Member Groups

The Catalyst
The newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Women and the Law

October 2001, vol. 7, no. 1

ABA Commission on Women honors Laurel G. Bellows

The ABA Commission on Women in the Profession presented one of its most prestigious honors--the Margaret Brent Award--to Chicago lawyer Laurel G. Bellows last month.

Bellows, who was one of five women of achievement to receive the award this year, was nominated and endorsed by several bar associations, including the ISBA, as well as service and political organizations and prominent individuals. The award was presented at the Commission's 11th Annual Margaret Brent Awards Luncheon, which was the largest ticket event at the ABA Annual Meeting. The luncheon drew a sell-out crowd of more than 1,300 people, including several ISBA past and future presidents and Women and the Law Committee members.

The ABA Commission on Women established the Margaret Brent Award in 1991 to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of women lawyers around the country who have achieved professional excellence in their field and have paved the way to success for other women lawyers. Margaret Brent was the first woman lawyer in America, an accomplished litigator, and respected leader. She was involved in 124 court cases over eight years--winning every case. Past recipients of the Margaret Brent Award have included some of the most notable women lawyers in the world, such as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Chicagoan Esther Rothstein, Attorney General Janet Reno, and Bella Abzug.

Bellows so richly deserves the Margaret Brent Award for countless reasons, as expressed by her nominators and the ABA selection committee. She has been a lawyer in Chicago since 1974, and has enriched the legal community each and every day through her professional excellence and leadership. She has influenced numerous women to pursue legal careers and has assisted many women aspiring more from the profession. She has vigorously included and promoted women in community and professional activities and has been a visionary advocate for an ever-expanding role for women in the legal profession.

In 1992, Bellows was elected president of the Chicago Bar Association. As one of her many accomplishments, and in the face of staunch resistance, she created the Alliance for Women. The Alliance for Women shares many goals of the ISBA Women and the Law Committee, such as the advancement of women in the legal profession and the promotion of women with exceptional professional qualifications. In 1994, Bellows was appointed chair of the ABA Commission on Women, where she continued to spearhead the movement for women, breaking down barriers and building bridges between women lawyers.

Bellows is a major force behind several cutting edge, controversial programs focusing on women and minorities in the law schools, the courtroom, and the private and public sectors. The work she has started locally has expanded nationally, showing what a dynamic force she is throughout the country. Her influence extends to the ISBA, the ABA, and all other bar associations, as she is currently president of the National Conference of Bar Presidents.

As a mentor and role model, Bellows continues to inspire others, taking herself out of the limelight to applaud and recognize lesser-know women who have labored to help other women. Even Bellows's professional career concentrates on the legal needs of women, i.e., the negotiation of employment contracts, severance packages, and employment benefits for women. Bellows practices law with her husband, Joel. They are "partners in law and in life" at Bellows and Bellows in Chicago and the proud parents of a daughter Lindsey, who is currently in college.

Laurel--the ISBA, the Women and the Law Committee, and the entire State of Illinois could not be more proud of you and your example and accomplishments!