in the Federal Rules of Evidence and is the co-author of a leading casebook on evidence, Evidence: The Objection Method. In 2000, Arguello became the first Hispanic Chief Deputy Attorney General for Colorado. (see cogreatwomen.org)
Anne Benedict has been the Chief Legal Officer of Summit Materials, LLC since October 1, 2013 and serves as its Executive Vice President and Secretary. Ms. Benedict serves as Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Secretary at Summit Materials, Inc., She is admitted to practice in the State of New York and the District of Columbia. She is a Member of the NASD Corporate Financing Rules Subcommittee of the Committee on Federal Regulation of Securities of the American Bar Association's Business Law Section and a Member of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. Ms. Benedict received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Psychology from the University of Michigan in 1995 and Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1999.
Thomas Chow is a seasoned executive with 20 years of experience in technology, legal services, and startup companies. He joined PubMatic as general counsel in 2018, where he oversees the company’s global corporate, commercial, intellectual property and legal affairs. Chow obtained his bachelor’s degree in sociology, with honors, from the University of California, Berkeley and holds a J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. He loves working with startup founders and currently serves on the board of directors for Cryptsonic Technologies and advisory board for BiBo Labs.
Zack DeMeola is a manager at the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS), a national, independent research center at the University of Denver dedicated to facilitating continuous improvement and advancing excellence in the American legal system. At IAALS, he works to improve the delivery of legal services through a variety of projects that focus on education, the intersection of law and technology, and the regulation of the legal profession. DeMeola was also dedicated to pro bono work in his legal practice, and twice received awards from Mayer Brown for meeting the law firm’s Pro Bono Challenge. In 2015, Colorado Law Weekly recognized DeMeola as one of Colorado’s “up and coming lawyers.” DeMeola graduated from William & Mary School of Law in 2010. DeMeola also obtained a Master’s degree in American Studies from the College of William and Mary, and received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania.
Courtney Dredden Carter is the Associate Director of Diversity & Inclusion for Jenner & Block. In this role, Courtney leads the firm’s efforts to recruit, retain, develop and advance diverse lawyers. Courtney works closely with the firm’s Chief Talent Officer and Recruiting department to develop a holistic approach to talent management and development that specifically considers and implements programs for the firm/s diverse lawyers.
Erica Edwards-O'Neal is the Vice President for Inclusion and Diversity for the New York City Economic Development Corporation. In this role she oversees the development of policies and program to attract, retain and foster a diverse and inclusive workforce. Erica has provided training in and presented on cultural competence and diversity related matters across the country. Previously, as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion and Senior Career Counselor at Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, Erica provided leadership and training on matters relating to valuing diversity, cultural competence, and the embedding of effective diversity and inclusion practices for the law school.
Cindy Folse Pechon, JD, currently serves as acting chief legal officer (CLO) and general counsel for Colorado Permanente Medical Group (CPMG), one of the state’s largest multi-specialty medical groups with 1,200 physicians serving the 640,000 members of Kaiser Permanente Colorado. She has served as CPMG’s associate general counsel for the past two years. Cindy has a passion for CPMG and the patient-centered care provided by Permanente physicians. Prior to joining CPMG, Cindy worked as corporate counsel at Catholic Health Initiatives, an associated attorney at Caplan and Earnest, LLC, in Boulder and a staff attorney at Colorado Access.
Alexi Freeman has a distinguished record working alongside low-income communities and communities of color as a racial justice and legal advocate. Freeman continues to support grassroots communities and social justice movements pro bono. At Denver Law, Freeman focuses her efforts inside and outside of the classroom on building a community of students dedicated to pursuing the public good and training the next generation of social justice advocates. She is a member of the National Association of Pro Bono Professionals and serves on the Board of Governors for the Society of American Law Teachers, which is a community of progressive law teachers working for justice, diversity, and academic excellence. Freeman is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard Law School.
