President's Message - AUGUST
WLALA President 2016-2017
NOW, MORE THAN EVER, WLALA IS RIGHT WHERE YOU BELONG
As I write my last President's Message, I have to admit that this is has been a tough year to be president of a woman's bar association. It is certainly not the year I had anticipated. Like many of us, I had expected a year of celebrating firsts for women. I had wanted to spend my President's Messages rejoicing in our many breakthroughs and steps forward. Alas, the pendulum swung the other way.
So instead, I have spent much of my presidency commiserating with so many of you about the rise of deplorable sexism at the highest ranks of our nation, and the shocking abandon of social norms that previously led civil society at least to try to tame the worst of ourselves rather than revel in it. This has led me to write no fewer than three columns about the need to promote and encourage feminism (April's President's Message, June's President's Message and July's President's Message). It's led to me to write a column about the need in this moment to embrace our righteous outrage (July's President's Message).
And, it has shown to me that, now more than ever, WLALA is Right Where You Belong.
Because WLALA is a place where we prop each other up when, in times like these, we need it. It's a place where your fellow women lawyers have your back. It's a place where we revel in each other's success and commiserate about our failures (and remind one other that the road to success is paved with those failures).
I am so proud of the year we have had at WLALA, which actually has had its fair share of firsts. This year, we launched our Public Interest Law Committee, and sought ways large and small to make WLALA a place where public interest lawyers felt right where they belong. We launched a joint partnership with Inner City Law Center (ICLC), in which WLALA members are providing pro bono legal services to homeless vets, including women vets; we also sponsored our first WLALA/ICLC Homeless Veterans Project Student Fellow. Our Diversity Committee, now in its second year, held its first substantive program, and continued to advance the cause of increasing awareness and promoting diversity and inclusion of women of color in the legal profession. Also for the first time, we staffed a legal clinic at the LA Law Library in honor of Women's History Month.
We also continued many long-standing efforts to improve our community and ourselves. Our Domestic Violence Project continued WLALA's long-standing commitment to staff a weekly drop-in legal clinic at Sojourn, a domestic violence shelter in Santa Monica. We continue to provide both Eastside and Westside mentoring circles, as well as law student mentoring. And, WLALA raised more than $2000 for Food From the Bar.
WLALA also had a banner year for acting outside the box, in several different ways. We started an ad hoc committee to address issues relating to administrative and judicial presidential appointments that could have a negative impact on women's issues. We co-sponsored a screening of the movie Loving, about the interracial marriage case, Loving v. Virginia. We rocked out with WLALA member Matt Umhofer, who raised over $5000 for the WLALA Foundation by his stellar performance at Law Rocks! at Whiskey a Go Go in West Hollywood. And, our Public Interest Law section launched a first of its kind survey of maternity leave policies at local public interest organizations (stay tuned for the publication of the survey results!).
WLALA also did a lot of internal house-cleaning this year. We updated our Board Book, created new guidelines for sponsoring resolutions relating to proposed legislation, updated and modernized our Foundation bylaws and started the process to do the same to the WLALA bylaws, and laid the groundwork for the launch sometime this Fall of our much anticipated updated WLALA website. We continued our ongoing Foundation Strategic Planning initiative. And, in anticipation of WLALA's 100th anniversary in 2019, our History Project began conducting videotaped interviews with numerous WLALA past presidents, and other prominent women lawyers and judges, to add to our historical archive.
This year, we also launched our Annual Sponsorship program, which brought in nearly $100,000 in income, putting WLALA in a much stronger financial position than it has ever been. In addition, we also engaged an investment advisor who has helped the Foundation get its financial house in order, maximizing our ability to use Foundation assets to achieve the Foundation's charitable goals.
And, as always, our board members put on dozens of amazing programs, catering to the many diverse interests of our membership, with everything from tennis, golf, hiking, spin, and a baby and me yoga and networking program (yeah, we did a lot of exercise together this year!); to an estate planning program for lawyers; to our Litigators Forum, which this year focused on dealing with sexism in litigation and featured Susan Estrich, retired judge and current head of Public Counsel Margaret Morrow, Central District of California Chief Judge Virginia Phillips, Lori Rifkin, and keynote speaker Lisa Bloom; to whiskey tasting; to a program on the nuts and bolts of a career in criminal justice; to a family law program featuring four family court judges, including our very own Judge Laura Seigle; to a solo and small firm program on the ethics of hiring contract lawyers; to a reproductive rights program featuring the head of Planned Parenthood LA, Sue Dunlap, representatives from the Feminist Majority Foundation and NARAL Pro-Choice California, Professor Adam Wrinkler, activist Sandra Fluke, and keynote speaker Senator Holly Mitchell; to nail night; to a program on negotiating tactics for young lawyers. We enjoyed a night at the Magic Castle, and we saw Mamma Mia at the Hollywood Bowl (it was amazing). We joined our sister bar associations in a program featuring California Supreme Court Associate Justice Leondra Kruger, and in our annual Women's History Month joint celebration, featuring keynote speaker Judge Dolly Gee. Our WLALA-LACBA Joint Task Force program tackled the issue of beating bias.
In light of all this awesomeness, it is no surprise that we added nearly 160 members since this time last year. This is all-around terrific news, because as WLALA grows, so too does your village.
None of this would have been possible without the tremendous efforts of my amazing sisters on this voyage, WLALA’s Executive Committee, which was comprised of President-Elect Amy Brantly, First Vice President Heather Stern, Second Vice President/Treasurer Jennifer Leland, Secretary Michelle Abidoye, and Communications Officer Jessica Kronstadt, the incomparable WLALA Executive Administrator Kay Burt, and her intrepid Administrative Assistant Lindsay Audette. These women are, to a person, smart, dedicated, hard-working, funny, kind and, most importantly, ready and willing to back a sister up. Kay is the glue that keeps the ship together; I will forever be grateful for her professionalism and her friendship. And, Amy is going to be a SPECTACULAR president. I am thrilled to be leaving the presidency of this terrific organization in such capable hands. Because now, more than ever, WLALA is Right Where You Belong.