Citing a mission to make the Connecticut Bar Association more diverse and inclusive, the CBA’s Board of Governors has tapped Nassau County Bar Association Executive Director Keith Soressi to be its new executive director.
Soressi, who led the NCBA for six years and had previously been associate director of the New York State Bar Association, begins the job Feb. 26.
Soressi, who was one of four finalists brought back for second interviews by the CBA Search Committee, will focus on diversity and inclusion initiatives and growing the 10,000 member association. He will also work closely with the association’s sections, committees and task forces, according to past CBA President Monte Frank.
Frank, president from 2016-17 and a member of the search committee, said Soressi “has extensive experience in all aspects of running bar associations. During the interview process, he showed his commitment to our values.” Top among those values, Frank and others said, was building on the many diversity plans that have already been implemented.
CBA President Karen DeMeola initiated a diversity pipeline connected to urban middle and high schools in the state in May 2017. Since then, DeMeola has visited 10 high schools in the state for panel discussions on the law and career lessons on becoming a lawyer.
“The goal is to make sure populations and communities that do not have access to lawyers and judges get introduced to those individuals,” DeMeola said. “We talk to students about what lawyers do and often introduce students to meet a lawyer for the first time.”
The CBA has also encouraged law firms to pledge they will launch conversations about diversity and inclusion. More than a dozen firms have signed up since the plan was announced in 2015. “This is a commitment by firms and legal aid associations to engage in a conversation within the legal community,” DeMeola said. “It can be about hiring and bottom line numbers, but that conversation needs to take place.”
Garlinck Dumont, a solo practitioner and president of the George W. Crawford Black Bar Association, said she believes the CBA’s diversity efforts are headed in the right direction.
“Any organization can do better, but the CBA through efforts like its pipeline project in the schools, is moving forward and in the right direction,” said Dumont, a CBA member for the past five years.
DeMeola said Soressi will take over for co-interim executive directors Suzanne Hard and Carol DeJohn.
“Keith is what I like to call a bar lifer,” DeMeola said. “He understands how bar associations work and he understands you need to keep members engaged.” DeMeola said the CBA is currently working on gathering statistics that will identify the association’s cultural makeup.
Soressi received his law degree from the University of San Francisco and has held positions with the District of Columbia bar as well as the California Bar Association.