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2021 Phillips Murrah Externship Program teaches law students career lessons

Externship group photo

From L: Phillips Murrah Attorney Lauren Barghols Hanna, Phillips Murrah Director Candace Williams Lisle, OU Law 2L and PM Externs Christopher Punto and Camille Burge pose together in the courtroom of Federal Judge Jodi Dishman during their Apr. 14 educational visit and tour.

In January 2021, Phillips Murrah initiated its inaugural Externship Program in partnership with the University of Oklahoma College of Law, continuing the Firm’s efforts to recruit talented and motivated future attorneys who reflect the diversity of our local community. The Externship Program is spearheaded by the Firm’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. The Program, chaired by Director Candace Williams Lisle, is designed in alignment with Phillips Murrah’s goal to create a workplace culture that is open to all needs, perspectives, contributions, experiences, and backgrounds. The Externship Program exposes a diverse group of students to the everyday practice of law, cultivates relationships, and provides mentorship and opportunities to enhance legal skills. Participating students gain legal experience while working at Phillips Murrah’s Oklahoma City office and receive 3 hours of course credit.

This year, Phillips Murrah welcomed second-year OU Law students, Camille Burge and Christopher Punto. As externs, Burge and Punto were mentored by Phillips Murrah attorneys while learning about practice areas including litigation and appeals, labor and employment, business transactions, real estate, tax, family law, oil and gas, bankruptcy, municipal financing, energy and regulatory, administrative, estate planning, cannabis and liquor licensing, and workers compensation. The externs attended events including depositions, client meetings, a trial, and frequent lunch and learns.   They worked on a variety of research and writing projects and received feedback from their supervising attorneys. The externs also enjoyed a presentation by a Firm client about practicing law as Deputy General Counsel for a large public corporation.

A highlight of the program was a visit to the William J. Holloway Jr. United States Courthouse. Burge and Punto accompanied Lisle and Phillips Murrah Attorney Lauren Barghols Hanna to meetings with federal judges Hon. Bernard Jones, Hon. Patrick Wyrick, and Hon. Jodi Dishman. The federal judges offered advice, answered the externs’ questions, and Judge Dishman gave a tour of her courtroom.

“It was a unique opportunity for the externs to meet one-on-one with the federal judges, learn about their respective paths to the bench, and receive the benefit of their wisdom and advice,” Lisle said.

Below is a video interview with Burge and Punto discussing their courthouse visit as well as their experience participating in the 2021 Phillips Murrah Externship Program.

 

 

“We are very pleased with our inaugural externship program,” Lisle continued. “Through the interview process, we had the opportunity to meet a number of outstanding diverse students from OU Law School. Our externs, Camille and Chris, were talented, energetic, and enthusiastic. We were able to provide them with wonderful opportunities to learn about various areas of law practice from our talented practitioners, and to observe legal work in action. Our primary goal for the externship program was to develop relationships and collaborate with students with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and we definitely achieved that goal with this program. We’re very excited to expand on our externship program in the future.”

Phillips Murrah continues to be a leader in gender equity in Oklahoma with 44% of Shareholders and 53% of all employees identifying as female. In 2020, Phillips Murrah was nationally recognized by Law360.com as “Ceiling Smashers.” Not only is Phillips Murrah a leader in the percentage of women attorneys, but more importantly, in women who have a seat at the table as equity partners and firm leaders,” Lisle said.

Through the Externship and other programs and initiatives, the Firm seeks to build on this success and further our team’s innovation, engagement, and creativity in our work.  As a six-time-consecutive recipient of the Top Work Place in Oklahoma honor, an award chosen annually by employees of Oklahoma businesses, the Firm is confident in our ability to grow and continue making Phillips Murrah a fulfilling place for all current and future employees.

Phillips Murrah attorneys remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg at OKC candlelight vigil

Phillips Murrah attorneys attend RBG vigil in OKC

From left: Nikki Jones Edwards, Cathy L. Campbell, Charlotte Hanna, Rev. Lori Walke and Lauren Barghols Hanna.

Tuesday night, Oklahomans gathered at the state capitol to mourn the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an American legal, cultural and feminist icon and, as described by Chief Justice John Roberts, a justice of historic stature and a cherished colleague.

Among those who gathered were Phillips Murrah attorneys Nikki Jones Edwards, Cathy L. Campbell and Lauren Barghols Hanna, joined by (see photo) Cathy’s granddaughter and Lauren’s daughter, Charlotte, and Rev. Lori Walke, Associate Minister at Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ.

“Justice Ginsburg famously declared that ‘Women belong in all places where decisions are being made,’” said Hanna, who practices employment law at Phillips Murrah. “In 1956, she was one of only nine women in her 500-person law school class. Today, thanks to the tireless efforts of Justice Ginsburg and other fierce advocates for equality, almost half of Phillips Murrah partners and two-thirds of our Executive Committee are women. We owe a great debt to Justice Ginsburg and the other women attorneys who paved the road, and we must now continue her efforts to ensure ‘justice for all.’”

The event, A Candlelight Vigil in Remembrance of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was organized by The Oklahoma Women’s Coalition to honor and remember Justice Ginsburg, who died Friday at the age of 87. Video of the speakers at the vigil are available here.

“We deeply mourn the loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Our country has lost a champion of women’s rights and progress for all Americans. Our thoughts are with her loved ones and all whose lives were shaped and touched by her unwavering commitment to justice,” OWC posted to their Facebook page.

