April 2011Volume 16Number 4PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)

Chair’s column

The Women and the Law Committee (WATL) is what is sometimes referred to as an “odds-and-ends committee,” meaning it is a not a topic- or practice-area-specific committee. Having this feature gives WATL a very broad range when it comes to things like planning events, MCLE and cable program offerings, reviewing and commenting on proposed legislation. This wide range also allows us many opportunities to partner with other ISBA committees and groups outside ISBA. Many WATL members also chair or serve on other committees so the scope of interconnectivity within the ISBA is far reaching. This makes for WATL being a wonderfully energetic working group with lively committee meetings and high functioning subcommittees.

Some examples of the diversity of the events WATL has or will be hosting/sponsoring and topics we have or will be tackling this bar year are:

*Power, Prestige and Your Personal Brand. This program is aimed at helping ISBA female members, no matter where they are positioned in the market place, to understand how to better present themselves and create a “Personal Brand.” This program will be held at Kent College of Law and participants will receive a free year long subscription to the Legal Balance networking group.

*Women’s Prison Visit. This event will allow a diverse group of practicing women lawyers to come face to face with the female prison population at Dwight Correctional Facility. During this visit we hope to learn firsthand the unique challenges faced by this segment of “women in the law.” As a result of this visit WATL hopes to start a dialogue to find new opportunities for programs and initiatives aimed at addressing the special needs of incarcerated women, girls and mothers. This visit builds on various MCLE programs previously offered by the Committee around the topics of women and girls in the prison system.

*Statewide Outreach to Women Lawyers. This spring’s outreach will take the Committee to LaSalle/Peru to meet with ISBA members and women from that region of Illinois. WATL has been conducting yearly outreaches such as this for over a decade now. These events have helped WATL diversity the make-up of its membership. Through these annual gatherings of ISBA women members WATL fulfills a role as a “good will ambassador” for the organization and encourages greater participation by women lawyers and law students in the ISBA in general.

*Women and Aging. This day-long MCLE program will address the multifaceted topics of women and aging. It will cover items like dealing with aging clients, dealing with your own aging parents or your own issues around aging and end of life planning. As the general population is now living longer and women outlive men by 10 plus years, this subject matter is truly a “hot topic.” WATL has brought together an interdisciplinary group of outstanding professionals to address the various facets from differing vantage points. The program will be recorded and will be available via webcast for those who are not able to attend in person.

* United Nations Convention to End Discrimination Against Women. WATL, in partnership with the various other members of the Diversity Leadership Council, took the lead in the run up to the ISBA 2010 Mid-Year Meeting to educate ISBA Assembly Members about the merits of supporting ratification of this UN Treaty, nicknamed “CEDAW.” Because of those intentional and concentrated efforts ISBA is now the second statewide bar association in the US to take a public stand to support the ratification of CEDAW. By this effort it is the hope that we have now moved from merely talking in private about the problems of discrimination around the world to actually becoming more transparent in our conversation about what we are willing to do about the problems. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step” - Lao-tzu. ISBA’s public support for ratification of CEDAW is one of those wonderful “first steps.”

*Educating the Public on Conflict Resolution Process Choices. WATL will add this to its already long history of quality cable offerings with a program aimed at educating the public around informed consent and process options available when facing legal difficulties. The program will provided information about cost effective alternatives to litigation, such as Mediation, Arbitration and Collaborative Practice.

The above is only a sampling of work the WATL is involved in. For more information about these and other on-going efforts of the Committee, readers should feel free to contact WATL 2010-11 Chair, Sandra Crawford, at lawcrawford@att.net or (312)726-8766. ■

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