January 21, 2020 Chair's Column

A New Year and New Beginnings

By Stephanie A. Scharf

Happy New Year! As we begin 2020—and a new decade—what things will shape your 2020? Are you about to welcome a new family member? Are you beginning a new job? Did you just get assigned to your dream case or deal? Are you feeling stressed and don’t know what to do about it?

At about this time, many of us may look back at 2019 and start 2020 with resolutions for change. Some of these resolutions might pertain to our careers, like “take on some meaningful pro bono work” or “do a major deal” or “work on getting a key sponsor.” Others might be about life outside of work, such as “deepen my friendships” or “take two hours out of every week for self-care.”

In 2020, the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession will launch a number of resources to help women lawyers focus on what they want to do in their careers and in life in ways that are tailored to the special “me” in each of us. As one example, we would be delighted to have you join us at our inaugural Launching Leaders Retreat (April 30–May 2)—with an emphasis on “retreat”—to learn together about making your life and career better for “you.” For more information, please visit http://www.ambar.org/retreat2020.

Along a different dimension, I hope that you will join the Commission to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave all women in the United States the right to vote. The fight for women’s equality, in the legal profession and society at large, has been a long one with many successes along the way and more to be achieved.

We can see the push/pull of progress in certain projects spearheaded by the Commission, such as the November 2019 report, Walking Out the Door, published jointly by ALM Intelligence and the American Bar Association. Although the innovative data in this report show areas of progress for advancing women, the data also elaborate on continuing impediments—factors that we need to better understand and help to change.

The Men in the Mix project, whose initial research results will be unveiled at the ABA Midyear Meeting, presents another way for understanding how women advance in the profession, including how best to engage male colleagues on issues of gender equity.

We welcome all of you to participate in the Commission’s conferences, learn from our publications, and, perhaps most satisfying, join other ABA members to volunteer in creating the resources for women lawyers to succeed in their profession and enjoy life while doing so. It may be a program, a workshop, research, or something that is right now just a kernel of a new idea—all it takes to begin is your email to connect with us.

Very warm wishes for a happy and gratifying 2020!


By Stephanie A. Scharf

Stephanie A. Scharf is a founding partner of Scharf Banks Marmor LLC in Chicago and chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession.