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2013-2014 WBA President
The Women’s Bar
Association is celebrating its 35th Anniversary this year. Reflecting
on the status of women in 1978, there can be little doubt how vital it was for
our founding mothers to create this organization. It is hard for some to imagine now, but in the
1970s women comprised only 8% of total law school enrollments and women
attorneys were still relatively rare. There were almost no women partners,
general counsels or judges; and laws prohibiting gender discrimination in the
workplace, protecting women’s reproductive rights, prescribing equal pay for
equal work and equal access to credit, were all still relatively new.
Since its founding,
the WBA has worked tirelessly to advance women in the legal profession and to
create a just society. It has done this through consciousness raising, legislative
advocacy, by building coalitions, by drafting briefs and by supporting women
and helping them to achieve their potential. Over the past 35 years, the WBA, and
other feminist organizations like it, have made great strides towards equality.
Women now comprise half of the total law school enrollments and women partners,
general counsels and judges are not uncommon. Three women currently sit on the United
States Supreme Court, some of the largest companies in the world have female
CEOs, and in 2012 we saw a record number of women elected to Congress. These
are tremendous achievements and we deserve to be proud. We have – as they say –
come a long way, baby.
Given such progress it
is tempting for some to conclude that the WBA, and other feminist organizations
like it, achieved their goals and that any remaining inequities will even out
over time. This is, of course, far from true. The assaults on women’s
reproductive rights continue, the wage gap between men and women (a gap that is
even more pronounced for women of color) persists and women are still subjected
to unspeakable violence and sexual assaults. Women still only make up 15% of
equity partners in law firms, less than 19% of the general counsels for Fortune
500 companies and are only 26% of the federal and state court judges. To
address and resolve these issues, we need women activists more than ever.
I am committed to
working on these goals as WBA President and I know that my fellow WBA members are
to. I am consistently amazed at the hard
work, dedication and generosity of the volunteers (as well as the staff) that
make up this organization. I am looking forward to this upcoming year and to
continuing the WBA’s efforts to support women and families, both within and
outside of the Commonwealth, and to assisting WBA members in achieving
professional success and satisfaction.
If you are not a
member of the WBA, I urge you to join today – not only for the benefits that
you will receive (in the form of mentoring, networking, business referrals and
support) but also for the good work that you can do, by helping to advance
women in the legal profession and to create a truly just society.
Andrea Kramer | 2012-2013
Nancy Cremins | 2011-2012
Deborah Hesford DosSantos | 2010-2011
Michelle Peirce | 2009-2010
Kathy Jo Cook | 2008-2009
Julia Huston | 2007-2008
Under Julia Huston's presidency, the WBA grew to more than 1,500 members. The WBA continued to expand its statewide outreach, forming new committees in Central Massachusetts and Fall River/New Bedford. It was with great pleasure that the WBA endorsed Justice Margot Botsford, a former WBA board member, in her successful candidacy for the Supreme Judicial Court. The WBA continued to defend same sex marriage rights, culminating in the defeat of a proposed amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution which would have banned same sex marriage. The Equality Commission report, "Women Lawyers and Obstacles to Leadership: A Report of MIT Workplace Center Surveys on Comparative Career Decisions and Attrition Rates of Women and Men in Massachusetts Law Firms," was published. The report found that women comprised 17% of equity partners in major law firms in Massachusetts, and concluded that women were more likely than men to leave the partnership track due to the difficulty of combining law firm work and caring for children in a system that requires long hours under high pressure with little or inconsistent support for flexible work arrangements. The WBA subsequently embarked on an intensive effort to address the issues raised in the report, including conducting private meetings with the managing partners and other leaders of 30 Massachusetts law firms to discuss the reasons that women were failing to advance in those settings and provide those firms with resources to assist them in retaining and advancing their women attorneys. A partner at Bromberg & Sunstein LLP, Julia concentrates in intellectual property law, and has held leadership positions in the Boston Bar Association, Greater Boston Legal Services, Equal Justice Coalition, International Trademark Association, YWCA Boston, and New England Historic Genealogical Society.
