New York Women's Bar Association, 132 East 43rd Street, #716, The Chrysler Building, New York, NY, 10017-4019
Message from the President
March 2006

Womenís History Month - Arenít we there yet?

At my law school graduation, if you had asked me what the practice of law would look like in 2006, I would have assumed that we would have females as Secretary of State, US Supreme Court Justices, Chief Judge of NYS, Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division, as presidents and general counsel at Fortune 500 companies, as managing partners at Wall St Law firms. And we have all of these. But why so few? And why no US President or Chief Justice of the Supreme Court? Is there something about women that keeps us from being leaders?

I think we all know that whatever the problem is, it isnít that women arenít capable leaders by virtue of their chromosomes. We have ample evidence of female leaders who are doing outstanding jobs - who then go home to raise children, care for sick relatives, and provide goodies at school bake sales.

But not all of us have that energy. Many women I speak with despair that they are always shortchanging some aspect of their lives. If they spend time with children, they donít see friends. They keep up with their work, but donít see the exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Interestingly, men are beginning to express this same feeling of wanting their lives to consist of more than just work.

NYWBA is in the process of surveying major law firms to see if we can quantify the cost to society of our failure to promote women as well as men. But you donít have to wait for the results of the survey to see the results in our culture. Just read the opinion of Judge Gleeson in the Lopez Torres case. If we consistently reserve the highest levels of power to a subset of people, those who are capable and who are denied their chance to advance will eventually become irate. And in our system, they sue. Lawsuits sometimes result in justice for individual plaintiffs, but they do not change the hearts of people. In fact, often, people will seek to sabotage a change they feel deprives them of power, and they will harden their hearts against those who caused the change. I think Judge Lopez Torres could testify to that.

We are a city, a state, a country teeming with talent. It doesnít come packaged only in White males. As President of the NYWBA, I am surrounded by it every day. What a terrible waste, to have capable people kept from the highest levels of service, because of their anatomy, or their ethnic background. Reading Judge Gleesonís opinion, I thought it described a system of selecting judges that sounded more like 1806 than 2006.

We need to change our culture. There are people in other countries trying to kill us; we cannot afford to ignore talent, just because the person who has it is wearing a skirt, or is not a White male. If the Appellate Division in the First Department doesnít look like the people whose fate it decides every day, is it any wonder that people lack confidence in our justice system?

Recently I attended a Womenís Bar Leadership Summit, hosted by the National Conference of Womenís Bar Associations. The Conference theme was: Effective Techniques to Advance Women Lawyers to the Top. Part of me was dismayed; I could have attended a conference with that theme thirty years ago; in fact, I probably did. But some of what I heard made sense to me.

Our profession is a dinosaur. Our template is the Wall Street Law Firm. Itís an outdated model based upon 18th century assumptions. It is dying out; the question is, what will replace it? Casual Fridays isnít a reform; itís a bandaid. We need a model for practicing law that allows human beings to be human. Whatís the point of technological advances if they donít free us up? Women are going to law school in greater numbers, few of them are staying at Megafirms to put in ridiculous hours; who will be left to work there in 50 years? As women succeed to the highest levels in companies that hire law firms, will they continue to hire White male lawyers because their companies always have? Donít misunderstand me; some of my best friends are White male lawyers. But I must say, most of them have lives; they do something besides sit in the office and bill hours. They travel. They read literature. They paint. My brother has even taken time off to - gulp! - raise his children. They experience life in its abundance and variety. And they are better lawyers for it. And better humans.

As we celebrate Womenís History this month, as we celebrated African-American History last month, I keep wondering: what will our legacy be? Who will be the next Sandra Day OíConnor, Judith Kaye, Betty Weinberg Ellerin, Constance Baker Motley? Letís be sure we are nurturing and promoting those lawyers; our failure to do so will have dire consequences for all of us.

Peace,
Christina

Archives

February 2006

In her column for February President Christina Kallas asked us to consider what it is we pay attention to in our culture. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

January 2006

In her column for January President Christina Kallas asked, "Do we (still) need a women's bar association?" To view the President's Message in full, click here.

December 2005

In her column for December President Christina Kallas discusses the Mental Health Court initiative. To view the President's message in full, click here.

November 2005

In her column for November President Christina Kallas asked us all to honor the memory of Ms. Rosa Parks by making one change. To view the President's message in full, click here.

October 2005

In her column for October in honor of Mediation Settlement Month, President Christina Kallas discusses whether mediation is an underused tool in a lawyer's toolbox. To view the President's message in full, click here.

September 2005

In her column for September, President Christina Kallas reflected upon the changes in our country since September 11th. To view the President's message in full, click here.

June 2005

In her column for June, President Christina Kallas discusses change and continuity. To view the President's message in full, click here.

