The ABA Commission on Women in the Profession was created in 1987 and quickly became one of the leading organizations advocating for the equal treatment and advancement of women. Fortunately, there are now numerous women's bar associations and other groups on the national, state, and local levels that also are devoted to issues relevant to women lawyers.
With so many organizations focusing on women lawyers, it is particularly important that the efforts be coordinated in such a way to maximize their impact and avoid potential duplication of effort and dilution of resources. Just as individual women lawyers are helping one another, as described in "Collaboration Is Key: How Women Help Women Succeed" by Hope Viner Samborn in the Winter issue of Perspectives, so too can the myriad women's groups work in tandem to accelerate the pace of change in the profession.
Toward this end, the Commission is partnering with other organizations on several initiatives. The Commission is cosponsoring a research project with the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) and the Project for Attorney Retention (PAR) to examine how various law firms approach the distribution of billing credit for client engagements and how that distribution impacts compensation and the advancement of women lawyers to income or equity partnership. Law firms' subjective decisions regarding who to credit for the origination and development of business often shortchange women lawyers, who suffer as a consequence.
Within the ABA, the Commission is working with the Law Practice Management Section to present a CLE Centre Showcase program entitled "The Credit Crisis: Succession Is the Key to Power" on July 30 during the 2009 ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago. This CLE program will address the research developed by the Commission's joint project with MCCA and PAR referred to above. The panelists will discuss measures to ensure fairness in client origination credit and will identify concrete steps to help make the compensation process more equitable. They also will consider what role in-house counsel can play to make the credit origination process fair to the women lawyers who handle their company's matters.
Another exciting project the Commission has undertaken relates to the Women's Power Summit on Law and Leadership that was held in Austin, Texas, April 29–May 1, 2009. This historic summit was convened by the University of Texas Center for Women in the Law, a founder of which is Commission on Women member Cathy Lamboley. Prior to the summit, the Commission planned to collaborate with a small working group of attendees to identify both research and action-driven initiatives focused on women in the legal profession.
This working group's objective is to create a more unified, strategic, and cohesive approach to the issues that impact the retention and advancement of women in the legal profession. In joining forces and working in conjunction with other entities, both within and outside the ABA, the Commission intends to leverage its influence and continue its role as an important catalyst for change within the legal profession.