Letter From The President Of The New York County Lawyers' Association

2005-01-01 01:00

To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:

This past December 14. the New York County Lawyers' Association {NYCLA) held its 90th Annual Dinner at the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. This annual holiday gala of New York proportions provided a fitting venue to celebrate the accomplishments of the legal profession. This year's celebration was unlike any other. This year. the evening was dedicated to a celebration of Outstanding Women of the Bar.

It was a fitting time and venue to celebrate the achievements of the legal profession in the long struggle to achieve gender equality throughout the profession. And NYCLA was a fitting host for such an event.

NYCLA was founded in 1908 as a bar association open to all lawyers regardless of religion. race. ethnicity or gender. It would be many years. in some cases decades. before other bar groups would admit women. Indeed. it would be many long years until women formed their own bar associations. But NYCLA's founders had a distant vision of a truly open profession. Within a few months of its inception. NYCLA had 17 women members and. as early as 1925. when most doors still remained barred to women. 104 women were members. By 1940. when NYCLA's former President Henry W. Taft. brother of former U.S. President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft. looked at the role of women in the Association. he found that their number had risen to 170. By that date. women were attaining positions of prominence both within NYCLA and throughout the profession.

That process has continued to the point where full equality is almost in sight. There are at least as many women as men enrolled in law schools. And. throughout every segment of the profession. women have achieved prominence. Among the 50 honorees recognized at the annual dinner were law school deans. managing partners of major firms. United States Attorneys. corporate counsel and heads of not-for-profit institutions. Receiving special recognition were United States Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. who was accorded Honorary Membership in NYCLA and delivered the keynote address. and New York State Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye. who received the William Nelson Cromwell Award for unselfish service to the profession and the community.

While progress for women has been substantial. there is still a way to go to achieve full equality. The American Bar Foundation's "After the JD" project surveyed young lawyers this past fall and found continuing gender-based earnings disparity. Women's median salaries lag men's by more than 17 percent. with a clear compensation gap in most practice settings. The same survey reports that women are still significantly more likely to report discriminatory behavior and lower overall job satisfaction on issues unrelated to the substance of their work.

NYCLA will continue to advocate for full gender equality. as it has done for 97 years. It is the responsibility of every leader of our profession. however. to bring the power of his/her position and moral authority to the task. Only then will we realize the dream of complete gender equality. throughout the profession and society at large.


Norman Reimer