January 09, 2016

Giving Voice for 25 Years and Counting

Michele Coleman Mayes

This issue of Perspectives culminates 25 years of thought-provoking articles offering fresh, innovative angles on myriad issues of importance and relevance to women in the legal profession. Perspectives was designed to be a central source of information, national in scope, on specific issues, cases, and trends on women in law. This mission, outlined in the first issue, published in fall 1991, continues to this day.

When I think of the role Perspectives has played, I am reminded of the admonition of Martin Luther King Jr.: “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” From the beginning, Perspectives has not been silent and has spoken up on the compelling and sometimes difficult issues of the past few decades.

During the past 25 years, women lawyers and, indeed, the legal profession as a whole have experienced substantial change and faced significant challenges. Perspectives has accompanied women lawyers on this journey with well-researched articles that often include valuable resources and practical takeaways women can use in their professional and personal lives.

Many of the topics presented are timeless. From the beginning, the magazine discussed sexual harassment and discrimination, power and leadership, careers, mentoring, rainmaking/marketing, gender equality, diversity, and work/life balance. All are still relevant today. Other issues moved to the forefront at different moments in history, and Perspectives has had an impressive track record of identifying issues that will generate more attention in the future. For instance, the magazine wrote about same-sex marriage as early as summer 1997.

Perspectives also has been instrumental in advancing the Commission on Women in the Profession’s initiatives and publications. The magazine has provided updates and new information in such areas as women lawyers of color, women who start their own law firms, leadership, compensation equity, unbiased lawyer evaluations, and grit and growth mindset, all of which originally began as Commission research reports, books, and programs.

Our deep thanks go to the countless women who have been interviewed these past 25 years. Some are well-known lawyers, others are not as familiar to the public, but all have graciously and generously given their time and shared their wisdom. We are grateful to those who lent their insightful and inspirational Voices to that popular column.

Perspectives would not be possible without the dedicated volunteer members who have served on its editorial board. Their passion and creativity know no bounds. An archetypal example is their idea to interview actresses Glenn Close and Christine Baranski for a summer 2012 article on women lawyers as portrayed on television. Through less than six degrees of separation, the board made it happen, and the result was a thoughtful and entertaining interview with both women. The Commission extends thanks to all of the women and men who have volunteered their time and energy for this publication since 1991.

Michele Coleman Mayes

Michele Coleman Mayes is chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession. She is vice president, general counsel, and secretary for the New York Public Library.