CAMDEN — Three outstanding individuals who exemplify the values advocated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be honored by the Rutgers Law–Camden Black Law Students Association during its 18th annual Champions of Social Justice Awards Banquet on Friday, Jan. 24.
This year’s honorees include Paulette Brown, partner at Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP, and the first woman of color slated to lead the American Bar Association; Wendell E. Pritchett, chancellor of Rutgers–Camden; and Nolan Atkinson, partner and chief diversity officer at Duane Morris and former chair of the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group.
According to Rutgers–Camden second-year law student Shani Sarjeant, who serves as president of BLSA, and is part of the student and faculty nominating committee, nominees are considered for their impact on society, public service, length of their service, and leadership qualities.
"The MLK Champions of Social Justice Banquet is BLSA's opportunity to honor individuals who have worked to promote diversity in the legal profession that we all hope to join one day,” notes Sarjeant. “The individuals we are honoring this year have embodied the spirit of inclusivity in the profession throughout their careers, and we are so pleased to be able to host them and bring the larger community together to honor their work."
Since 1997, the annual banquet has honored approximately 81 community leaders whose commitment to social justice and equality invokes the spirit and ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This year’s event will be held during 6 to 9 p.m. in the Rutgers–Camden Campus Center, located on Third Street between Cooper Street and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
A member of Edwards Wildman's Labor and Employment Practice Group and the firm’s Chief Diversity Office, Brown has held a number of positions, including in-house counsel to a number of Fortune 500 companies and as a Municipal Court Judge, over her 35 year career. For the past 25 years, she has engaged in the private practice of law, focusing on all facets of labor and employment and commercial litigation. She has successfully defended employers in cases involving discrimination on the basis of age, sex, marital status, sexual harassment, disability, race, and national origin.
Recognized by the New Jersey Law Journal as one of the prominent women and minority attorneys in the State of New Jersey and by the National Law Journal as one of "The 50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America," Brown has been listed as a NJ Super Lawyer since its inception and for the past three years as one of the top 50 women lawyers and one of the top 100 lawyers. Brown has also repeatedly been named by U.S. News as one of the Best Lawyers in America in the area of commercial litigation.
She is the former president of the YWCA of Central New Jersey and led a delegation to monitor the first free and democratic elections in South Africa. Brown is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Medal of Honor Award from the New Jersey Bar Foundation, the Equal Justice Award from the National Bar Association, and the Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association, among others.
As chancellor of the Camden Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, which enrolls nearly 6,800 students in 34 undergraduate programs and 28 graduate programs at the master’s and Ph.D. levels, Pritchett serves as chief executive officer, overseeing 1,100 employees and an annual budget of more than $60 million.
Since his arrival at Rutgers, the Office for Civic Engagement was launched; the university approved the formation of the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden; a 12-story, 350-bed student housing facility opened; ground was broken on a Nursing and Science Building; and historic properties have commenced renovation for the future sites of a Writers House and an Alumni House.
Pritchett has written two books, Brownsville, Brooklyn: Blacks, Jews, and the Changing Face of the Ghetto (University of Chicago Press, 2002) and Robert Clifton Weaver and the American City: The Life and Times of an Urban Reformer (University of Chicago Press, 2008), and numerous articles on urban history and policy.
He was appointed by Mayor Michael Nutter to the Philadelphia School Reform Commission and serves as president of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU), a national consortium of higher education institutions. He is a co-chair of the World Class Greater Philadelphia Initiative of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and member of the Cooper University Health Care Board of Trustees.
Atkinson is a member of Duane Morris’ trial practice group in the Philadelphia office, the firm's first Chief Diversity Officer, and chair of the Diversity and Inclusion committee. An experienced litigator in commercial and personal injury matters, Atkinson has had trials in both the state and federal courts.
The former chair of the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group, Inc., a consortium of law firms and corporations committed to increasing ethnic and racial diversity in Philadelphia's larger law firms, Atkinson was formerly appointed co-chair of the Conference of Minority Partners in Majority Corporate Law Firms, a constituent entity of the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession of the ABA.
In 2013, The Legal Intelligencer honored Atkinson with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his "distinct impact" on the legal profession. In 2011, he was named one of The Legal Intelligencer's Diverse Attorneys of the Year and was honored as a 2010 Minority Business Advocate by the Philadelphia Business Journal.
Tickets for the event are $50 for the general public, $40 for past honorees, and $20 for Rutgers–Camden students. To register for the event, visit https://camlaw.rutgers.edu/webapps/payment/register.php?event_id=49.