Tianna K. Kalogerakis.

The coming year for Tianna Kalogerakis, the new head of the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia, looks like it will be a balancing act.

Not only has Kalogerakis, who took over heading the roughly 1,000-member strong bar association earlier this month, recently transitioned from years as a judicial clerk to her first role in a litigation boutique, but she also has plans to balance projects aimed at both preserving the legacy of black lawyers in Philadelphia and providing needed outreach to the broader community.

According to Kalogerakis, the Barristers’ Association has always performed a bit of a balancing act—one bridging the legal community and the broader black community—and, in an era where racial tensions and awareness alike seem to be on the rise, she said she plans to take that role seriously.

Kalogerakis spoke with The Legal about her plans for the upcoming year, and what she sees as the organization’s role in an era where racial tensions and awareness alike seem to be on the rise.

The following has been edited for clarity and length.

What is your background?

I went to [undergraduate] school at the University of Florida. It was an excellent experience. I highly recommend it. Thereafter I came to Temple University for law school, and I’ve been here ever since. I came to Temple in 2010, and after graduating from Temple I worked as a law clerk for Judge Lillian Harris Ransom. I was her law clerk at the Court of Common Pleas homicide division for two years before she got appointed to the Superior Court by Gov. [Tom] Wolf in 2016, and then I was one of her five law clerks at the Superior Court until I left there in March of 2018.

For the past six moths I have worked as an associate at the boutique litigation firm Kang Haggerty & Fetbroyt, where I focus on business disputes commercial litigation and I handle civil RICO matters as well.

How long have you been with the Barristers’?

I started getting involved with the Barristers’ in 2012 or 2013, because that was while I was still in law school. I have moved through the ranks of the Barristers’, being the YLD liaison as an initial matter, then the correspondence secretary and then the vice president of administration and then president-elect and now here we are.

What do you hope to accomplish over the coming year?

One of the things I want to make sure we do this year is focus on being proximate to the community. I think that we have a responsibility as black lawyers to address the needs of the community, because we’re in a particularly balanced spot. We’re equipped with the tools that the greater Philadelphia community could use. And, because we were able to make it to our own form of success, it’s our responsibility, in my eyes, to pass that on.

A lot of what folks are facing, especially black folks in the Philadelphia community, are perpetuated by institutional systems, and we as lawyers have a particular knowledge about how to infiltrate those systems and to address and put pressure on whatever mechanisms are there that are putting pressure on our folks.

Also I say “folks” a lot. [Laughter.] I’m from South Florida. I don’t know if I said that, but I’m from South Florida, and I say folks a lot. [Laughter.]

Another thing we need to do is, I’m going to be focusing on legacy.

The barristers have a very rich history. We all got to our place because somebody else has worked hard to get us there. We’re standing on the shoulders of those who’ve come before us, and I want to make sure that what we’re doing is to preserve the legacy of the barristers. So we’re doing a series of video interviews of some of the leadership of black lawyers in Philadelphia in an attempt to preserve their own stories in their own words. Because so often if you don’t control the narrative somebody else will.

As far as I’m concerned, we need to celebrate the folks who’ve have come before us and opened the door for so many opportunities for our current barristers and barristers to come.

Are those videos going to be archived online?

Yeah. We have a new website, so we can host those things online.

Are there any additional initiatives in the works?

We also have two “Know Your Rights” forums. One is coming up on Oct. 4. That’ll be in West Philadelphia. That one is specifically about voter suppression, voter intimidation. And there will be a registration component.

We went into the community to try to have folks just be able to come. It’s not aimed towards lawyers. It’s aimed toward Philadelphians, to try to help them get access to the polls and exercise their right to vote.

Another initiative we have coming up is another “Know Your Rights” forum. That one is geared towards police interactions. At that one, we intend to have someone at the ACLU present, someone from the police commissioner’s office present, someone from the Defenders’ Association, someone from the District Attorney’s Office. The thought is that, as the black lawyers association, we should be the conveners of these conversations around criminal justice and criminal justice reform, and right now it’s just not safe for people of color, and black folks in particular, to just operate in their everyday lives.

The hope is that, with a program like that where we empower people to know what their rights are in a situation, that we can kind of create a sense of, I don’t know if it will be equality, but safeguarding them as much as we can, so people who are ending up in situations where they’re having interactions with police officers, which can often turn deadly, [can stay safe].

How do you plan to juggle being a new associate with your new role heading the Barristers’ Association?

So far so good. I’ll say I’m very lucky to have the support of my firm. My firm is very invested in diversity. It’s a NAMWOLF [National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms] firm.

It’s a rigorous process to be a NAMWOLF firm first off, but this is a smaller set-up and they understand this is taking a nice portion of my time, and they are behind me 100 percent. They actually co-sponsored the installation and are committed to attending and supporting a few of the other events throughout the year, which I am exceedingly grateful for.

Then in terms of the workload and handling all the things that are required of a barristers president, my executive board is solid, man. Rock solid.

What have been your first steps in your new role?

The main thing was planning. Essentially how it works is that, our last meeting of the month is in June, so in July and August we do planning behind the scenes. That’s essentially when the president-elect shifts to the incoming president and starts figuring out the initiatives for the year and works with the new executive board figuring out how to effectuate the initiative.

In September we premiered our new website. Our website was particularly dated. I mean I’ve seen worse, but it was dated. We just needed to refresh it, bring it up to speed. We were able to do that. That’s a huge value item for the organization, and our members.

Our members can also create profiles on our website. The people that come to the Barristers’ website, they’re either people interested in supporting the organisation, they’re members, or they’re people who are looking for help and looking or lawyer who looks like them, or a diverse attorney in general. Allowing our attorneys to be searchable by the public really gives them an advantage because the people who are going there looking for them, are looking for them, you know.

So that was value we added this year.

Other than the installation, we already participated in Constitution Day, which is where we have a few lawyers go into high schools and talk about the significance of the constitution with the students and lead discussions with them. That happened on Sept. 17.

Sounds like it’s been a busy week, a busy couple months.

And you know, it’s only going to get busier.

What hurdles do you see in the coming year?

I think our biggest hurdle as an organization is really being on top of current events and current legislation. We want to make sure that proposed legislation that is going to impact black and brown folks is addressed by the Barristers’ because these are marginalized communities, and if there’s somebody who’s going to propose something that’s going to have a negative impact, we’re their voice. We’re one of many voices, but I think we’re a voice that needs to be heard and needs to speak up.

But even more of a hurdle is keeping on top of current events because no matter what day it is or what hour of the day, people are being treated unfairly, inequitably. And they’re also being harmed economically, emotionally, physically. And an important part of being able to help where we can is knowing where and when we need to show up.

You’re from Florida. I know you went to school in Philadelphia, but why did you stay here?

I stayed in Philadelphia, I would say in part because of the Barristers’.

When you become a Barristers’ member, and you’re active in the organization, you feel a sense of community and comfortability. Philadelphia is a great city in general. There’s plenty of history, very delicious food, it’s easy to get around by public transportation. But for you to stay some place, I think it’s also really important for you to have a community you identify with and enjoy, and being a part of the Barristers’ has afforded me a number of career opportunities and also opportunities to give back, and also opportunities to meet new people.

I could do without the snow.