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September 2018 - President's Message
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President's Message -SEPTEMBER

Heather Stern
WLALA President 2018-2019


It hardly feels real to be writing this President’s Message.  Nine years ago, I joined the WLALA Board with nothing more ambitious in mind than to meet more people who shared my values and see how I could contribute to an organization that already impressed me at every turn.  At that moment, I was in a low point of my career.  Personally, my husband and I had suffered a pregnancy loss that set us back a number of years.  Professionally, as the financial crisis deepened and spread and real estate values plummeted, I struggled with “rules” for law firm partnership that seemed to change radically overnight.  I was looking for something that would help me weather this storm and I had no idea what it was.  I only knew I could not get it from my firm.

From there, my journey has been amazing.  I am indebted to WLALA for many things, the most important of which has been a never-ending example of extraordinary women leaders in every area of the profession.   I have served under Past Presidents Helen Kim, Angela Haskins, Tanya Forsheit, Ruth Kahn, Anne Tremblay, Jennifer Romano, Kim Arnal, Stacy Horth-Neubert, and Amy Brantly, each one of whom has provided me with an excellent example of leadership, each in their own unique way.  I have served alongside women from every aspect of the profession, whether in private practice, public interest, the judiciary, city, state and federal government, or academia, and as a result feel a broader connection to the law, my profession, and ongoing reform efforts in all areas of the law.  I count myself very lucky to be serving with Jennifer Leland, Michelle Abidoye, Mary McKelvey, Jessica Kronstadt and Janet Hong on the Executive Committee this year, each of whom brings extraordinary dedication and commitment to this organization and their role in it.  And I would be sincerely remiss in not mentioning Kay Burt, our Executive Administrator, for all that she does, most of which is behind the scenes but so essential and so very much appreciated.

Through their inspiration and example, and with the gift of their friendship and mentorship along the way, I have grown as a leader, a lawyer, and a mentor myself.  I have taken risks, successfully “stretched” for those “first chair” opportunities, and tried my best to pass on the goodwill and civic spirit this organization has shown to me, to others.  In the middle of all this, three years ago, I experienced a twin pregnancy and successful twin birth, followed by the successful (so far) feeding, caring and raising of my beautiful daughters with my husband, and to the high credit of my fellow Board, no one ever doubted I could handle this on top of the rest. 

Thus, as I take over as President this year, I feel fulfilled in many ways I never dreamed of, and very grateful to WLALA and its leadership, especially its leadership by example.  This is the reason why the theme for Installation this year is “All In.”  To me, when I think of those I have served with, I am most inspired by the “All In” nature of their commitment to their profession, their career, their community, and to WLALA’s mission.   Our honorees at this year’s Annual Awards & Installation Dinner exemplify this same commitment.  Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell, who leaves a large hole in our hearts after her passing last year, will always be remembered by me for the enthusiastic spirit she brought to everything.  She did not hold back.  Similarly, Judge Sandra R. Klein, our Distinguished Service Award recipient, has always inspired me by the energy and optimism she brings to every project, large and small, and, as you will certainly hear, she has taken on a lot of large projects successfully, through equal parts excellence and enthusiasm.  Finally, our Myra Bradwell awardee, the CBRE Legal Department, has shown itself to embrace, empower, and promote women in its legal department and as outside counsel, and we look forward to celebrating their “All In” commitment as well. 

So, if you haven’t signed up already, please do it now, and join us on September 20, 2018 at the Millennium Biltmore for our Annual Awards & Installation Dinner.  We look forward to seeing you there and celebrating with you, since no matter what else is going on in the world, this is an organization that has accomplished a lot of good in its 99 years so far, and there is a lot to celebrate.  It is going to be a great night!