The Los Angeles County Bar Association-Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles Joint Task Force Presents: Where Do We Go From Here? Empowering Women Partners and Overcoming Unconcious Bias in Our Firms
by Tanya L. Forsheit
Three years ago, the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles (WLALA) forged a Joint Task Force with the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA) on the retention and promotion of women in the profession. On January 21, 2011, from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm, the Joint Task Force will present its 2011 Annual Summit at LACBA’s offices in downtown Los Angeles, 1055 West 7th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90017. Attendance is free and includes one hour of Elimination of Bias MCLE credit.
This year’s Summit will tackle two important issues – overcoming unconscious bias in our law firms, and the empowerment of women partners – women who have advanced to partnership but who may encounter ongoing obstacles in their efforts to obtain influence comparable to the men in their firms. Each panel will be followed by breakout discussion groups moderated by members of the Join Task Force. These breakout groups will focus on how men and women lawyers can combat, in a positive and productive fashion, the unconscious bias that is still pervasive in the profession, and what it takes for women partners to maintain and enhance their power within the law firm environment.
History of the Joint Task Force
Past LACBA President Gretchen Nelson created the LACBA-WLALA Joint Task Force on the retention and promotion of women in the legal profession. The purpose of the Joint Task Force is to explore real, practical solutions to the ongoing phenomenon of women leaving the profession, most notably from large, prestigious firms.
Over the last two years, the Joint Task Force has put on several programs including an annual Summit, all of which have been very well attended by representatives from large and small firms alike. Programs have included a workshop type seminar at which law firm managers came together to brainstorm techniques that are working in their respective firms, and a fall program (the Summit) that includes more formal panels that include client General Counsel in addition to law firm partners.
The first Summit in 2008 produced a Call to Action – at least 35 firms in Los Angeles are now signatories (the document and the list of signatories can be found here). Signatories to the Call to Action agree to implement two initiatives in each of five priority areas by 2012 to attract, retain, and advance women lawyers. Participating law firms also agree to participate in a newly-created Coalition that will work with the LACBA/WLALA Joint Task Force to provide a forum for continued collaboration, cross-firm sharing of measurements of success of women’s initiatives, and a formal network of firm leaders with a continuing commitment to advancing and retaining women lawyers.
This Year’s Panelists
This year’s confirmed panelists, include Joanne Caruso of Howrey; Robyn Crowther of Caldwell Leslie; Cathy McEvilly, General Counsel, American Honda Motor Co., Inc.; Sangeeta Gupta, Ph.D; and Stephanie Scharf of Schoeman, Updike & Kaufman LLP.
Joanne Caruso is a partner in Howrey's Los Angeles office and is a member of the firm’s six-person Executive Committee. In 2006, Ms. Caruso was named one of the top 100 attorneys in California by the Los Angeles/San Francisco Daily Journal and from 2005 - 2010 she has been listed as one of "California’s Top 75 Women Litigators" by the same publication. Ms. Caruso has been ranked by Chambers USA and has been recognized as one of Southern California’s “Super Lawyers” in the area of Business Litigation. She has recently been named by California Diversity magazine as one of 2010's "Most Powerful and Influential Women in California."
Ms. Caruso represents Fortune 500 clients in all stages of federal and state court litigation throughout the United States. Her extensive commercial litigation experience includes complex commercial contracts, antitrust, unfair competition and unfair business practices, patent infringement matters, franchise relationships, real estate partnership disputes and insurance recovery. She has participated in numerous trials, mediations and arbitrations.
Ms. Caruso serves on the California Commission on Access to Justice. The 24 -member commission is made up of lawyers and judges as well as academic, business, labor and community leaders from across the State and was established to explore ways to improve access to civil justice for Californians living on low and moderate incomes.
Robyn Crowther relies on her creativity and persuasive skills to design and implement effective legal strategies for her clients. She enjoys the diversity of her civil litigation practice that includes matters in state and federal courts, institutional arbitration tribunals and other alternative dispute resolution forums. Twice recognized as one of the Top 100 Women Litigators in the State of California by the Daily Journal, Ms. Crowther obtains extraordinary results for her clients.
After clerking for the Hon. Gary L. Taylor on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Ms. Crowther joined Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher as an associate in the litigation department. She left Gibson Dunn for Caldwell Leslie in 1998. Ms. Crowther has represented individuals, multinational corporations, municipalities and small businesses. Her practice covers a wide variety of substantive areas of the law, from entertainment and intellectual property disputes to legal malpractice claims, from real estate to employment disputes and too many others to specify. Ms. Crowther works with her clients to develop results-oriented strategies to bring matters to resolution as efficiently and effectively as possible. She has substantial experience in provisional and preliminary remedies, pleading attacks and motions for summary adjudication and summary judgment. From the outset of the case, however, Ms. Crowther positions the matter for trial and considers herself primarily a trial lawyer.