Kathleen O'Connor | 2006-2007
Pamela E. Berman | 2005-2006
Marianne C. LeBlanc | 2004-2005
Patricia Rapinchuk | 2003-2004
Pat Rapinchuk’s term as president marked the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Bar Association and only the second time that an attorney from western Massachusetts has held the office. The highlight of her tenure was the WBA’s strong support of the decision of the Supreme Judicial Court in Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health, which held that denying same sex couples the right to marry violated the Massachusetts Constitution. Pat led the WBA in its support of the decision, which was questioned by the Legislature and others, and in its opposition to a proposed Constitutional Amendment which would ban same sex marriage. A partner at the Springfield law firm of Robinson Donovan, P.C., Pat practices civil litigation with emphasis on employment and discrimination cases. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and the University of Connecticut School of Law. Pat regularly speaks to legal and business groups on a variety of employment law topics
Gretchen Van Ness | 2002-2003
During her term, Gretchen Van Ness passionately fought to protect court funding, legal services funding, and human services funding. Gretchen led the WBA’s successful efforts to help defeat the proposed legislation that would have denied legal recognition and benefits for non-traditional couples and their families. She also enhanced the WBA’s collaborative relationships with other bar associations and community organizations throughout the Commonwealth. As a solo practitioner, Gretchen has argued precedent-setting cases at the Supreme Judicial Court and has lectured across the United States on issues ranging from constitutional challenges to Title IX to the disposition of frozen embryos in a contested divorce. Named Young Alumnae of the Year 2000 by her alma mater, Wilson College, Gretchen currently serves as Vice Chairperson of Wilson’s Board of Trustees. In 2001, Gretchen was honored as “Attorney of the Year” for her extraordinary solo career by Syracuse University College of Law. In 2002, Boston Magazine recognized Gretchen as one of the best employment lawyers in Boston.
Leigh-Ann Durant | 2001-2002
The passage of the Contraceptive Coverage Bill, one of the WBA’s Legislative Priorities, was an important achievement of the WBA during Leigh-Ann Durant’s presidency. The bill, which requires private health insurers to cover FDA-approved prescription contraceptives to the same extent that they cover other prescription drugs, was passed in February 2002. Leigh-Ann’s presidency also marked a dramatic increase in the frequency and scope of WBA programming which significantly expanded to include many more professional development programs as well as programs on cutting edge political topics and relevant personal issues. A partner in the Litigation Department of Nixon Peabody, Leigh-Ann is a trial lawyer who focuses her practice on commercial, health care and medical privacy litigation for companies in the pharmaceutical, medical device, and biotechnology industries. Leigh-Ann founded Nixon Peabody’s HIPAA Task Force in 2001. She advises health care organizations and major pharmaceutical companies on HIPAA compliance, as well as litigation risk management and litigation avoidance practices.
Lisa Brodeur-McGan | 2000-2001
Lisa Brodeur-McGan's presidency marked the first time an attorney from Western Massachusetts has held this office. Lisa brought important visibility for the WBA beyond Greater Boston and successfully reached out to broaden the geographical base of our membership. Highlights of her tenure include the expansion of the Elder Law Project to Western Massachusetts as part of Lisa's goal of increasing pro bono initiatives in that part of the state; the creator of the first annual Ruth I. Abrams Distinguished Speaker Lecture Series featuring the Hon. Ruth Abrams; and the establishment of a more inclusive voting system through the use of proxy votes for the annual election. Lisa Brodeur-McGan is with the firm of Cooley, Shrair P.C. where she concentrates on civil litigation with an emphasis on wrongful death, product liability, civil rights employment and discrimination cases. Brodeur-McGan graduated from Russell Sage College and Western New England School of Law. Brodeur-McGan regularly lectures at local grade schools, colleges and multi-state seminars on a host of legal topics including the legal implications of drugs and alcohol. When not working, Brodeur-McGan enjoys scuba diving and spending time with her husband and daughter.