Rebekah Gordon is a second-year transfer law student at Northwestern Pritzker Law School in Chicago, IL. She is also an extern for a federal judge in the Northern District of Illinois. Rebekah has served as the National Director of Membership of the National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA), the nation's largest student-led non-profit organization entering into its 51st year. Among her many accolades, she was most recently awarded the 2018 Mayer Brown Diversity Scholarship for her efforts in addressing diversity and inclusion at her law school. Rebekah Gordon is committed to speaking with anyone who is interested in applying to law school. She finds it usually takes one conversation to make the difference, especially for those who are the first in their family to pursue the degree— just like her.Christina Herrmann is Chief Talent Officer and is responsible for the full employment life cycle of attorneys and staff. In this capacity, she provides strategic leadership to attract, develop and retain a superior diverse workforce. Thus, she ensures that the firm offers meaningful professional development, robust performance management and competitive total rewards. Prior to joining Shipman & Goodwin, Christina held senior human resources executive positions at AmLaw100 firms throughout the US, with significant responsibilities for international operations. In these roles, Christina honed her strategic and analytical abilities, while identifying opportunities to strengthen firm-wide organizational effectiveness in addressing stakeholder needs.
Gail Howard As the Director of the American Bar Association Section of Litigation’s Judicial Intern Opportunity Program, Gail Howard leads and directs all program activities including marketing, fundraising, intern selection, law student training, mentoring and program design. The Judicial Intern Opportunity Program (JIOP) places diverse and economically disadvantaged law students with state and federal judges for summer internships. Since taking over as the program director, JIOP has grown from placing 13 students in two cities to more than 150 students annually in 11 locations. The program has placed more than 2,600 students. Gail is responsible for setting the program goals and directing the JIOP committee as they increase diversity and inclusion in the profession. Under her direction, the program was a recipient of the California Bar Association’s Diversity Award for its long-term dedication to diversity and inclusion in the profession.
Gary Jackson is a Colorado native and graduated with honors from George Washington High School. He received an academic scholarship to the University of Redlands in California, earning his undergraduate degree and juris doctorate from the University of Colorado in Boulder. With a celebrated legal career spanning five decades, Gary has been recognized with many accolades and awards including: Colorado Judicial Institute’s Judicial Excellence Award for County Court Judge of the year (2018), Colorado Super Lawyer (2006-2012), the National Bar Association’s Wiley Branton Award, the Colorado Bar Association’s Award of Merit (2011), the William Lee Knous Award (2010), the Order of the Coif from CU Law School (2003), and the CU George Norlin Award (2008). The Honorable Judge Gary Jackson currently presides in the Criminal Division of Denver County Court.
Arash Jahanian joined the ACLU of Colorado as a staff attorney in May 2017. He previously worked at the civil rights firm Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC, where he represented victims of police brutality, prison abuse, and employment discrimination. Arash was one of the attorneys in the Wyoming marriage equality cases and has served as chair of the Denver LGBTQ Commission and president of the Colorado LGBT Bar Association. He is currently on the board of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado. Arash was recognized as the Colorado Bar Association’s Outstanding Young Lawyer in 2015, and was part of three different teams winning the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association’s Case of the Year Award. A graduate of Georgetown Law and the University of North Carolina, Arash has also worked as an associate in Crowell & Moring LLP’s Washington, DC office, a judicial clerk for the Honorable Wiley Y. Daniel of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, and a middle school teacher in Chicago through Teach For America.
Chandra Kilgriff is a member of Robins Kaplan's core leadership team as Chief Talent and Diversity Officer, providing strategic direction for all firm functions impacting talent, including professional development, human resources, and pro bono efforts. A dedicated advocate for inclusion in the legal profession, Chandra promotes diverse perspectives in all aspects of the firm’s talent management practices. Since 2015, she has spearheaded the implementation of Robins Kaplan’s innovative Leaders Engaged in the Advancement of Diversity (LEAD) initiative, empowering the firm’s leaders to take concrete steps to increase diversity and holding them accountable for their results.
