May 17, 2019 Voices

What Perspectives Means to Me

By Laura Possessky

I joined the editorial board of Perspectives because I believe that telling stories about women in law is vital to advancing gender equity. I am amazed by the myriad narratives about women’s experiences in the profession and the power those stories have to inspire and call us to action. With Perspectives’ recent transition to an all-digital format, it seems a fitting opportunity to share insights from behind the scenes of Perspectives and why this column is a mainstay to support the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession’s mission.

Perspectives, the publication for the ABA Commission on Women, is dedicated to reporting on topics of interest to women lawyers, highlighting their accomplishments, and promoting women’s advancement and retention in the profession. While we navigate the challenges of pay equity and power in the profession, having a perspective on how far women in law have advanced over the years really helps.

The most rewarding aspect of serving on the editorial board is the opportunity to tell inspirational stories of the deeply personal sacrifices women have made to pursue legal careers and the impressive successes they have accomplished. While many people are familiar with the achievements of contemporary leaders like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Hillary Clinton, our present reality is shaped by thousands of women who have pursued careers in the law to advocate for a more just and equitable society and advance the role of women in the profession.

My work with Perspectives is part of a career-long avocation of disseminating great narratives about women. I enjoy honoring the accomplishments of women. Recently, in celebration of the Women’s Bar Association (WBA) of the District of Columbia centennial, I chaired a documentary digital shorts project about the organization’s history. Working closely with American University School of Communication Film Division Chair Brigid Maher and a team of amazing film graduate students, we developed a series of vignettes on the organization’s history around the themes of suffrage, leadership, diversity, community, and celebration.

This two-year effort was a great journey to intentionally reframe and tell our history. Among painstakingly preserved records, photographs, and video documenting the WBA’s history, narratives of its women members revealed themselves in fragments and began to take shape. The WBA-DC founders, Emma Gillett and Ellen Spencer Mussey, had the ability to become lawyers but not the right to vote, so they became leaders in the suffragist movement and started American University’s Washington College of Law for women to formally study law.

Equally inspiring, Dovey Roundtree, who was the first African American member of the WBA-DC in 1962, forged an impressive path as a community leader serving her country in the military, fighting in the courtroom as an accomplished litigator, and leading her church as an ordained clergy member in addition to breaking down racial lines in the then all-white organization. These narratives illustrate how one woman’s story can educate, inspire, and offer insights into our past as well as our future.

When I convene with my editorial board colleagues, we engage in rousing conversations about events and issues facing women in the legal profession. We are a passionate bunch. Our animated discussions always focus on discovering fascinating stories about women’s accomplishments that prompt ideas for our readers to frame their own experiences in the law. We thoughtfully discuss each issue to capture the zeitgeist of the moment through our articles. We love what we do, and I hope that our readers are as excited and inspired by these stories as we are.

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By Laura Possessky

Laura Possessky is the chair of the editorial board for Perspectives. She is a media attorney in Washington, D.C.; a past president of the Women’s Bar Association of D.C.; and a current D.C. Bar Delegate to the ABA House of Delegates. You can reach her at laura@dcbarista.com, @DCBarista on Twitter, or through ABA Connect in the Perspectives forum.