Although the female attorneys of Texas, just like their nationwide peers, are still limited in their ascent to the upper echelon in law firms and corporations, their counterparts within local bar associations are finding better leadership opportunities.
All five of the Lone Star State’s biggest metropolitan area bar associations are currently run by women executive directors. Two of them, Kay Sim of Houston and Delaine Ward of Austin, have been at their posts for 30-plus years, while the remaining three—Alicia Hernandez of Dallas, Megan Cooley of Tarrant County and June Moynihan of San Antonio—all took over after longtime leaders retired within the past few years.
“It’s wonderful we have them, because they deserved it. They are all qualified, but more than anything, they all have that spirit of caring about the community and its needs and searching with their boards on ways they can, as a profession, help those communities be better,” said Sim, executive director of the Houston Bar Association, the longest-serving of the bunch.
In her day job, Dallas lawyer Chasity Henry works in-house at Kimberly Clark-Corp., but when she’s not tending to the global giant’s transactions, she’s extending her hand to pull other black woman lawyers up the career ladder.
It started when Henry and former law school friends, all black women, began meeting for casual happy hours about eight years ago, discussing their challenges in the legal profession. It was Henry who pitched the idea of creating an official nonprofit organization—The NEW Roundtable—with the mission of empowering African-American woman lawyers, enhancing their careers and influencing the wider legal profession to improve hiring, retention and promotion of black women. (NEW stands for Network of Empowered Women.)
“Formal networks aren’t in place, oftentimes, for African-American women,” said Henry, assistant general counsel of corporate affairs and legal strategy at the Irving, Texas-based $18 billion company with brands like Kleenex, Huggies and Kotex. “We felt we didn’t always have the opportunity to join the other tables, so we created our own.”
Jeanene Jobst, senior counsel at Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta, was at work when a phone call sent her into a panic.
The babysitter who was scheduled to pick up her young daughter at her school bus stop was canceling at the last minute. With just 10 minutes until drop-off, it was physically impossible for Jobst to get there in time to ensure her 7-year-old, Madison, wasn’t left on the side of the road—alone.
“I frantically texted and called neighbors. Thankfully, one works from home, so she was able to get my daughter and keep her until I could get home,” Jobst said. “Needless to say, the babysitter was fired, but it still doesn’t help you in the situation.”
Jobst’s story would strike fear in the heart of any lawyer-mom, who—despite the day’s plans for a high-stakes deposition or a pressing client hearing—always keeps mental space and energy to know where her children are and ensure they’re cared for. However terrifying Jobst’s example is, the truth is that each and every mom-attorney has her own story of a time that, despite the best-planned child care solution, care fell through and left her needing to drop work and fix the problem.
Work-life balance is often pegged as the reason women leave traditional law firms. But for the growing number of women establishing their own firms, their departure is often rooted more deeply in gender inequality in the profession than in raising children or having more free time.
“If women were feeling valued, were getting properly rewarded for their efforts, were getting their fair share and it wasn’t a constant struggle to get your origination credit, and feel you are part of the team—then you would stay,” said Nicole Galli, who in 2017 co-founded a trade association, Women Owned Law, which has already grown to 200 members.
Also growing in membership is the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, which doles out the prestigious Women’s Business Enterprise certification. It currently certifies 300 law firms, and just 11 percent of those law firms have held their certifications for 10 years or more. A full 50 percent of them just earned certification within the past five years. Among the 300 WBE-certified law firms, 16 percent were newly founded within the past five years, according to council spokeswoman Jessica Carlson.
Originally published on law.com on Oct. 9, 2018.
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After having her second child, Southern California litigator Erin Giglia worked part-time for law firm Snell & Wilmer, but fellow associate Laurie Rowen had different plans for work when her baby girl was born 16 days after Giglia’s daughter.
Rowen always knew she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, while continuing to do legal work on an extremely part-time basis. It took nearly a year for Giglia to jump on board, but when she did, the pair co-founded Montage Legal Group, a new legal business model especially attractive to women.
Montage and firms like it have proven a good match for all sorts of lawyers who want to set their own work terms, but they have become particularly popular with lawyer moms who want to dramatically reduce their hours after they give birth, but who also want to stay in the legal game. The part-time experience at these kinds of firms also eases the transition back into the profession full time, if they choose to, when their children get older.
Like many things these days, it all started with a tweet.
On March 24, Harvard Law School lecturer Ian Samuel tweeted out select provisions of a leaked copy of a mandatory arbitration agreement from Munger, Tolles & Olson. According to the tweets, summer associates working for the firm had to waive their right to sue the firm in court and, instead, submit any claims they might have, including sexual or racial discrimination, to arbitration instead.
“I think this is the grossest thing I’ve ever heard. Munger ought to be ashamed,” wrote Samuel, who didn’t return a call seeking comment.
At a time when the Me Too movement has scrutinized the thought of mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment claims, Samuel argued that the policy was meant to shield the firm from exactly those types of claims. One of his posts in that thread was retweeted nearly 600 times and picked up by several media outlets. The backlash toward Munger Tolles was instantaneous. The day after Samuel’s tweet, the law firm announced on Twitter that it would no longer require any employee to sign a mandatory arbitration agreement. That same day, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe also announced on Twitter it was ending its arbitration agreements for any employees, including associates. Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom dropped its arbitration agreements for nonpartners after reviewing its policies in response to the Me Too movement, according to a Law360 article.