Dionne M. King leads a thriving executive leadership and inclusion firm headquartered in Kansas City. Her firm provides boldly creative services to develop businesses and empower professionals to excel. Dionne provides leadership and change management strategies for firms and organizations with both national and international presence. She has worked to meld cross-cultural and multi-generational AmLaw 100 and 200 firms of 1000+ attorneys and employees. Dionne is versed in race relations, strategic inclusion initiatives, leadership development and mediation.
Tiffani Lee is a partner in Holland & Knight's Miami office and a member of the firm's South Florida Litigation Group. She has been involved in the firm's diversity and inclusion initiatives throughout her career at the firm. Since 2009, she has served as the firmwide Diversity Partner. In that capacity, she leads the Diversity Council and serves on the firm’s Practice & Operations Committee and Partner Compensation Committee. She frequently speaks on diversity-related issues at conferences sponsored by national organizations and at client-sponsored diversity programs.
Tony Mauro is based in Washington, covers the U.S. Supreme Court. A lead writer for ALM's Supreme Court Brief, Tony focuses on the court's history and traditions, appellate advocacy and the SCOTUS cases that matter most to business litigators.
Kristine McKinney is an expert in leading cultural change in organizations to align and drive talent strategy. She is passionate about the need for talent to reflect the diversity of the community and for individuals at every level of the organization to be thriving and fully engaged. Ms. McKinney leads the Professional Development, Legal Recruiting, Diversity & Inclusion, and Pro Bono teams at Fish. Prior to joining Fish, she was Director of Professional Development & Engagement and Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Faegre Baker Daniels. Ms. McKinney also worked as Firmwide Diversity Manager at Kirkland & Ellis.
Roberto Montoya brings nearly 20 years of corporate, higher education, and governmental experience to DEN. Prior to his work at DEN, he taught at the University of Colorado Denver in the School of Education. He is the founder and CEO of the Praximity Group, a Diversity and Inclusion consulting firm that focuses on the intersection of theory, practice, and place. Montoya serves on the advisory board for the Agency for Human Rights and Community Partnerships and on the United States Tennis Association Colorado’s Hispanic Engagement Initiative Task Force. He has over fourteen publications focusing on equity, diversity, and race. Montoya holds a B.S. in Political Science from Colorado Mesa University, a M.A. in Ethnic Studies from Regis University, and is a PhD Candidate at the University of Colorado Denver.
Tonia Morris, your Generational Connector, and Founder of Tonia Morris Speaks, provides leaders with training solutions that cultivate a generationally-inclusive work place. Before starting her business in 2010, Tonia was Director of Human Resources for one of the largest state pension agencies in the Southeast; she has also worked in an HR leadership capacity in other industries, including government, retail, information technology and education.
Britton Nohe-Braun is the Denver co-chair of Denton’s Women LEAD (Leadership, Entrepreneurism, Advancement, Development) program and responsible for developing programming and trainings aimed at advancing and developing women associates. She is also involved in a number of national and grassroots diversity and inclusiveness initiatives, including the successful “#MeToo: Transforming the Legal Ecosystem” national roundtable series. Britton is an outspoken advocate for equity at work and believes in the transformative power of diversity in the workplace. Britton is also a member of Dentons' White Collar and Government Investigations practice.
Patrick T. O'Rourke serves as Vice President, University Counsel and Secretary of the Board of Regents of the University of Colorado and is the chair of CLI's Board of Directors. He is a big proponent of CLI's mission of creating a more diverse and inclusive legal profession, and works to make workplaces more inclusive and welcoming. O'Rourke has represented clients in a broad range of lawsuits, including class actions, employment law, civil rights, professional liability and product liability. Mr. O'Rourke received his undergraduate degree from Creighton University and his law degree from The Georgetown University Law Center.
María Pabón is an educator, author and speaker and an expert in immigration law and diversity/multicultural matters in the legal profession. She has contributed to many prestigious publications such as the Harvard Latino Law Review, the Georgetown Immigration Law Journal, the Hastings Women’s Law Journal and the Seton Hall Law Journal.
