James Kent American Inn of Court

The James Kent American Inn of Court in Norfolk, Virginia, is a very diverse Inn; its members come from all practice areas, practice settings, and life experiences. The pupillage groups have never been afraid to tackle tough topics head on.

In January 2020, the presenting pupillage group tackled a subject that is often difficult to talk about in conference settings: explicit bias and how to handle it.

Lead by local Judge Tyneka L.D. Flythe, of the Seventh Judicial District, the program focused on explicit biases that an attorney may encounter in various aspects of the practice of law. Many programs in recent years have addressed implicit bias (bias at the subconscious level) but few, if any, programs talk about explicit bias (bias at the conscious level that the owner recognizes and often embraces).

To keep the program interesting, the pupillage group explored many different types of bias with hypothetical scenarios for client meetings, interoffice encounters among attorneys, specific client requests and expectations, and the impact of biases in the courtroom, including the parties to a case, attorneys, jury, and judge. The scenarios looked at the interplay between ethics and obligation. For example, how does a firm handle a million-dollar client who refuses to work with the best attorney in the firm for his matter who happens to have a physical disability or be a minority?

The program, a combination of both skits and lecture, while presented in a light-hearted manner, demonstrated many scenarios that, unfortunately, were not far from reality. In the end, it offered solutions to these scenarios that even the most experienced practitioner found helpful.