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The American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession honored five women with its 2014 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award for professional excellence and for actively paving the way to success for other women lawyers.
The award ceremony luncheon took place Sunday, Aug. 10 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, during the ABA Annual Meeting.
"We are honored to recognize a spectacular group of women. We applaud their achievements, knowing that their efforts will inspire a new generation of women lawyers," said Bobbi Liebenberg, chair of the ABA Commission on Women.
Past recipients range from small-firm practitioners in Alabama and Alaska to U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This year’s honorees (click link for a video profile):
Nancy Gertner, Harvard Law School professor of practice and former judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, in Cambridge, Mass., is a pioneer in her legal work, seeking civil rights and civil liberties for and on behalf of women and in opening doors for women lawyers in job settings that were historically closed to them. Her work included abortion rights, equal employment rights and sex discrimination cases. Much of her work was consciously gender related, but also advanced the law regarding civil liberties. She began her career at a time when there were just a handful of women litigators in Massachusetts. Gertner became a partner in her firm after only two years. She began serving on the bench in 1994, and her judicial decisions speak forcefully to the vigilance and courage necessary to prevent the rollback of advances made in civil rights over the years. Retired from the bench in 2011, Gertner now teaches at Harvard Law School.
Anastasia D. Kelly, co-managing partner (Americas) at DLA Piper in Washington, D.C., is the first woman to serve in that position at the firm and is a member of the firm’s executive committee. She is the former vice chairman of American International Group, a post she held until the end of 2009. In that role, she was responsible for the global legal, compliance and regulatory functions, government relations, communications, corporate affairs and human resources. Kelly joined AIG in September 2006 as executive vice president, general counsel and chief regulatory and compliance officer. Prior to AIG, Kelly was executive vice president and general counsel of MCI/WorldCom, where she served as the chief legal officer in the restructuring of the company from 2003 until its acquisition by Verizon in 2006. She serves on the leadership committee of DLA Piper’s Leadership Alliance for Women, which is committed to the hiring, development and advancement of women lawyers at the firm.
Allie B. Latimer, former general counsel, General Services Administration, in Washington, D.C., has been active in legal, civil rights and women’s activities for more than five decades. She made history on several fronts, including the first woman and the first African-American, when she was appointed general counsel of the U.S. General Services Administration in 1977. This position gave her a seat at the table to expand opportunities for women to enter legal positions previously closed to them, resulting in more than 100 women serving in the federal government, law schools and other legal positions in the private sector. Latimer also organized Federally Employed Women (FEW) in 1968 and served as its founding president. Latimer retired from federal service after a 40-year career with the U.S. government, mostly with GSA, and is still active doing pro bono work for women and the elderly. She continues to actively recruit young women to enter the legal profession. Latimer was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2009.
Judge Kathryn Doi Todd, retired associate justice of the California Court of Appeal, Second District, Los Angeles, California, became the first female Asian Pacific American judge in the United States when appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court by Gov. Jerry Brown in 1978. Three years later, Gov. Brown elevated Todd to the Los Angeles Superior Court. She remained on the trial court for 22 years, serving in a wide variety of assignments, and was appointed by Gov. Gray Davis to the California Court of Appeal in August, 2000, where she served until her retirement in January 2013. Since her appointment to the bench in 1978, many Asian Pacific American women lawyers have followed in her footsteps, and her involvement and active participation in the Asian Pacific American community have made her a natural mentor and role model for many young women of Asian Pacific American descent. Todd was one of eight judges who incorporated the National Association of Women Judges in 1979.
Marissa C. Wesely, of Counsel, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, in New York, NY, is a 2014 fellow in Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative and is a long-standing advocate for gender equality and women’s rights in diverse settings. At ALI, her work focuses on cross-sector collaboration to advance women’s rights and empower women globally. Wesely also is a global fellow at the Wilson Center, affiliated with the center’s Global Women’s Leadership Initiative, and a member of the Leadership Circle of The Women in Public Service Project at the center. Prior to 2014, she was a corporate partner at the global law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and is recognized as a leading lawyer in banking and finance. She is a co-founder of the Kate Stoneman Project, a leadership organization for women partners at 10 leading New York-based law firms, and speaks regularly on women and leadership, including Womensphere’s Emerging Leaders global summits in 2011 and 2013.
Established in 1991, the ABA Women Lawyers of Achievement Award is named for Margaret Brent, the first woman lawyer in America. Brent arrived in the colonies in 1638, and was involved in 124 court cases in more than eight years, winning every case. In 1648, she formally demanded a vote and voice in the Maryland Assembly, which the governor denied.