Honorable Antoinette E.M. Leoney | 1999-2000
Judge Leoney's dedication and energy helped put the WBA in the spotlight. She focused on increasing and diversifying the membership of the WBA. During her term as president, the WBA testified in support of the clinic buffer zone bill, held seminars on demystifying the judicial nominating process and hosted the "Gender Perspectives in Lawyering" luncheon seminars. In addition, the WBA got a new look, a new office and had its most successful Gala to date, all promoting the growth and development of the organization for the new millennium. Toni Leoney is an Assistant United States Attorney at the U.S. Attorney's Boston Office working in the newly created Anti-Terrorism Unit. Toni received the distinguished young alumnae award from Lesley College and was honored during her term as WBA president as a distinguished graduate by New England School of Law. During her esteemed public service career, Toni has worked for the Department of Social Services, the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office and the Governor's Council under Michael Dukakis.
Beth I.Z. Boland | 1998-1999
Beth Boland's legacy as a WBA president was highlighted by the successful passage of the Child Custody Bill, legislation drafted by the WBA for which Beth and others had worked tirelessly for more than two years. The WBA has also continued to strive to follow the guidelines set forth by the Strategic Plan and continues to work to ensure that the WBA grows and prospers well into the 21st Century. Beth Boland is a partner at Bingham McCutchen LLP in the securities litigation/corporate governance groups. After starting her career as a clerk to the federal district court judge assigned to the Ivan Boesky/Michael Milken insider trading and shareholder cases, Ms. Boland has concentrated her practice on consumer/shareholder class actions, corporate governance, and securities issues. In addition to her law practice, Beth has been very active on behalf of domestic violence victims. She has participated in the Mintz Levin Domestic Violence Project, has served as a Director and counsel to the R.O.S.E. Fund, and as legislative chair of the Domestic Violence Council. She and her husband have three children.
Ellen C. Kearns | 1997-1998
Energy and action characterized Ellen Kearns's term as WBA president. In 12 short months, Ellen undertook and completed a survey of WBA members, held a Board Retreat to formulate a WBA Strategic Plan in response to the survey's conclusions, published a revised WBA Directory, engineered the WBA's next move to Washington Street, and worked with legislators and other bar associations to seek enactment of the Spousal Share Bill. Ellen Kearns is a partner of the law firm of Epstein, Becker & Green, P.C. where she focuses on labor and employment law. She has chaired committees for both the BBA and the ABA, and is a past president of the Boston College Law School Alumni Association. In 1992, Ellen was named the B.C. Law School Alumna of the Year and received the Regis College Alumnae Achievement Award in 1993. Prior to embarking on her legal career, Ellen spent seven years teaching elementary and high school mathematics. She is a graduate of Regis College and a member of its Board of Trustees.
Sarah McClean | 1996-1997
As WBA President, Sarah McClean sought to make the WBA a more inclusive organization. To this end, she supported many initiatives, including the formation of the Publications Committee, the History Project, the Media Committee and the Solo and Small Firm Practice Group. The WBA also added a part-time assistant, in addition to its Executive Director, and the WBF hired its first full-time director. Sarah McClean is a solo practitioner who has devoted a great deal of her legal career to women in need. An architect of the Women's Lunch Place Project, the Family Law Project for Battered Women, and the Women's Bar Foundation among others, Sarah has been recognized on numerous occasions for her commitment to pro bono work. In 1995 she received the MBA's Access to Justice Section Pro Bono Publico Award and in 1998 became the first recipient of the WBA's Pro Bono Award. Sarah was a member of the BBA Action Committee to Promote Volunteerism.
Jane E. Sender | 1995-1996
The WBA experienced tremendous growth during the presidency of Jane Sender. Membership figures surpassed 1,000 and the WBA public profile expanded enormously. The WBA became more active in the judicial nomination process and was called upon to provide research and testimony on Beacon Hill. The WBA also moved to an office on Tremont Street and the WBF hired its first part-time coordinator. Jane Sender is the president and principal of Jane Sender Legal Search, which she founded during her term as WBA President. She has been a legal recruiter in Boston since 1989, prior to which she was a litigation associate with the law firm of Posternak, Blankstein & Lund. A graduate of the University of Oxford (Somerville College) and the University of Florida College of Law where she was an editor of the Law Review, Jane was a law clerk for Henry A. Politz, then a member, now Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Jane was an official finisher in the 1995 and 1996 Boston Marathons.