Ryann Peyton serves as the Director of the Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program (CAMP), a program of the Colorado Supreme Court. A former litigator and a seasoned consultant and advocate on professionalism, diversity, and equity in the legal field, Ryann is a frequent commentator, presenter, and lecturer having contributed to the Denver Post, Law Week Colorado, Denver Business Journal, KDVR Fox 31, Rocky Mountain PBS, and Colorado Public Radio. Prior to joining CAMP, Ryann focused her law practice on civil litigation with an emphasis on LGBT families and civil rights.
Andrew Unthank serves as Chair of the firm’s Recruiting & Diversity Committee. In this role, Unthank has introduced behavior-based recruiting and interviewing methods to help the firm identify and hire exceptional attorneys poised to grow with WTO. Beyond his professional pursuits, Unthank has mentored several first-year law students through the Lawyering Process program at the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law. Unthank has a BSBA from Northern Arizona University and a JD from University of Denver Sturm College of Law.
Eli Wald is the Charles W. Delaney Jr. Professor of Law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. A legal ethics and legal profession scholar, Wald has written on topics such as increased lawyer mobility, conflict of interests and attorney disqualification, attorney-client communications, lawyers’ fiduciary duties to clients, the nationalization and globalization of law practice, and, most recently, the challenges facing lawyers representing clients in the emerging marijuana industry. Professor Wald’s work has appeared in leading journals such as the Fordham, Stanford, University of Colorado and Wisconsin law reviews, and the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics. His articles have been cited in ABAethics opinions and excerpted in legal ethics casebooks.
Ryan Whitacre is a frequent writer and speaker, especially around topics concerning inclusion and diversity in the American workplace. Currently he is Managing Director of the In-House Practice Group at Major, Lindsey & Africa. His experience as in-house counsel is sought by clients who value his ability to recognize their specific requirements and then assess the talent to match. Clients have entrusted Ryan to place an array of senior legal posts, including general counsel, chief legal officer, chief compliance officer, and chief IP counsel within a variety of industries and sectors. He also handles searches for lawyers and non-lawyers in legal operations and compliance functions. A native of Flint, Michigan, Ryan has particular experience with manufacturing and the automotive industry.
Jonathan White is Professional Development Counsel at the Colorado Supreme Court Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel. He assists the Office with the maintenance and development of proactive educational programming to help lawyers meet their obligations under the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct. His duties include serving as the project manager for the Colorado Lawyer Self-Assessment Program. Mr. White regularly presents on professionalism, proactive practice, lawyer well-being, and access to justice topics. Mr. White is also the staff attorney to the Colorado Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being. Mr. White rejoined the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel in November 2016 after previously working for the office as a law clerk in 2009 and 2010.
Robert White has served as Executive Director of California Minority Counsel Program (CMCP) since August 2015. CMCP is California’s leading legal diversity organization for minority business attorneys, recognized nationally for its achievements. CMCP’s and Robert’s work centers on bringing together and promoting the development of attorneys of color in law firms and corporate legal departments. Robert has designed, spoken at and moderated numerous programs on legal diversity on topics including career development, recruitment and retention, leadership and implicit bias. He has consulted with organizations including law firms, legal departments, nonprofit organizations and bar associations on best practices in promoting diversity and inclusion.
Monica Williams is the Director of Equity and Inclusion at Denver International Airport. She leads the diversity and engagement strategy at DEN, along with other key areas such as ADA and Title VI and future workforce development. Monica is the co-founder and President of TIED (Talent, Inclusion, Engagement and Diversity) Leadership Roundtable, an organization made up of 50+ companies with a Colorado presence that are focused on making a difference within their respective workplaces. Monica serves on various community boards; such as American Red Cross Colorado and Wyoming. Also, she is very active in her local church and has held leadership positions in women’s organizations, finance departments, public relations and music ministries.