Three attorneys working to enhance diversity in the legal profession have been recognized by the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion of the New York State Bar Association.

The awardees are:  Paul T. Williams, Jr. of Albany, president and chief executive officer of the New York State Dormitory Authority; Jenny Rivera of Flushing, founding director of the Center on Latino and Latina Rights Equality at City University of New York School of Law; and Joseph M. Hanna of Buffalo, partner of Goldberg Segalla. They received the Committee's Diversity Trailblazer Award on January 23 at the Celebrating Diversity Reception, during the State Bar's Annual Meeting.

"Fostering diversity in the legal profession continues as a top priority of the State Bar. We hope the successes of our award winners will inspire others to keep the momentum going and help us as a profession achieve our goals," said Kenneth G. Standard of New York (Epstein Becker and Green), co-chair of the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion and a past president of the State Bar. "I congratulate the 2012 Diversity Trailblazers for their continuing, outstanding work." 

"This year, we proudly recognize the dedication and work of three attorneys at different stages of their career for their varied and significant accomplishments in promoting and ensuring diversity and inclusion in our profession. Each recipient has displayed outstanding leadership and were instrumental in pioneering work to ensure that our profession maintains its commitment to diversity," said Betty Lugo of Brooklyn (Pacheco & Lugo), co-chair of the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.  "It is an honor to recognize and celebrate their achievements."

Changemaker-Williams, the first African-American president of the Dormitory Authority, is being recognized for chairing former Governor David Paterson's Executive Order 10 Task Force.

Governor Paterson established the task force to increase opportunities for Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) professional firms. Under Williams' leadership, the task force has increased opportunities for MWBE firms to serve as legal counsel to the issuers of state-supported debt.

The task force issued its recommendations in 2009. They were included in the 2010 Business Diversification Act, signed by Paterson, that created diversity standards and goals for all legal firms seeking state contracts.

Williams was a founding partner of one of the first minority-owned law firms to do bonds work in New York State.

Lifetime Achievement-Rivera, in 2008, founded the Center on Latino and Latina Rights and Equality (CLORE) at the City University of New York (CUNY). CLORE melds community service and educational activities to improve the quality of legal service provided to Latinos and Latinas in New York City, the state and the nation.

She also is a commissioner and reporter for the American Bar Association Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights & Responsibilities. For the commission, she has helped plan regional hearings throughout the nation, where members of the Latino community testified about issues affecting them, such as voting rights, immigration and access to justice.

Rivera has taught at CUNY School of Law since 1997. At one point, she was the only tenured Latina law professor in New York State. In 2007, Rivera took a leave of absence from CUNY School of Law to serve as New York's special deputy attorney general for civil rights, where she helped design and implement then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's civil rights agenda.

One to Watch-Hanna, immediate past president of the Minority Bar Association of Western New York (MBAWNY), has spearheaded numerous initiatives to advance diversity within the legal profession.

In 2008, he created Success in the City, an annual networking event that promotes diversity, creates mentoring relationships and facilitates recruiting opportunities in law and business. The 2011 event drew nearly 500 attendees and has been replicated in Baltimore, Cleveland, Birmingham and Dallas.

Hanna also established a diversity-focused internship program for MBAWNY in partnership with the University at Buffalo Law School, his alma mater. The program has placed more than 25 students in clerkships with judges and law firms throughout Western New York.

The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.


Contact: Brandon Vogel
Media Writer