Letter from the chair

Dear Members of the Women and the Law Standing Committee:

As chair of the ISBA Women and the Law Standing Committee, I'd like to welcome you to the 2003-04 bar year. Looking back in time, the committee has had some very talented and enthusiastic leaders, including ISBA Third Vice-President Irene Bahr, Angela Imbierowicz, Kate Kelly, and last year's chair Gilda Hudson-Winfield. Under their leadership, we have worked to study and focus on areas of the law uniquely affecting women and to encourage women in their involvement in the legal community at all levels. As chair this year, I am committed to continuing the excellence of our committee, working to advance the interests of women in the legal profession and the community at large, having our committee publish quality articles in the Catalyst, and providing an opportunity for lawyers and judges to network and visit socially.

For those of you new to Women and the Law, our committee has worked together with women and organizations throughout Illinois to share points of view, effectuate change, and discuss significant issues to women such as glass ceiling issues and gender bias in the courts. One of our ongoing projects is to review the 1990 Task Force Report on Gender Bias in the Courts, which identified gender issues in four substantive areas (domestic relations, criminal justice, civil damage awards, and courtroom dynamics) and recommended specific actions to be taken by the legislature, the judiciary, bar associations, and individuals.

In a preliminary review of the Task Force Report, a subcommittee of the Women and the Law Standing Committee concluded that significant progress has been made in the legislative arena. However, further inquiries are necessary to determine how well the other recommendations have been implemented. To obtain such information and seek input from attorneys, judges, and the general public, the committee conducted a roundtable discussion and written survey with women from around the State in various practice areas. This year we will evaluate the responses and continue to engage in dialogue designed to implement the recommendations of the Task Force Report and to help meet the unmet challenges and goals of the committee.

While women have made considerable progress in the legal profession, there is still much work to be done, and each one of you can make a difference by giving us your input and directing your energies to the work of the committee and betterment of the profession for women. To fully examine the work to be done we ask you to think about and respond to the following questions: What can the Women and the Law Standing Committee do for you? For example, would you like to see more educational programs or professional development programs, and, if so, in what areas? Is there legislation that we can propose or sponsor? Are there issues outside the Task Force Report that should be studied and that you would like to participate in? Please respond to me with your comments at cgamrath@sdflaw.com; I'd like to hear from you!

I would also like to see you become a vital and active part of the committee by participation in our listserv, newsletter, and public service projects, such as Women Everywhere Day and the Y-Me Breast Cancer Race in May of 2004. These types of activities are fun and rewarding and great networking opportunities.

I am extremely proud to be chair of the Women and the Law Standing Committee, and I invite your comments and suggestions. I truly believe that the future of the ISBA and the Women and the Law Standing Committee depends on the outreach we extend to Illinois young lawyers and female judges and practitioners throughout the state. The more involved we become in working to advance the interests of women in the legal profession, the stronger the next generation of women will be in furthering the goals and advancing the leadership of the ISBA.

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Celia G. Gamrath is a partner with the Chicago office of Schiller, DuCanto and Fleck. She concentrates in high-stakes matrimonial law cases and appeals.

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September 2003Volume 9Number 1