Ms. Crowther brings her competitive spirit and strategic analysis to every matter she handles. Her litigation training began at the age of 12 when she participated in her first organized debate, and she pursued her interests in speech and debate through her undergraduate years at UCLA. During the three years that Ms. Crowther debated for UCLA, the team finished first or second in the nation. Her interest in advocacy next led Ms. Crowther to law school at Georgetown, where her persuasive skills earned her the Howrey & Simon Award for Excellence in Advocacy for her work as a member of Georgetown's "Tournament of Champions" trial team. Ms. Crowther has been honored for five years as a "Southern California Super Lawyer" and as a "Southern California Super Lawyer Rising Star" by the publishers of Los Angeles magazine and Law and Politics magazine and was included on the Daily Journal's list of the Top 75 Women Litigators in the State of California in 2008 and Top 100 Women Litigators in 2010.
Dr. Sangeeta Gupta is one of the nation's leading experts on workplace diversity, cross-cultural business and creating an environment of inclusion that is free from bias. Dr. Gupta is the author of several books and the forthcoming "Developing Global Leadership Skills for an Inclusive World". Dr. Gupta has more than 20 years of experience in a variety of industries including: legal; entertainment; information technology; government; financial services; academia; transportation; health care; and nonprofit. She works with senior leadership to help them navigate their increasingly diverse working environments.
Dr. Gupta received her Ph.D. from UCLA and is a senior faculty member in Chapman University’s Leadership Services Program. Dr. Gupta's A Quick Guide to Cultural Competency, part of the Quick Guide Business Series for the busy professional, was featured on Forbes.com.
Cathy McEvilly joined the Honda North America, Inc. ("HNA") Law Department in 1994 as a senior staff attorney. In her current position as Vice President & General Counsel for HNA, she is responsible for the supervision of the legal affairs of American Honda Motor Co. ("AHM"), and certain of its subsidiaries. In her current position as Vice President & General Counsel for Honda Patents & Technologies North America, LLC, ("HPT"), she is responsible for supervision of legal matters involving the creation and protection of Honda’s intellectual property assets and the defense of Honda companies in intellectual property litigation in North America.
Prior to working at HNA, Cathy worked as a public defender with the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office for several years and then was in private practice at several mid-sized Los Angeles law firms handling complex business litigation issues. Cathy graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor of Arts in history and received her Juris Doctorate degree in 1983 from Loyola Law School.
Stephanie Scharf is a partner with Schoeman Updike Kaufman & Scharf in Chicago. Ms. Scharf concentrates her practice on complex state and federal court litigation. She has represented clients in federal and state courts as well as throughout the Midwest, East and West, in complex contract disputes, product liability and toxic tort lawsuits, insurance coverage disputes, product liability disputes for corporate policyholders, employment disputes and mass torts and class actions. Ms. Scharf also counsels on procedures for enterprise risk assessment, product liability risk management and compliance. Ms. Scharf has substantial experience in statistical analysis, data display and communication of complex information to lay audiences. She has co-chaired a Committee of the American Bar Association’s Section of Litigation and has served as a member of the ABA's Special Committee on Bioethics and the Law. She is a Sustaining member of the Product Liability Advisory Council and serves on the Case Selection Committee.
Ms. Scharf is President of the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) Foundation, a Past President of NAWL and founding Chair of the NAWL Committee for the Evaluation of Supreme Court Nominees. She also founded and chairs the annual NAWL National Survey on the Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms.
Ms. Scharf received a Ph.D. (Behavioral Sciences/Psychology) and J.D. from the University of Chicago. Before practicing law, Stephanie was a University Harper Fellow and Senior Study Director, NORC, where she helped design and manage large-scale public health surveys commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She received a B.A. from Rutgers University and an M.A. in Communications from Stanford University.
WLALA is a California State Bar approved MCLE provider. This program has been approved for one (1) hour of Elimination of Bias in the Legal Profession MCLE credit.
As noted above, attendance is free. Breakfast and lunch will be served. To register your firm, clients, and friends, and for more information, please CLICK HERE or contact Kay Burt at the WLALA office, firstname.lastname@example.org or (213) 892-8982.
Tanya L. Forsheit, President-Elect of WLALA and Co-Chair of the WLALA-LACBA Joint Task Force, is one of the Founding Partners of InfoLawGroup LLP.