Sally J. Greenberg | 1993-1995
The WBA moved into yet another phase under the presidency of Sally Greenberg as the Women's Bar Foundation, which had been in the planning stages for more than a year, earned its tax-exempt status and embarked on its first fundraising campaign. The WBA also hired its first Executive Director. The Senior Women Practice Group began a successful series of luncheon meetings, and United States Attorney General Janet Reno was among the first women to receive the Lelia J. Robinson Award. Sally Greenberg is currently the senior Product Safety Counsel for the Consumers Union in Washington, D.C. In this position, she handles all Congressional matters related to products liability and automobile insurance regulations. Prior to relocating to the Capitol, Sally was the Eastern States Civil Rights Counsel of the Anti-Defamation League, the organization for which she worked both in Washington and Boston for 16 years.
Jane Tewksbury | 1993
Jane Tewksbury's term as president was shortened by her selection as an Annie E. Casey Fellow, however, it was highlighted by a tremendously successful Gala which gave the WBA funds to move forward with confidence. Jane Tewksbury is Chief of Staff at the Executive Office of Public Safety. Most recently, she had served as the Vice President and General Counsel of Justice Resource Institute, a private non-profit human services provider. Prior to her JRI position, she served as Legal Counsel to Attorney General Scott Harshbarger. Her 12-year tenure with Attorney General Harshbarger included six years in the Middlesex County District Attorney's office. In 1993, she received a Children and Family Fellowship from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and participated in an intensive full-time program for mid-career professionals interested in leadership positions in organizations and institutions serving disadvantaged children and families. Jane is a graduate of Radcliffe College and the University of Wisconsin Law School.
Jamie Ann Sabino | 1992-1993
Jamie Sabino's presidency emphasized the WBA's commitment to pro bono work as both the Women's Bar Foundation and the Women's Lunch Place Project were launched. The WBA also took the step of hiring its first substantial part-time staff person. Jamie Sabino has been an active member of the WBA for almost all of its 20 years and has been instrumental in the operation of the Judicial Consent for Minors Lawyer Referral Panel. Her commitment to pro bono work has garnered recognition from the National Lawyers Guild, Planned Parenthood and MassChoice. In 1996 she received the Boston Bar Association Thurgood Marshall Award for Pro Bono Work. Jamie sits on the board of Planned Parenthood and chairs its Public Affairs Committee. She is President of the CPPAX Education Fund. Jamie practices family and appellate law with her husband in the Cambridge firm of Klibaner and Sabino. They have two active young boys, Sam (who was born during her year as WBA president) and Jacob.
Honorable Patricia E. Bernstein | 1991-1992
Under the leadership of Judge Patricia Bernstein, the WBA took a significant step toward centralizing its operations when it established its first office at 25 West Street. The WBA also initiated its collaboration with the Boston Bar Association on the study of part-time women lawyers, which was completed in 1995. Expansion of membership in Western Massachusetts was also a top priority. Judge Patricia Bernstein is an Associate Justice of the Boston Municipal Court, a position she has held since 1994. She is a graduate of Connecticut College and received her juris doctor from Boston College Law School.
Honorable Judith Nelson Dilday | 1990-1991
The WBA Gala is a lasting legacy of Judge Judith Nelson Dilday's term as WBA President. In response to the then recently-published Parental Leave and Part-Time Employment Report, a formal network of part-time women lawyers was launched. The WBA also co-sponsored a forum, "Battered Women Fighting Back." Judith Nelson Dilday is a justice of the Middlesex Probate and Family Court. Before being appointed to the Bench in 1993, she practiced law in Massachusetts for 18 years and was a founder of the Boston law firm, Burnham, Hines & Dilday. She also held positions as Assistant General Counsel of the MBTA, Attorney-Advisor at the Solicitor's Office of the United States Department of the Interior, attorney in a small law firm and Assistant District Attorney in Suffolk County. A native of Pittsburgh where she taught high school French before relocating to Boston, she is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and Boston University School of Law. She is married with three children.
