Member Groups

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

May 2010, vol. 15, no. 3

Letter to the editor

Women and the Law Committee welcomes input and feedback from readers of its quarterly Catalyst Newsletter. Recently one of our reader shared with us comments and thoughts about The Catalyst and how it may be improved to better serve all its readers. Below, with permission of the author, is a copy of the exchange between The Catalyst’s co-editor and reader WATL reader, Ms. Cindy Johnson. We hope this information is of value and encourage all our readers both to write to let us know how we are doing and to submit articles for publication in The Catalyst which they believe would be of interest to our audience.

Dear Ms. Editor:

For many years I have been dismayed with The Catalyst, and perhaps the committee itself. As women lawyers we have so much to offer and we are a very diverse group with diverse practice areas. In so many ways, we can help each other succeed by mentoring and by just being there to support each other.

For some time, however, the articles in The Catalyst have focused very heavily upon domestic violence, children’s issues, child support, and domestic relations issues. Unfortunately, this conveys to the world two very sexist, very inaccurate viewpoints. One is that women lawyers are only capable of dealing with these “family” type issues. The other is that ALL WOMEN LAWYERS do, and should, take a greater interest in domestic issues than men BECAUSE we are women. I’m assuming that the committee did not intend to give these signals to the general bar, but it was the sad result. In fact this is one of the main reasons I have stayed away from “women’s” bar associations and committees throughout my career. I felt that it did not serve to empower women, or make them more accepted in what is still a male dominated community, but, instead, served to separate women and denigrate them to second tier lawyer status.

The fact that the entire December Catalyst concentrated on career promotion and self betterment as a lawyer, along with President Obama’s outreach to all lawyers (on issues not focused on family issues), and a discussion of diversity of all non-majority groups of lawyers was unbelievably refreshing. Obviously, family law types of issues have a place, but that place should be along side career issues, commentary on particular practice areas where women have broken a glass ceiling and opened doors for others, self improvement matters, management discussions (for senior associates, or women who are hiring their first employees, for instance), assistance to the poor in all areas-not just family matters, etc.

I am not a “writer” in terms of letters to the editor or getting my personal opinions out there. But I was so pleasantly taken by surprise by this last newsletter that I felt compelled to tell you how pleasantly surprised I was.

Keep up the good work.

Cindy M. Johnson (managing member)

Johnson & Newby, LLC

Dear Ms. Johnson:

Thank you for your kind letter-to-the-editor and apologies for my delay in responding. I have been a co-editor of The Catalyst for several years now and I am always glad to receive feedback from a reader. I appreciate your frankness and perspective and would like your permission to re-print your comments in our next edition. One of the things we continue to struggle with in publishing this newsletter quarterly is getting submissions in the first place. I have long felt that publishing in an ISBA Newsletter, like The Catalyst, is itself a means by which women lawyers can market themselves and their particular field of law. As The Catalyst is not a substantive newsletter we have greater leeway to accept submissions on a wide range of topics, but getting submissions continues to be the challenge—a true “chicken or egg” dilemma. Submissions, as long as they relate to “women in the law” and are submitted with the original author’s permission, do not have be original pieces. If you are so inclined I would welcome a submission from you or any of your associates or colleagues for publication.

Thanks again.

Sandra Crawford, J.D., Vice-Chair of the ISBA’s Women in the Law Committee and Co-Editor of The Catalyst Newsletter