Annual Meeting 2010
Women Lawyers Celebrate Inroads, Denounce Vestiges of Inequality
Posted Aug 8, 2010 8:36 PM CDT
By Rachel M. Zahorsky
The same weekend Elena Kagan was sworn in as the fourth female justice ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, five other female lawyers were honored at the ABA's 2010 Annual Meeting for their commitment to the equal participation of women in the profession and justice system.
Sunday's celebration to honor the Margaret Brent award recipients (PDF), who were recognized by the Commission on Women in the Profession, included presentations that highlighted impressive and inspiring careers of the first woman general counsel of two Fortune 500 companies, the first African American woman to be admitted to the Iowa bar and elected to the Iowa General Assembly, and a federal judicial appointment by President Clinton.
Yet most of those recognized at Sunday's luncheon talked about remaining hurdles.
"Two-career families are significantly challenged by the high level of billable hours and single-minded devotion to work that many law firms and other employers expect," award recipient Brooksley Born, former chair of the U.S. Commodity Future Trading Commission, said at the luncheon ceremony. Born was one of five women in her class at Stanford Law, where she graduated first in her class and was the first female to become president of the Stanford Law Review.
"Our work is far from done as full equality for women is not yet a reality" Born said. She cited lower-pay scales for female attorneys, a lack of mentors, and stereotypical notions of childcare and rearing that inhibit progress. "Despite all of the progress we've made and should celebrate, we must also continue to address the problems women face," she said.
Award recipient Elizabeth J. Cabraser, founding partner of the law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, who was recognized as a life-long defender of the rights of women, minorities and the LGBT community, talked about the still long road ahead to true equality.
"Until we are all ordinary and have ordinary rights and opportunities, none of us can become extraordinary," she said.
Today, 47 percent of law students and 56 percent of associates are women, however only 19 percent of law firm partners are female, and only 2 percent are minority women, noted recipient Laura Stein, senior vice president and general counsel of Clorox. "The attraction and retention of women should be a top priority [for the legal profession]," Stein said.
Other Margaret Brent award honorees include, civil and human rights activist Willie Stevenson Glanton and Hon. M. Margaret McKeown of the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
The event marked the 20th Anniversary of the Brent Awards, which are named after Margaret Brent, the first woman lawyer in America.