It has been my privilege to serve as a member and supporting officer of the Women and the Law Standing Committee for several years; this bar year, the privilege of service has extended to my chairing of the Committee. I consider this office much like the Super Bowl Trophy or the Olympic Torch, passed on to me by my elite and accomplished predecessors, to be protected and carried the distance as I am accompanied on the journey by my Committee members, and then to be lovingly and carefully handed to the next person waiting patiently to take and carry forward the still lighted torch. Next year, the torch bearer will be Lynn Grayson for a lucky group of Committee members.
This sense of individual responsibility and team work over a continuum corresponds to the way I feel about the strong, smart, energetic, dedicated, and often hilarious women who make up this year’s Committee, some of whom are long-serving and many of whom are new, but all of whom have formed a cohesive, hard-working and fun-loving group—as we have done every year. They drive far to attend our sometimes raucous but always interesting meetings; plan and participate in the service and educational programs of the Women Everywhere Project; co-edit our superb Newsletter, The Catalyst, and write insightful and provocative articles for it; propose, organize, prepare for, and moderate or speak at one of our several CLE programs awaiting production; evaluate legislation relevant to the women lawyers and the state’s female citizenry; and successfully promote women leaders for honors that recognize their value to the ISBA and the broader legal and social communities.
SO WHAT ARE WE DOING THIS YEAR? Among many other things:
• By the time you read this, we will have hosted, on October 4, an all day CLE Conference on Girls in the Juvenile Justice System, which will present a series of multi-disciplinary panel discussions about girls who get into trouble with the law, the juvenile justice system and affiliated support services they must confront, and the impact of the process on the girls, their families, and their communities. The Conference will also look at interventions that can help these girls stay out of trouble and be successful in avoiding a repeat experience in the system. Our co-sponsors in this endeavor were the Standing Committee on Minority and Women Participation and the Child Law and Criminal Justice Section Councils. The theme of this program is both pertinent to our mission of advocating for the legal rights of women and girls, and inspired by the programs on ‘Kids in a Jam’ and ‘Balanced and Restorative Justice’ created, respectively, by Past Presidents Bob Downs and Irene Bahr—showing in another way the force of the Torch.
• Joined by our co-sponsors, the Standing Committees on Minority and Women Participation and Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, the Human Rights Section Council, and the Task Force on Diversity, we will present a CLE program on “Legal Implications of Effective Representation of Unmarried Couples,” scheduled for the afternoon of December 6, 2007, at the ISBA Mid-Year Meeting. An impressive array of judges, lawyers, civil rights and community leaders, and legislators will discuss the legal challenges faced by unmarried couples, how they fare in our courts, and how legislative remedies might offer solutions to the difficulties of ordinary life situations that these individuals will continue to face without statutory protection.
• In keeping with the theme of ‘going the distance’, in April we will travel FAR (for most of us) downstate for perhaps the first time in our Committee’s history to co-host a reception at the Southern Illinois University Law School in Carbondale with our long-time friend and partner, Dean Peter Alexander. Our intent is to recognize, and better acquaint ourselves with, the women judges and practitioners in that region who tend to be the ones traveling FAR to meet with those of us who practice ‘upstate.’ We are excited about partnering with the Law School students and its faculty, including Professor Alice Noble-Allgire, in planning a program on legal issues relevant to women and female practitioners for that festive spring weekend.
• We will spend several meetings reviewing and redefining our Scope Statement, evaluating our past accomplishments, and setting goals and objectives for the future, consistent with the purposes for which our Committee was established and continues to grow. PLEASE NOTE THE LIST OF GOALS/OBJECTIVES IN THIS NEWSLETTER ON WHICH WE’D APPRECIATE YOUR INPUT. WE NEED YOUR VOICES TO HELP US DECIDE HOW TO GIVE VOICE TO WOMEN AND WOMEN LAWYERS AND HOW TO HELP KEEP THE ISBA STRONG AND RELEVANT TO WOMEN AND WOMEN OF COLOR. PLEASE GIVE US YOUR INPUT!
I think this is enough for now! We thank you for your continued support and encouragement in the work that we do, and we are always open to comments and recommendations. We also invite you to attend any of our regular business meetings, and hope you might be able to join us for the April 11, 2008 celebratory weekend in Carbondale!