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Great Strides for Female Lawyers

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On the same weekend that Elena Kagan was sworn in as the fourth female justice to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, five other female lawyers were honored at the ABA Annual Meeting for their commitment to the equal participation of women in the profession and justice system.

The recipients of the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, presented by the Commission on Women in the Profession, included the first female general counsel of two Fortune 500 companies, the first African-American woman admitted to the Iowa bar, the former head of a federal agency and a federal judge.

Yet most of those recognized talked about the hurdles that remain.

“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,” said awardee Brooksley E. Born, a former chair of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and a retired partner at Arnold & Porter. “Our work is far from done, as full equality for women is not yet a reality.”

Elizabeth J. Cabraser, founding partner of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, was recognized for her work on behalf of women, minorities and the LGBT community.

“Until we are all ordinary and have ordinary rights and opportunities, none of us can become extraordinary,” she said.

Other recipients were: Laura Stein, senior vice president and general counsel of Clorox; Iowa civil and human rights activist Willie Stevenson Glanton; and Judge M. Margaret McKeown of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco.

It was the 20th anniversary of the awards, which are named for the first female lawyer in America.

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