This year, the Washington Leadership Insti- tute (WLI) is celebrating its 10th anniver- sary. With over 100 alumni of the program, WLI has distinguished itself as the premier leadership
development program for diverse attorneys. Members of
the first class of graduates in 2005 include Tracy Flood,
Lisa Dickinson, and Gloria Ochoa — women who are trailblazers in Washington’s legal community as well as their
local communities. Other alumni of the program have
established themselves in leadership positions in public,
private, and nonprofit organizations such as Nick Brown,
general counsel to Governor Inslee; Erica Buckley, CEO of
Buckley & Associates; and Shankar Narayan, legislative director of ACLU of Washington. The current class includes
Sam Castic, an attorney for T-Mobile, and Assistant Attorney General Rania Rampersad.
Founded in 2005 by Ronald R. Ward (then-WSBA president), the WLI is a partnership between the WSBA and the
University of Washington School of Law that recruits, trains,
and develops minority and traditionally underrepresented
attorneys for future leadership positions in the WSBA and
the broader legal community. One of the primary goals of the
WLI is to develop young attorney leaders, including minority
attorneys, to foster community and leadership development
that contributes to cultural diversity in the profession.
Each year, a new class of 12 WLI fellows is competitively
selected from a statewide pool of talented applicants. The first
year of the two-year fellowship involves an inventive curriculum delivered over eight monthly educational sessions and
concludes with development and execution of a collaborative
community service project.
The second part of the program requires each fellow to
commit to one year of volunteer participation in the Washington State Bar Association or other law-related organization in
the community. The program’s curriculum is developed by an
advisory board of industry leaders and is designed to prepare
fellows for a lifetime of leadership in their legal communities.
Volunteers, all of who are Washington’s judicial, legal, business, political, and public policy leaders, deliver the curriculum. Through these collaborative, inspirational, and educational projects and trainings over the course of the two-year
fellowship, WLI fellows graduate ready to serve their communities. Many of our region’s most impressive lawyer-leaders
are graduates of this program.
Alumni Perspective — RaShelle Davis
On a Friday night in the winter of 2012, I received a personal
phone call from Judge Mary Yu (now Justice Yu) informing
me that I had been selected for the 2013 class of the WLI. At
the time, I knew it was a leadership development program
Ten Years in Successful Leadership
by RaShelle Davis and Karen Denise Wilson
and that I would earn CLEs, but I was not aware of how the
program was going to help open doors to new opportunities.
During the first month, we engaged in a career evaluation and
personal assessment. It was this exercise that confirmed that
I was prepared to take my career to the next level and, within
a month, I accepted a new position in Governor Inslee’s Office
as a policy advisor.
Besides providing career guidance and support, the WLI
also provided introductions to practice and industry leaders,
which helped expand my personal and professional network.
I now have my own personal “board of directors” that consists
of my fellow classmates and WLI faculty such as Justices
Mary Yu, Steven González, and Bobbe Bridge; James Williams; and the Honorable Lorraine Lee, all of whom I can turn
to for advice, guidance, and mentorship.
A key component of the WLI is the class service project,
which is a collaborative effort to produce a legal tool for a particular community in need. My class created a resource guide
for asylees in Washington. The service project exposed me to
a new area of law and increased my own cultural competency
by introducing me to the challenges and barriers that asylees
face in Washington. From legal, mental, and physical health
services to accessing schools and educational opportunities, our class compiled a resource guide to support asylees
who hold a unique legal status. The resulting report has been
translated and disseminated in communities and with social
service agencies who serve asylees.
Alumni Perspective — Karen Denise Wilson
In May 2011, I attended a social networking event for wom-en-of-color attorneys. At the event, Justice Mary Yu (at the
time serving as a trial judge in King County) and Judge Mar-cine Anderson each separately said to me, “I want you to apply to the WLI.” It was more a declarative statement than an
invitation. Six months later, I joined 11 other fellows in the
2012 WLI class. This was the first of many examples of how
my interactions with the WLI advisory board, volunteers,
and presenters have supported and, yes, pushed me to move
beyond my comfort zone to seek leadership opportunities in
the legal profession.
A key component of leadership in the legal community in
the 21st century and beyond is a cultural competence that
enables legal professionals to be effective with peers, clients,
and community members from cultures other than their
own. The WLI contributed to my cultural competence in two
unique and important ways.
The makeup of each WLI class creates a dynamic environment rich with diversity and varying perspectives resulting
in a practical exercise in cultural awareness. The lawyers in
my class practiced in private, corporate, solo, and govern-