September 2010Volume 16Number 1PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)

Chair’s column

I’d like to make my last Chair’s column both a recap of our year, as well as an expression of gratitude. ISBA President John O’Brien is owed our thanks for making the issue of diversity central to his leadership. Alice Noble-Allgire, chair of the Diversity Leadership Council, is another ISBA leader working to improve diversity within the bar every day, spending countless hours working toward this goal and coordinating the work of the diversity-related ISBA section councils and committees. I was so fortunate to have my time as chair of Women and the Law fall under both of their tenures.

We accomplished much this year. On October 20, 2009, the Committee presented a program entitled “Seek Power: A Woman Lawyer’s Guide to Authentic Self-Promotion.” The program was a quick sell-out, and included a compelling presentation by Paula Hudson Holderman and Delilah Flaum of Winston and Strawn. Each attendee left armed with practical advice on how to promote herself in a way that was effective, comfortable and genuine. Recently-elected Third Vice President Paula Hudson Holderman and Ms. Flaum were praised by the participants for their original and enlightening presentation, and we thank them for their participation. Thank you to Committee members Emily Masalski and Julie Neubauer who coordinated such a worthwhile program. As younger attorneys, Emily and Julie brought a great enthusiasm and perspective to the program which was truly appreciated. Emily and Julie both welcomed the opportunity for leading this event, and demonstrated the vital role younger ISBA members have in our bar association.

On December 10, 2009, as part of the Diversity Leadership Council’s Mid-year meeting program “Lincoln’s Legacy: Lawyers Who Protect Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” the Committee highlighted the groundbreaking work of attorney Jody Raphael who has extensively studied sex-trafficking of women and girls in Chicago. Though there are many events competing for space at the mid-year meeting, President O’Brien made this program a priority and as a result the work of Ms. Raphael and others could be highlighted to a larger audience.

On February 25, 2010 the Committee presented the program “Women and the Criminal Justice System—Justice Delivered or Denied?” co-sponsored by the ISBA Criminal Justice Section Council and the ISBA Standing Committee on Delivery of Legal Services. The program focused on the distinct reasons women are brought into the criminal justice system, the treatment they received while there, and the problems they may encounter afterward. Many notable speakers discussed these issues as well as gender responsive practices. The final segment of the program focused on how we, as attorneys, can improve the system and effectively reduce the crime rate in this distinct population. The program concluded with a presentation by a woman, previously classified as an offender, who successfully re-entered the community. Committee members E. Nicole (“Nikki”) Carrion, Lori Levin and Mary Petruchius did a tremendous job coordinating, as well as speaking, at the program. Their commitment to these issues is steadfast and inspiring. We thank them for coordinating a program that challenged the participants to think beyond the practice of law to consider larger public policy issues.

On March 9, 2010, the Committee coordinated a luncheon entitled “Celebrating Women in the Profession: Reach Out and Build Our Future.” The Honorable Jane L. Stuart and the Honorable Susan F. Hutchinson were both presented with Presidential Commendations for their contributions to the legal profession. Barbara J. Howard, President of the Ohio State Bar Association, gave the Keynote Address which focused on how far we, as women attorneys, have come. Ms. Howard recognized Judge Carole Bellows, a former ISBA President, who was the first female state bar association president in the country. This emphasized to many younger attorneys that our progression has been swift since the time of Judge Bellows’ election. So much so, that many younger attendees remarked that they don’t view being a woman as posing any type of obstacle in the profession. It is easy for some to forget the hurdles that were overcome by these experienced attorneys. The luncheon gave us the opportunity to remember the path paved by our predecessors which makes our journey that much easier. Thank you to Committee members Judge Patrice Ball-Reed, Sandra Crawford, Sandy Blake, and Mary Petruchius for organizing the wonderful event. A special thanks to Committee “alums” Jill O’Brien and Paula Hudson-Holderman who joined us on the planning committee.

On April 9, 2010, in conjunction with the Committee on Racial and Ethnic Minorities, the Committee traveled to the Northern Illinois University College of Law in DeKalb. The Committees held a program for law students followed by a networking reception for law students, attorneys and judges in the area. It is truly notable that President O’Brien, President-Elect Mark Hassakis, Second Vice President John Locallo, Third Vice President John Thies, and Third Vice President-Elect Paula Hudson-Holderman all attended the event. This exemplified what champions of diversity they all are.

Throughout the year, the Committee also continued to focus on promoting attorneys. Women and the Law identified and nominated several deserving individuals for awards given by the ISBA and other organizations. The Committee encourages ISBA members to bring outstanding attorneys to our attention so they may receive the recognition they deserve. Our Committee has an excellent track record for nominations.

We have also spent a significant amount of time on the issue of legislation. Most ISBA section councils and committees receive copies of pending legislation relevant to the group’s substantive legal area. At times, there are a significant number of bills which require review and comment via listserve. Because the Women and the Law Committee does not involve just one substantive area of the law, we receive a substantial amount of pending bills for review, involving very diverse practice areas. Thank you to Sandra Blake, chair of our legislation subcommittee, for her tremendous efforts regarding these legislative issues.

Finally, Committee members Heather Fritsch and Sandra Crawford have shared editing responsibilities for The Catalyst this year. It is no small task to encourage busy attorneys to take the time to write and submit an article, but they have provided us with thought-provoking and informative newsletters. Thank you to both of you.

As our “bar year” draws to a close, I would like to thank everyone on the Women and the Law Committee, including Janet Sosin, for a wonderful year. I was honored to chair a group of committed, talented, and accomplished people. At the ISBA Annual Meeting in June, our current vice-chair, Sandra Crawford, will begin her tenure as chair. The Committee will certainly be inspired by her passion and creativity as it looks toward the future. ■

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