June 15, 2020
To the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations Community:
The recent violent deaths of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other Black Americans, as well as the Central Park birdwatching incident involving Christian Cooper have highlighted that systemic, pervasive racism still exists in America. The NCWBA writes today to stand in support of the Black community, the Black Lives Matter movement, and to denounce the legal structures that allow systemic racism to continue to exist.
As part of our mission, NCWBA advocates for equality in the legal profession and in society. We are committed to the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion and to ensuring that the legal profession, the justice system, and leaders accurately reflect the communities they serve. We are committed to mobilizing and uniting to effect change in laws, processes, and biases that adversely impact women, persons of color, and other marginalized groups. Black women in our profession have faced a double bind of racial and gender discrimination throughout their lives.
Recognizing that action is important, our board members have been reading, listening, and reaching out to our friends and colleagues, gathering and sharing resources with our local communities and women’s bar organizations, and attending member programs such as Ms. JD’s Allyship in the Legal Profession. We have been inspired by seeing so many of our member organizations write eloquent statements of support and pledge to take action for change. Given our many privileges, the legal community cannot stand in silence. The NCWBA calls on all of our member organizations and the legal community as a whole to take action to dismantle systemic racism.
On the NCWBA’s website, we now have a compilation of resources available that we hope will be helpful for our member organizations and communities. We encourage you to share the actions you are taking locally with the NCWBA. Please send us a note at [email protected], and we will include your resources on our website.
In Support and Solidarity,
The National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations
We are pleased to welcome our new executive director, Christina Simpson! Christina is admitted to practice in New York and Massachusetts. Her current legal practice emphasizes small business and branding. She is an active member of the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts, where she co-chairs the Women of Color Committee. She is a graduate of Brooklyn Law School and received her undergraduate degree at Boston College.
Long-time executive director Diane Rynerson will be retiring in 2019 which means we are now eager to identify the next executive director who will help us to grow and strengthen the organization in years to come. The position is part time, with flexible hours. Applications are currently being reviewed.
The ABA adopted a model antidiscrimination rule in August 2016, but many states have yet bring antidiscrimination provisions into their own professional rules. NCWBA just launched a new toolkit designed to assist states in exploring the new model rule by providing quick access to key information, summarizing arguments for and against the rule, and providing a checklist and sample letter/proposal to get the process started.
Lawyers in the U.S. are not nearly representative of the population we serve. Discrimination and implicit bias significantly contribute to this lack of diversity and limit the effectiveness of our profession. Previous and current efforts to increase diversity among lawyers are not enough to address the problem.
The new antidiscrimination rule makes it misconduct for lawyers to discriminate in the course of practicing law. States are now able to more easily address discrimination and increase diversity by considering adoption of the model anti-discrimination rule.
Still, addressing diversity and evaluating the model rule can be a significant undertaking for a state. The new NCWBA toolkit is designed to make it easier for states to consider address diversity issues. You can check out the new toolkit here and download helpful information to use in your state.
The Outstanding Advocate is awarded to an attorney who has gone above and beyond to fight for the rights of women and minority groups, and the people of the Commonwealth, and as such, has embodied the WBA’s mission in their advocacy.
The WBA is proud to recognize Attorney General Maura Healey with this award. AG Healey was honored at an anniversary party on March 8, 2018 at Goulston & Storrs. The anniversary party kicked off the celebration of the WBA’s 40th anniversary and the Women’s Bar Foundation’s (WBF) 25th anniversary.
AG Healey began serving as Massachusetts Attorney General in January 2015, after winning an historic victory in her first-ever run for office. Prior to her election, AG Healey helped lead the Attorney General’s Office as Chief of the Civil Rights Division and went on to become chief of the office’s Public Protection and Business & Labor Bureaus.
Since her election as Attorney General, she has focused on expanding economic opportunity by addressing rising energy and health care costs, tackling student loan debt, and ensuring fair treatment for workers and a level playing field for businesses. AG Healey has also gained national prominence for her leadership in combatting the state’s opioid epidemic, including expanding substance use prevention training for young people.
AG Healey has spent years leading the People’s Law Firm in the fight for fairness and equality, and expanding opportunities for women, vulnerable communities, and working families across Massachusetts. Most recently, AG Healey’s office issued new guidance with resources for employers as they prepare for the updated Massachusetts Equal Pay Act to go into effect this summer, providing greater clarity as to what constitutes gender-based wage discrimination, adding new protections for workers, and incentivizing employers to address gender-based pay disparities and achieve pay equity.
AG Healey has long been recognized as a leader by the Women’s Bar Association. She was a member of the Charter Class of the Women’s Leadership Initiative in 2009, where she was selected as an up and coming woman lawyer expected to achieve great things in her career. There is no doubt that she has served as a role model for the many lawyers in the organization who have since participated in the program and followed in her footsteps in making the Commonwealth safer and more just.