Karen J. Kepler | 1989-1990
During Karen Kepler's presidency, the WBA focused its efforts on implementing the recommendations of the Supreme Judicial Court Gender Bias Study. In addition, the WBA published the Parental Leave and Part-Time Employment Report and began to focus on ways to better serve its members by increasing administrative staff and expanding its geographical base.Karen Kepler is a partner at the law firm of Goulston & Storrs LLP in Boston, where she practices in the areas of real estate development and finance, with an emphasis on affordable housing development. Previously, she was a partner at Krokidas & Bluestein in Boston, and served as an Assistant District Attorney for Middlesex County under then Middlesex D.A. Scott Harshbarger. Karen is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Boston University School of Law.
S. Beville May | 1988-1989
In keeping with the original goal of seeing more women appointed to the Bench and statewide commissions and boards, the WBA established its first computerized Appointments Committee database during Beville May's tenure. Both the Parental Leave and Part-Time Employment Report and the Gender Bias Study continued to progress toward publication. Beville May is a solo practitioner who counsels private and public sector employers on preventing and resolving sexual harassment complaints in a variety of work environments. She has been practicing law since 1980 and, prior to opening her own firm in 1987, worked in two Boston law firms and the United States Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C. Beville is currently a Vice Chair of the ABA's Media Law and Defamation Torts Committee and is on the Board of Directors of Boston Children's Services.
Attorney General Martha Coakley | 1986-1988
Attorney General Martha Coakley wrapped up the WBA's first decade by serving two consecutive terms as president. She helped the WBA to "grow up" as an organization by creating the Operations Committee and hiring its first part-time staff person. Martha Coakley is the Middlesex District Attorney. An 11-year veteran of the Middlesex D.A.'s office, she distinguished herself as Chief of the Child Abuse Prosecution Unit, which she headed from 1991 to 1996. It has been recognized as a national model. From 1987 to 1989, Martha served as a Special Attorney for the Justice Department's Organized Crime Strike Force in Boston. A graduate of Williams College and Boston University School of Law, she is an active volunteer in "Neighbors in Deed," a parish-based program that reaches out to elderly and infirm neighbors.
Sandra Shapiro | 1985-1986
In response to a WBA proposal, the SJC authorized a Gender Bias Study of the court system of Massachusetts. Under President Sandra Shapiro, the WBA secured support for the study from other bar associations and, with the help of Senator Patricia McGovern, obtained from the state legislature the first-ever funding for a gender bias study. Sandra Shapiro is the first woman to be elected to partnership at Foley Hoag, where she has practiced real estate and business law since 1976. Before joining the firm, she was a clerk to Chief Judge Bailey Aldrich of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston. A graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Sandra serves on numerous boards, including the Boston Lyric Opera, the Celebrity Series of Boston, and the New England Conservatory.
Mary K. Ryan | 1984-1985
The Legislative Policy Committee and the Appointments Committee are two legacies of Mary Ryan's presidency. They remain two of the most active and effective WBA committees today. The results of the parental leave and part-time employment survey that had begun two presidents earlier were completed and revealed that a mere four percent of the partners in Boston law firms were female.Mary Ryan is a partner in the Litigation Department of Nutter, McClennen & Fish, LLP. A graduate of Tufts University and Boston College Law School, she served as Chief Law Clerk and Law Clerk to the Superior Court of Massachusetts, and as Law Clerk to the Hon. Ruth I. Abrams, Retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Mary is the immediate past president of the Boston Bar Association. She was recently appointed to the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Delivery of Legal Services.
Sarah Wald | 1983-1984
In many ways, Sarah Wald's presidency set the stage for the next phase of the organization's growth. For the first time, the WBA submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court; the scope of programs offered was increased, and the administrative functions began to be streamlined. Sarah Wald is currently Assistant Provost for Policy and Planning at Harvard University. Prior to joining the central administration at Harvard, she was Assistant Dean and Dean of Students at Harvard Law School, where she was also a Lecturer on Law. A graduate of Brown University and Yale Law School, Sarah served as an Assistant Attorney General in the Public Protection Bureau and was Assistant Secretary of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She is currently on the Board of Directors of the Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, and the Kendall Center for the Arts.
