Women of Achievement
When MCCA® was founded in 1997, the upper echelons of America’s corporate law departments still had much work to do to extend to in-house women the same opportunities for advancement their male counterparts enjoyed. But progress continues to be made; slowly but surely, in-house women are being more widely recognized for their many contributions. Increasingly, they are taking their hard-won place at the executive management table as the company’s “chief legal officer.”
It is inevitable that as in-house women gain more clout as “the client” and learn that they have earned the right to flex their muscles, the ripple effect within the outside counsel community will be that more women outside counsel will hold the coveted role of the engagement partner for America’s top corporations. To those women who have hung in there, endured the challenges, and worked hard to prove they were more than capable, MCCA extends its admiration and appreciation. Don’t give up! You are forging pathways for future generations of women lawyers and the legal profession as a whole will be better for it as it achieves greater inclusion of its sisters of the bar.
Corporations tend to turn to outside counsel to handle their litigation. These corporations need to make sure that they are not overlooking the many talented women litigators who stand ready to offer their clients outstanding service and results. Therefore, MCCA decided to do some of the leg work for corporate counsel by polling a cross-section of our in-house network to receive their feedback. We asked that they share with MCCA the names of those from whom they received outstanding client service and considered to be top women litigators. Their responses enabled MCCA to compile a list of talent that comes with the most important recommendation available — a reference from the client. And, while all of the women were flattered to have been named, their stories shed light on what it takes to earn that seat at the trial table as lead counsel.
MCCA annually surveys the companies known as the “Fortune 500” to determine how many women and people of color lead these companies’ law departments. Over the years, MCCA has marked progress being made by both groups. In this issue of Diversity & the Bar®, MCCA announces the results of its survey of Fortune 500 women general counsel, and in the May/June issue, we’ll publish the results of the survey of chief legal officers who are members of a racial minority group.
An important story behind both surveys is that there are increasing numbers of women who will appear in both magazines. Women of color are finally starting to make inroads in-house and their talents are taking them all the way to the general counsel’s office. Trailblazers like Pamela Carter, who in 1998 became the first minority woman (African American) to be named the general counsel of a Fortune 500 department (Cummins Engine) would be happy to learn that there are now five women of color in similar roles. Even more stand ready and able to accept such an opportunity so let the progress continue!
Veta T. Richardson
From the March/April 2004 issue of Diversity & The Bar®