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SEPTEMBER 2015 - President's Message
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President's Message - SEPTEMBER

Kimberly Arnal
WLALA President 2015-2016

I am both honored and humbled to assume the role of President of WLALA.  Established in 1919, WLALA is one of the oldest women’s bar associations in the United States.  And, with over 1000 members, it is also one of the largest local women’s bar associations in California.  Many prominent Los Angeles women attorneys and judges have been a part of its leadership.  Counted amongst WLALA’s Past Presidents are Eileen M. Decker, U.S. Attorney, Central District; the Honorable Kim McLane Wardlaw , U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit; and Sheila Kuehl, Los Angeles County Supervisor and former California State Senator.  While I cannot take the space to identify every Past President, I can say they all were remarkably talented and that they all shaped WLALA into what it is today – an organization that makes things better.

The opportunity to lead this organization, to fill the shoes of the women before me is both daunting and exciting.  Exciting because I undertake this task with a Board of over 60 amazing, dedicated and inspiring women.  Daunting because despite the great strides made by women in the legal profession there is still much work to be done in furtherance of WLALA’s mission.

WLALA is an organization that seeks to promote the full participation of women lawyers and judges in the legal profession, maintain the integrity of our legal system, and improve the status of women in our society.  We advance these goals through our committees, sections and activities which include public advocacy through amicus briefs, monitoring proposed legislation, evaluating judicial nominees, public interest grants, continuing legal education of our members, programs that offer practical and professional advice, networking events, and mentorship opportunities.  WLALA also donates countless volunteer hours through the Sojourn Domestic Violence Clinic, Downtown Women’s Center, Food from the Bar and the Power Lunch Program.

Women now serve at all levels in the legal profession – managing partners of law firms, General Counsel of large corporation, Deans of law schools, and as members of the bench.  It is noteworthy that 4 out of the 7 California Supreme Court Justices, including the Chief Justice, are women; nearly one-third of California’s judges are women and the Federal Public Defender and the U.S. Attorney for the Central District are women.

Yet, even with these successes, our mission remains incomplete.  Despite the fact that for over 20 years women have made up half of all law students,[1] when we look at our law firms, in our courtrooms, and at companies, we see that women are still under represented.  Women make up 17% of equity partners[2], 24% of federal judges, 21% of Fortune 500 General Counsels[3], and only 4% of the managing partners in the 200 largest law firms. [4]  Furthermore, women lawyers on average make just 78% of their male counterparts’ salary[5].  While some of us thrive in this setting, achieving high levels of success, others of us feel unsupported, frustrated, are hesitant to ask for help, and have a more difficult time reaching our full potential.

It is with these sobering statistics in mind that I am reminded that there is still much to be done to achieve the full participation of women lawyers and judges in the legal profession.

The theme for my year as President of WLALA is “Connect, Empower, Inspire.”  I want to encourage and foster opportunities for our members and the greater legal community to connect with each other, to empower and support each other personally and professionally, and to inspire those around us to reach further and higher than we would have dared otherwise.  We can do this by networking with others, mentoring attorneys and law students who need advice and support, by referring business to each other, by encouraging each other to take control of our careers and by using our time, energy and, influence to support women in the legal profession.

This year’s Installation Dinner award recipients were selected because each has demonstrated a commitment to investing in others’ success and each serves to inspire those around them.

Our Distinguished Service Award recipient, Lisa Jaskol, is an accomplished attorney whose career is dedicated to public service.  She is the Directing Attorney of Public Counsel’s Appellate Law Program which works in state and federal courts to increase access to justice for people who cannot afford legal representation.  She serves as Co-Chair of WLALA’s Amicus Briefs Committee, advising WLALA’s Board on amicus opportunities and has drafted several amicus briefs on WLALA’s behalf.  Ms. Jaskol is also a member of the California Commission on Access to Justice.

Our Myra Bradwell Award recipient, the Southern California Gas Company, provides a supportive and empowering environment for its attorneys.  At Southern California Gas nearly one-third of its managers are female, and nearly half of its attorneys are women.  Moreover, women attorneys hold significant leadership positions within the company.  Last year, Sharon Tomkins was named Vice President, General Counsel and Sabrina Clorefeine was recently appointed Assistant General Counsel.  Southern California Gas provides both formal and informal programs for its women and diverse attorneys, and also works to achieve diversity among the outside attorneys it hires.

Finally, our Ernestine Stahlhut Award recipient, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, is being recognized for her professional achievement, her commitment to empowering others, and the inspiration she provides to all women in the legal profession.  Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye is the 28th Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court and is only the second woman to serve as the State’s Chief Justice.  She has served for more than 20 years on California appellate and trial courts and has served at every level of the court system.  Amazingly, she has been appointed or elevated to higher office by three governors, and in 1997, she established and presided over the first court in Sacramento dedicated solely to domestic violence issues.

I hope you will join us for WLALA’s Installation Dinner on September 17, 2015 at the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, and help us celebrate our awardees and our commitment to connect, empower and inspire our friends, colleagues, and the next generation of our legal community.


[1] American Bar Association, “First Year and Total J.D. Enrollment by Gender 1947 – 2010.”

[2] Commission on Women in the Profession, “A Current Glance at Women in the Law July 2014,” American Bar Association (July 2014). 

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid