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Five women lawyers receive Margaret Brent Awards at ABA Annual Meeting

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Five women lawyers receive Margaret Brent Awards at ABA Annual Meeting

By John Glynn

The American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession gave five women lawyers its 2015 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award. The award ceremony luncheon took place on Sunday, Aug. 2, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago during the ABA Annual Meeting.

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From left to right: Flora D. Darpino, Mary Ann Hynes, Fernande R.V. (Nan) Duffly, Emma Coleman Jordan and Mari Carmen Aponte


The honorees are (click on each name to see their profile video and their acceptance speech):

Mari Carmen Aponte, ambassador of the United States to El Salvador, Washington, D.C., assumed leadership of the U.S. embassy in El Salvador in 2010. Prior to that appointment, she worked as an attorney and consultant in Washington, D.C. From 2001-04, Aponte was the executive director of the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration, and before holding that position she practiced law in Washington, D.C., for nearly 20 years. She became the first woman president of the Hispanic National Bar Association and is the first Puerto Rican woman admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania and one of the first Latina White House Fellows. Aponte has served on the boards of dozens of civic and bar associations, and her tireless efforts within the Hispanic community has earned her numerous awards. For decades, she has worked to ensure that the talents of Latinas are not overlooked, particularly in the judicial and executive appointment process.

Flora D. Darpino, lieutenant general, United States Army, Judge Advocate General, Washington, D.C., is the first woman to serve as judge advocate general, the U.S. Army’s top lawyer. Upon being promoted from a one-star general to three-star lieutenant general and elevated to this post in September 2013, she became the 39th judge advocate general and leader of nearly 2,000 full-time judge advocates and civilian attorneys who provide legal services to the Army. Darpino has held some of the most rigorous positions in the JAG Corps and served with distinction in two deployments to the combat theater of Iraq, at the beginning and the end of the war. A trailblazer throughout her nearly 30-year career, she has focused on mentorship and professional development, particularly for women in the JAG Corps, and is legendary for her outreach and support. Darpino has received numerous military awards throughout her career.

Fernande R.V. (Nan) Duffly, associate justice, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Boston, Mass., is the first Asian-American woman to be appointed a judge in Massachusetts. After practicing in the litigation department of a private firm and becoming its first female litigation partner, Duffly joined the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court in 1992 and served there before being elevated to the Massachusetts Appeals Court in 2000. In 2011, she was appointed as an associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. During her term as president of the National Association of Women Judges, she worked to improve the collection of reliable data on the numbers and percentages of women judges at each level of the judiciaries of each of the 50 states. A passionate advocate of women and minorities, she consistently has used her leadership positions to effect systemic reforms to enhance greater opportunity and access for women and people of color within in the profession and justice system.

Mary Ann Hynes, senior counsel, Dentons US LLP and formerly, senior vice president and general counsel, Ingredion, Chicago, Ill., was the first female general counsel at a Fortune 500 company after working her way up the ranks at CCH, Inc., an information services provider. Immediately prior to joining Dentons, she was senior vice president, general counsel, corporate secretary and chief compliance officer at Ingredion Incorporated (formerly Corn Product International Inc.), one of the world’s leading ingredient providers. Hynes has deep experience in the areas of governance, compliance and mergers and acquisitions, with a special focus on international growth, innovation, strategy and risk management. Her efforts to expand opportunities for women in law and champion the cause of diversity in the legal profession inspired InsideCounsel to create the Mary Ann Hynes Award, given annually to a female general counsel who helps drive the advancement of women in the legal world.

Emma Coleman Jordan, professor of law, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C., is best known for establishing the field of economic justice in legal theory and for her work in financial services and civil rights. She recently released the second edition of her textbook, Economic Justice: Race, Gender, Identity and Economics (2011), which combines critical legal scholarship and law and economics in addressing questions of economic disparities. In addition to being a formidable presence in her field, she also has mentored scores of young women lawyers. A former White House Fellow (serving as special assistant to the U.S. attorney general) and past president of the Association of American Law Schools and of the Society of American Law Teachers, Jordan was counsel to Professor Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, which brought the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace onto the national stage.

The ABA Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, established in 1991, honors outstanding women lawyers who have achieved professional excellence in their area of specialty and have actively paved the way to success for others. The 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. Previous winners range from small-firm practitioners in Alabama and Alaska to U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Winners are selected on the basis of their professional accomplishments and their role in opening doors for other women lawyers. Michele Coleman Mayes, chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, said of this year’s Brent winners: “We are honored to recognize this spectacular group of women. We applaud their achievements, knowing that their efforts will inspire a new generation of women lawyers.