April 2014Volume 19Number 5PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)

A final view from the Chair

Rise up, reach back

My year as Chair of this distinguished committee has utterly flown by! I had lofty plans for this year and I am happy to report that those plans were more than realized by this amazing group of women.

The August 22, 2013 program and reception, “30 Female Blackstones Gather in Chicago” was a huge success. This occasion honored the thirty women lawyers from across the country who gathered in Chicago in August of 1893 for the first-ever national meeting of women lawyers. It was inspiring to hear the panelists’ stories of their personal journeys, complete with struggles and accomplishments.

At our annual meeting in June, Paula addressed the WATL members and set forth her plan and initiatives for the upcoming year. She asked the WATL to review the ABA’s Gender Equity Toolkit to determine how we can apply it specifically to Illinois’ and small to mid-sized firms. We formed a special Gender Equity Subcommittee to accomplish that goal. As this newsletter goes to press, I am proud to announce that on May 8, 2013, Paula Holderman and the WATL is presenting “Because You’re Worth It! Achieving Excellent Compensation & Advancement in the Legal Profession.” This program and networking reception following is the result of countless hours of dedicated hard work by this great subcommittee, whose members include Veronica Felton Armouti, Julie Neubauer, Emily Masalski, and Kristen Prinz.

Angela Evans and the CLE Subcommittee presented the extremely successful CLE on bullying this year. Angela is currently working with Yolaine Dauphin to present an updated CLE on human trafficking that will be offered in the next year.

The WATL is continuing its tradition of producing award winners. Melissa Olivero is to receive the Northern Illinois University’s Outstanding Alumni Award for the College of Law on April 25. Julie, Emily, and I will be attending the awards dinner to pay tribute to Melissa. Tracy Douglas will receive the ISBA Young Lawyer of the Year for Downstate Illinois Award at the ISBA Awards Luncheon on June 20. This Committee will be in attendance to honor you, Tracy! More award recipients to come from this committee, I’m sure of that!

March 21, 2014 is a day I am sure will live on in many committee members’ memories for years to come. As Paul Holderman, our program moderator, so beautifully said, “The stars have aligned today. You will never have this group of women together ever again.” We were honored to have as panelists for “Myra Bradwell: The Practice of Law in the Wake of Her Legacy” the Honorable Anne Burke, Joy Cunningham, Rita Garman, Shelvin Louise Marie Hall, Susan Hutchinson, Mary Jane Theis, and Diane Wood. Jennifer Gust from Hinshaw and Culbertson rounded off the panel as youngest and non-judge member. If anyone questioned what the phrase, “Rise Up and Reach Back” meant before that day, there was certainly no doubt in one’s mind after seeing and listening to these magnificent women!

Speaking of rising up and reaching back, at the beginning of my term as Chair of the Standing Committee on Women and the Law, I challenged all of us with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s quote, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” I can honestly say that, although I may spend some time in purgatory, I don’t think I will be visiting that special place. I hope that I helped a couple of women this year and that they, in turn, will reach back for another woman.

Finally, I would like to thank our amazing Catalyst editors. With your gentle but firm persistence, you have given readers a consistently excellent newsletter. Obviously, we couldn’t have had such a valuable publication without our immensely gifted authors, who provide us with your knowledge, opinions, and insights.

It’s been a truly wonderful year for me and for the WATL and, with Tish’s leadership, 2014-15 can only be better! ■


Mary F. Petruchius is a solo general practitioner in Sycamore, IL. She is the 2013-2014 Chair of the Standing Committee on Women & the Law. Mary is also a member of the Diversity Leadership Council and the Child Law Section Council for 2013-2014. She is a proud Gold Fellow of the Illinois Bar Foundation. She can be reached at marypet@petruchiuslaw.com and her Web site is <www.petruchiuslaw.com>.

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