Melinda Milberg | 1982-1983
During Mindy Milberg's term as WBA President, the WBA joined with several organizations in a coalition to increase the number of women appointed to high level state government positions. The WBA also conducted the survey on parental leave and part-time employment. Mindy Milberg is a partner with the firm of Glovsky, Tarlow & Milberg LLP and is a noted expert and lecturer in the field of employment law. Before joining the firm in 1985, Mindy served as Special Assistant Attorney General, and was appointed by Governor Dukakis in 1985 as a Public Member of the Board of Registration in Medicine, on which she served until 1988. She is currently an arbitrator and mediator, and serves as a case evaluator for the Middlesex Court Multi-Door Courthouse. Mindy serves on the Board of the American Friends of Hebrew University and as clerk of the Framingham Education Foundation. She and her husband, attorney Philip Benjamin, have two sons.
Terry Jean Seligmann | 1981-1982
The first study of parental leave and part-time employment policies had its roots in Terry Jean Seligman's WBA presidency. In addition, efforts to influence committee appointments in the Massachusetts Bar Association intensified as the WBA provided the MBA with a list of qualified women candidates to serve on sections and committees. Shortly thereafter, many women were appointed. Of all the past WBA presidents, Terry Jean Seligman has wandered the farthest from the Commonwealth and is currently Assistant Professor of Law and Director of the Legal Research and Writing Program at the University of Arkansas School of Law. Prior to her move to Arkansas, Terry Jean taught at Suffolk University Law School. Her legal career focused on civil litigation as an Assistant Attorney General, and with both large and small law firms in the private sector. She also held the position of Staff Counsel to the Supreme Judicial Court. Terry Jean is a member of the flute section of the Arkansas Winds.
Maureen M. Phillips | 1981
Charged with the task of maintaining the momentum of the fledgling WBA, Maureen Phillips's presidency concentrated on the logistics of getting things done - dues, mailings, meetings. The WBA also looked seriously at effective ways in which to influence the Governor to appoint more women to judgeships. Maureen Phillips has 21 years of experience in the financial services industry and is currently the Managing Director of Defined Contribution Plans at Putnam Investments. Prior to joining Putnam in 1994, she served in a variety of capacities, including In-House Counsel from 1977 to 1985 at John Hancock Financial Services. Maureen is a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Private Pension and Welfare Plans and is co-author of The 401(k) Handbook. A graduate of Stanford University and Boston University School of Law, she resides west of Boston with her husband and their two sons.
Elaine Epstein | 1978-1980
As president during the WBA's inaugural year, Elaine Epstein's highlights are clear: the WBA made a visible start and became a credible and activist voice for women attorneys in Massachusetts. The early focus was increased appointments of women to the judiciary and statewide boards and committees of importance. Elaine has concentrated her law practice in domestic relations and probate litigation for more than 20 years - most of those in a three-woman law firm in Brockton and the last four years as a partner in the Boston law firm of Todd & Weld. After serving as WBA president, Elaine later served as president of the Massachusetts Bar Association. She has also served as a member of the Board of Bar Overseers, a trustee of MCLE and as a member of the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Board of Editors. She is currently a trustee of the Massachusetts Bar Foundation and a member of the standing SJC Model Rules Committee.
Honorable Wendie Gershengorn, President Pro Tem | 1978
When the founders of the Women's Bar Association first met in 1978, Wendie Gershengorn was elected, along with Elaine Epstein, as Co-President Pro Tem, making her the "unofficial" first WBA President. The greatest accomplishment of her short term was to organize, along with Patricia McGovern, the initial meeting of what is today the Commonwealth's largest association of women lawyers. Judge Wendie Gershengorn proved to be a perfect example of the realization of the WBA's initial goal to increase the number of women judges in Massachusetts. She was appointed to the District Court in 1983, and in 1989 was appointed to the Superior Court, where she sits today. A 1966 graduate of Columbia Law School, she is married with three children.