April 2005

In her column in April, President Elizabeth Bryson talked about sexual politics and "women's work." She took issue with Harvard President Lawrence Summers' recent remarks implying that women are innately less suited to pursing careers in science or engineering. Such retrograde thinking is self-defeating. Mr. Summers had to apologize, and Harvard is now actively address the status of women in academia. Ms. Bryson also discussed upcoming events, including the Association's Annual Meeting, a CLE program on "Evolving Opportunities for Women' Lawyers," the Foundation's next fundraising breakfast, the WBASNY Convention, and of course our fantastic 70th Anniversary celebration on June 1st. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

February 2005

In her column in February, President Elizabeth Bryson talked about matters of life and death. She related the experiences of a friend fighting breast cancer and her mother and family addressing the loss of two brothers to AIDS several years ago, and how each circumstance, though very different, teaches us once again the importance of choosing to live life to its fullest every day. By contrast, she considers the proposal in the NYS Legislature to reinstate the death penalty, and WBASNY's brave stance in opposition. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

January 2005

In her column in January, President Elizabeth Bryson discussed the importance of taking steps to ensure that judges in New York have the appropriate qualifications and integrity to ensure the fair and equal administration of justice. She discusses pending legislation and proposed amendments to the Rules of Judicial Conduct that would have an influence on the method of selecting state court judges and the rules that would apply to candidates for judicial office in New York. Ms. Bryson was honored to chair a WBASNY Task Force to look at the proposed legislation and rule changes, and she discusses the process and proposals. She also describes the recent gala celebration WBASNY's 25 Anniversary and the wonderful presentation of the inaugural "Betty Weinberg Ellerin Mentoring Award" to Justice Ellerin. Finally, she reminds everyone of the importance of ensuring that their membership is renewed by January 31, 2005. New members are also welcome, and they can join for half-price dues starting in January! To view the President's Message in full, click here.

December 2004

In her column in December, President Elizabeth Bryson discussed the importance of speaking out and being heard. She demonstrated the value of the Association's screening of candidates for judicial office, particularly now, when the integrity of the judiciary is under attack. Because many of our members practice in solo and small firm settings, Ms. Bryson recommended that members appear before the Commission on Solo and Small Firm Practice, which is holding hearings and looking for comments, concerns and suggestions to make the lives of attorneys in these settings and their clients easier. Members should also plan to join us at several upcoming events that promise to be very exciting, including the NYWBA Foundation's Breakfast Series Speaker Event, a fundraiser scheduled for December 1st, WBASNY's 25th Anniversary Gala on December 2nd that will pay tribute to our own past President, the Honorable Betty Weinberg Ellerin, for her nearly 50 years of mentoring and service to women attorneys and judges throughout New York and across the country, and the New York Women's Agenda's Star Breakfast on December 7th. To view the President's message in full, click here.

November 2004

In her column in November, President Elizabeth Bryson celebrated all the wonderful programs and events that happened this fall, including our Annual Membership Reception. She also discussed the recent controversy with respect to screening the qualifications of candidates for judicial office in New York County, which became the subject of an article in the New York Law Journal. To view the President's message in full, click here.

September 2004

In her column in September, President Elizabeth Bryson asked members to join her in celebrating the Association's 70th Anniversary year (2004-05). Coincidentally, it was also the 25th anniversary year for the Women's Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY), which is the umbrella organization for all 16 women's bar associations across New York State. The NYWBA and its past President Joan Ellenbogen were instrumental in the formation of WBASNY, and it is a joy to see that it is flourishing. This is Beth's second term as President, and in her column she discussed the excitement of continuing programs begun last year and new programs that will begin this year. She also congratulated everyone who was involved in the wonderful year-end festivities, including our Annual Dinner and the WBASNY Convention. To view the President's message in full, click here.

April 2005

In her column for April, President Elizabeth Bryson congratulated several women who make history every day, including the 11 honorees designated for Women's History Month by the National Women's History Project and the New York City Commission on Women. She provided an update on the proposed rules that we have supported to allow asylum for women who are victims of domestic violence or other brutality that is directly or indirectly endorsed by their country's governments. Ms. Bryson also highlighted numerous upcoming events, including the NYWBA Annual Meeting and the Annual Ethics Forum, both in April, and the Women's Bar Convention in New Orleans and the NYWBA Annual Dinner, both in May. To view the President's message in full, click here. .

March 2004

In her March 2004 column, Ms. Bryson notes that NYWBA's membership has increased by over 33 percent from last year, and nearly 50% from two years ago. She praises the terrific work of NYWBA members, Officers, Board members, Committee Chairs, and others who worked on our membership drive and demonstrate why our bar association is so important, strong and vital. She also salutes two people who may not be lawyers but whose contributions are absolutely invaluable to the Association and the NYWBA Foundation - Executive Director Marta Toro and NYWBA Foundation member Denise Coleman. "Our Association is blessed with so many wonderful women and men who contribute their talents." To view the President's message in full, click here.

February 2004

In her February 2004 column, Ms. Bryson discussed the importance of mentoring and networking, especially for women attorneys. She also announces that the Association's Annual Meeting will be on April 28, 2004, when the 2004-05 officers and directors will be elected. Our gala Annual Dinner will be on May 26, 2004. At that event, awards will be presented to Linda Greenhouse, Pulitzer Prize winning author and New York Times reporter covering the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Hon. Jacqueline Silbermann, Administrative Judge of the NY County Supreme Court and Chief Administrative Judge for NYS Matrimonial Courts. To view the President's message in full, click here.

December 2003

In her December 2003 column, NYWBA President Elizabeth Bryson profiled important issues for our military, including the incidents of rape and sexual harassment at our military academies, the scourge of domestic violence, and the shameful track record of "don't ask, don't tell." She also discussed our exciting membership drive and the Reception Honoring Newly Elected and Appointed Judges. To view the President's message in full, click here.

November 2003

In her November 2003 column, NYWBA President Elizabeth Bryson discusses the importance and benefits of membership, as well as the recent visit of distinguished attorneys from Malaysia who were invited by the U.S. State Department to meet with NYWBA representatives. To view the President's message in full, click here.

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