About the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts
Founded in 1978 by a group of activist women lawyers, the Women’s Bar Association boasts a vast membership of accomplished women lawyers, judges, and law students across Massachusetts. The WBA is committed to the full and equal participation of women in the legal profession and in a just society. The WBA works to achieve this mission through committees and taskforces and by developing and promoting a legislative agenda to address society’s most critical social and legal issues. Other WBA activities include drafting amicus briefs, studying employment issues affecting women, encouraging women to enter the judiciary, recognizing the achievement of women in the law, and providing pro bono services to women in need through supporting its charitable sister organization, the Women’s Bar Foundation. For more information, visit www.womensbar.org.
The National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations’ (NCWBA) Public Service Award and Outstanding Member Program Award are prestigious national awards recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments of women’s bar associations from across the country. The Awards are meant to inspire other women’s bar associations to emulate them and initiate successful programs in their own regions.
Initiated in 1985, the NCWBA Public Service Award is given to bar associations to recognize a wide variety of outstanding and unique public service projects. The types of projects which have won the Public Service Award over the years have taken many different forms and have approached “public service” in a variety of different ways, such as providing pro bono legal services to women in need, training lawyers to do pro bono work, creating educational materials about legal rights and assisting children impacted by some aspect of the legal system.
Initiated in 2008, the NCWBA Outstanding Member Program Award is given to bar associations in recognition of innovative projects, programs and services to benefit their members or the bar association itself. Like the Public Service Award projects, the types of projects which have won the Outstanding Member Program Award over the years have taken many different forms, such as programs encouraging and preparing members to pursue careers in the judiciary and public office, providing mentoring and leadership skills to members, providing members with law practice management skills and preserving the history of women lawyers in a particular state.
Nomination Deadline: The nomination deadline is January 20, 2017. Download the form at the following link:
The Awards will be presented during the ABA Annual Meeting on August 11, 2017 in New York.
For questions or more information, contact Shiloh Theberge or Leigh-Ann Durant, NCWBA Awards Co-Chairs, E-mail: [email protected]
The National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations has added its voice to those asking that the US Senate Judiciary Committee move ahead expeditiously to act on the nomination of Judge Garland to the Supreme Court. The letter can be read at the link below:
With the nomination by President Obama of Judge Merrick Garland on March 16 to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, it is now left to the Senate Judiciary Committee to convene hearings on his qualifications and give him an up-or-down vote. It was made clear, even before the nomination of Judge Garland, by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others that no action on the nomination is planned. The partisan nature of the inaction has caused many state and local bar associations to shy away from public discussion of the matter. Yet lawyers are uniquely qualified to understand and explain the importance of separation of powers, constitutional duties and the barrier to the fair administration of justice posed by judicial vacancies. In this instance, silence can be viewed by the Senate and the public as consent by the legal community to the Senate’s inaction. As a women’s bar leader, what can or should you do?
States can no longer discriminate based on sex and sexual orientation
(Washington, DC) Today, the Supreme Court made history by declaring same-sex marriage bans to be unconstitutional. With a 5-4 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges and consolidated cases, marriage equality is now the law of the land: Same-sex couples can be married and have their marriages recognized in every state. This decision, which ensures that men and women will no longer be barred from marriage based on damaging gender stereotypes, is a victory for all Americans.
The following is a statement from Marcia D. Greenberger, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center:
“The National Women’s Law Center joins all champions of equality in celebrating today’s historic decision. The Supreme Court has clearly stated that regardless of your gender or the gender of your partner, you have a fundamental right to marry the person you love, and that right cannot depend on your zip code. This tremendous achievement marks a new day for same-sex couples and their families, who will finally be granted the recognition and dignity that is their due no matter where they live. This is a major victory—but our efforts are far from over. Strengthened by this triumph, we must now work to ensure fair treatment for LGBT individuals and families at work, at school, in housing, and elsewhere. It is time to embrace true and universal equality.”
Contact: Melanie Boyer, [email protected] or 202-588-5180
Mia Jacobs, [email protected] or 202-588-5180
June 19, 2015
Dear SCWLA members and friends,
This is a personal letter to the women lawyers of South Carolina, and to women lawyers everywhere.
The senseless massacre in Charleston this week has stunned, and saddened, all of us. Many of our members knew the people, good people, who were gunned down in what is being called, I fear correctly, a “hate crime.” I knew Reverend Pinckney myself.
As lawyers, this event calls us to rise up as defenders of equality, to stand up as protectors of liberty, and to speak up as crusaders against hatred. In a profound way, this unspeakable tragedy summons us to be our very best selves. So today, the women lawyers of South Carolina say to all involved, “We will not tolerate this conduct — not here, not now, not ever.”
But, my friends, long before we ever opened a book to read the rule of law, there was another book written on our hearts. It is the book that teaches us, in this transitory life, to love our neighbors as ourselves. And it is this rule, above all others, that will carry us through this valley of the shadow.
In closing, I urge you to keep your hearts open. The survivors of this tragedy, the members of the historic church where the unthinkable happened, are setting this example for all of us. I, for one, am humbled by their forgiveness and strengthened by their faith.
With best personal wishes,