After 13 years on the U.S Court of Appeals, President Bill Clinton appointed Justice Ginsburg to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993. Over the following 27 years, she earned a reputation for being the High Court’s liberal leader and a steadfast advocate for equality. As stated in an achievement.org profile called “Ruth Bader Ginsburg – Pioneer of Gender Equality”:

“On the high court, Justice Ginsburg was often called on to rule in cases regarding the rights of women and issues of gender equality. In 1996, she joined the majority in United States v. Virginia, ruling that the state could not continue to operate an all-male educational institution (the Virginia Military Institute) with taxpayer dollars. She also joined in the majority opinion in Stenberg v. Carhart (2000), striking down a Nebraska law banning so-called ‘partial birth’ abortions. She dissented vehemently in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire (2007), in which an Alabama woman sued unsuccessfully for back pay to compensate for the years in which she had been paid substantially less than junior male colleagues performing the same job. The U.S. Congress would later address the issue of pay equity through legislation known as the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.”

Late in Ginsburg’s life, she also became a cultural and social media icon. According to the New York Times, “a law student, Shana Knizhnik, anointed her the Notorious R.B.G., a play on the name of the Notorious B.I.G., a famous rapper who was Brooklyn-born, like the justice. Soon the name, and Justice Ginsburg’s image — her expression serene yet severe, a frilly lace collar adorning her black judicial robe, her eyes framed by oversize glasses and a gold crown perched at a rakish angle on her head — became an internet sensation.”

In a 2015 television interview, Ginsburg was asked how she would like to be remembered, to which she replied: “Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability, and to help repair tears in her society – to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has. To do something, as my colleague David Souter would say, outside myself, because I’ve gotten much more satisfaction for the things that I’ve done for which I was not paid.”


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Supreme Court Rules Title VII Protects Gay and Transgender Employees

By Lauren Barghols Hanna

Phillips Murrah attorney Lauren Hanna

Lauren Barghols Hanna

Earlier this morning, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that an employer who fires or otherwise discriminates against an employee for being gay or transgender violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the Supreme Court heard three cases in which employers had fired long-term employees simply for being gay or transgender.  A Georgia county employee was fired for “conduct unbecoming” an employee after he joined a gay recreational softball league.  A funeral home terminated an employee who presented as a male when she was hired, after the employee advised her manager that she planned to “live and work full-time as a woman.”  A skydiving company fired a skydiving instructor days after he advised a customer that he was gay.

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court held that Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination “because of sex” prevents an employer from taking any adverse actions against employees on the basis of gender, sexual identity, or sexual expression.  Justice Gorsuch, author of the majority opinion, unequivocally declared that “[a]n employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex.  Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”

The Bostock opinion considers an employer with two employees, both of whom are attracted to men.  The employees are materially identical in all respects, except that one is a man and the other is a woman.  If the employer fires the male employee because he is attracted to men, the employer necessarily is discriminating against him for the traits or actions it tolerates in the female employee.  Similarly, if an employer fires a transgender person because she was identified as male at birth but now identifies as a female, the employer is firing the individual for displaying traits or actions it would otherwise tolerate in an employee identified as female at birth.  Employers cannot discipline employees for being “insufficiently feminine” or “insufficiently masculine” without violating Title VII.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.  The Supreme Court noted that the legislators who adopted the Act in 1964 may not have anticipated this particular outcome, but that those same legislators may also not have anticipated that the Act would ultimately prohibit discrimination on the basis of motherhood, prohibit sexual harassment of female employees, and—eventually–prohibit sexual harassment of male employees to the same extent as female employees.  But, as Justice Gorsuch noted, the phrase “because of…sex” is clear and unambiguous; thus, the “limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands.”

Today, the Supreme Court clarified that “[a]n individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions” and that “[a]n employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.”

See the United States Supreme Court opinion HERE.


Phillips Murrah stands ready to assist employers in ensuring that employee handbooks and hiring and disciplinary practices are fully compliant with Title VII and all relevant employment laws.

Contact us by EMAIL or call 405.235.4100.

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Phillips Murrah’s legal team welcomes labor and employment attorney

Lauren Barghols Hanna

Lauren Barghols Hanna

Phillips Murrah law firm is proud to welcome Lauren Barghols Hanna to our downtown Oklahoma City office.

The Firm welcomed Lauren to the Firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group as an Of Counsel attorney.

As a part of her employment practice, Lauren counsels and represents management in all phases of the employment relationship, including litigation matters involving discrimination, retaliation, harassment and wrongful discharge claims, whistleblower claims, claims related to employment agreements and theft of trade secrets, and other disputes arising from the workplace.

She also works with employers in crafting appropriate employment policies and procedures, employee handbooks, non-disclosure/non-solicitation agreements, and employee severance agreements and releases.

Lauren’s practice in the area of water rights frequently involves the representation of landowners in obtaining groundwater and streamwater permits for irrigation, oil and gas industry production, and other beneficial uses.

Lauren is a contributing author to the Oklahoma Employment Law Letter and has been interviewed by The Oklahoman, served as a guest legal columnist for The Journal Record business newspaper, and spoken at seminars on a variety of employment-related topics. She also authored the Oklahoma chapter of the LexisNexis Waters and Water Rights treatise.

Lauren’s achievements have earned her inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America (employment law—management; labor and employment litigation) and Oklahoma Super Lawyers.

In addition to her legal practice at the firm, she serves as a volunteer attorney for Oklahoma Lawyers for Children, a nonprofit organization that uses the time, talent, and resources of pro bono lawyers to represent and assist children in various matters, including parental termination jury trials before the Oklahoma County District Court (Juvenile Division).

In 2014, the Oklahoma CASA Association honored Lauren with its “Attorney of the Year” award for her work with OLFC. Lauren and her family also work with the Tinker Air Force Base Home Away From Home Program, welcoming Airmen serving their first tour into their family for holiday meals, birthday celebrations, summer cookouts, and other activities to create community and mentorship for young enlisted airmen.

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Lauren lives in Edmond with her husband Adam and her two children. Her hobbies include rowing, camping, and OU sports.