Nora Bryant 2014-02-25 12:52:00
How a State Bar of Texas section encourages women to participate and excel in the legal profession. RETIRED TEXAS SUPREME COURT JUSTICE BARBARA CULVER CLACK REMEMBERS A TIME WHEN THE WIVES OF MALE ATTORNEYS OFTEN OUTNUMBERED FEMALE ATTORNEYS AT THE ANNUAL MEETINGS OF THE STATE BAR. Frustrated by being so frequently mistaken as only an observer at the State Bar’s main professional event, Justice Clack petitioned the State Bar for some kind of distinction so that the women members of the bar could identify each other for support and gain recognition from their peers as participants in an increasingly diverse legal community. Shortly thereafter, in 1980, the Women and the Law Section of the State Bar of Texas was formed, with Justice Clack taking the helm as the section’s first chair. The section’s ranks quickly grew, numbering 218 members in 1982. Today, the section includes more than 650 members, the majority of whom are female attorneys with a personal interest in the section’s mission: to encourage and facilitate the active and effective participation of women in the legal profession and in the community, and to address current needs and issues experienced by women. The section has a rich history of fulfilling that mission; it helped to pass the first alimony bill in Texas history and supported legislation to punish sexual predators and to prohibit gender discrimination in private clubs, among other projects. Although there are now more than 29,000 female members of the State Bar of Texas, retention of women in the profession is a recurring challenge. The Women and the Law Section offers the opportunity for women attorneys to build strong professional networks across the state and welcomes its members to join the ongoing conversation on how to create an environment that promotes success for a new generation of female attorneys. Each year, the section honors an attorney who has achieved excellence in her respective field with the Sarah T. Hughes Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, named for the first woman in Texas to serve as a state district judge and a federal district judge. The award honors women who have paved the way for other female attorneys by influencing them to pursue legal careers, who have opened doors for other women lawyers in areas historically closed to women by advancing opportunities for women within a practice area, or who have otherwise served their profession or community in a manner that has benefited the legal profession and the community at large. Last year, in recognition of the accomplishments and contributions of Louise B. Raggio, who, among other firsts, was the first woman to serve as a director of the State Bar of Texas, the section renamed the Ma’at Justice Award in her honor. Originally named after the Egyptian goddess who symbolized justice, truth, and order, the Louise B. Raggio Award is given each year to an individual or group of individuals that has actively addressed women’s issues, both in the legal profession and in the community, in furtherance of justice in our society. The section is currently seeking nominations for both awards; if you know of an individual or group whose accomplishments merit one of these accolades, please contact Ronnie Harrison, chair of the awards committee, at email@example.com. At the 2014 State Bar Annual Meeting in June, the Women and the Law Section will partner with the Health Law Section to host a panel and CLE on the Affordable Care Act and its impact on Texas firms, clients, families, and physicians. The program will include a brief presentation and update on recent ACA developments, as well as a moderated panel of attorneys practicing in the employment, ERISA, and health law fields, who will discuss some of the implications of the ACA on women’s health issues in particular, as well as more general effects of the law. The Women and the Law Section is made up of a diverse group of attorneys, male and female, who dedicate their time and resources to improving the practice of law by focusing on Texas women. For more information, or to become a member of the section, go to txwomenlawsection.org. NORA BRYANT is an associate attorney at Burleson’s San Antonio office, where she specializes in energy law. She currently serves as chair-elect of the Women and the Law Section of the State Bar or Texas.
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