2021 George Boyer Vashon Lecture

May 21, 2021 | Duane Morris LLP | Webinar

Webinar Replay


Welcome Address


  • Joseph K. West, Trial Partner and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Duane Morris LLP


  • Paulette Brown, Partner and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Locke Lord; former President, American Bar Association; Creator, ABA Diversity & Inclusion 360 Commission; former Partner, Duane Morris LLP
  • Wendy Shiba, retired Executive VP, General Counsel & Secretary, KB Home; past President, NAPABA; past Member, ABA Commission on Women in the Profession and ABA Diversity & Inclusion 360 Commission
  • Aracely Munoz, Co-Chair, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Intersectionality Task Force at the Center for Reproductive Rights; former Director, ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession; former Vice President, Strategic Development, Minority Corporate Counsel Association; Member; ABA Commission on Women in the Profession

About the 2021 Vashon Lecture

The 2016 adoption of ABA Model Rule 8.4 was a watershed moment, representing the first effort to enshrine principles of diversity and equity into the rules of ethics that guide the legal profession. Our panel includes the lawyers who drafted the language of the model rule and led the amended rule to final adoption through the approval process with the ABA. Additionally, we will hear from the former president of the ABA, who created the ABA Diversity & Inclusion 360 Commission that included Rule 8.4 as one of its deliverables.

The panel will discuss the work of the commission generally, as well as offer a specific analysis of Rule 8.4, its far-reaching impact and the various states that have adopted iterations of the rule.

About the George Boyer Vashon Lecture

The George Boyer Vashon Lecture honors the life of George B. Vashon (b. 1824) by exploring issues of justice and fairness. In 2010, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court addressed the wrongness of discrimination against Vashon, based upon race, which was the law of this commonwealth more than a century and a half ago. The intersection of politics, economics and the exploration of issues of law and social justice constantly evolve. This lecture is an opportunity for us to look to the future and discuss what we can expect.

Vashon was a noted African-American legal scholar and abolitionist. He twice sought admission to practice law in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, but was rejected in both cases because of his race. In October 2010, after Vashon’s great-grandson, Duane Morris’ former Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Nolan N. Atkinson, Jr., and others petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Vashon was officially admitted posthumously to the bar of the courts of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

As a teenager, alongside his father who was an abolitionist and well-respected leader in the black community, Vashon co-founded the Pittsburgh Anti-Slavery Society in 1838. He attended Oberlin College, where he was the first African-American to receive a bachelor’s degree. After he was denied the right to practice law in Allegheny County, he moved to New York and became the first licensed African-American attorney in that state. Later returning to Pittsburgh, Vashon became a principal at an African-American public school and served as president of Avery College. He moved to Washington, D.C., where he was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and, in 1867, became one of the first black professors at Howard University. Vashon died in Mississippi in 1878 during a yellow fever epidemic.