WLE Program launches webinar series supporting the advancement of women in the legal profession

Paula Monopoli is the Sol & Carlyn Hubert Professor of Law and founding director of the WLE Program

The Maryland Carey Law Women, Leadership, and Equality (WLE) Program kicked off a new webinar series Maryland Carey Law Alumnae Leading the Way in June. The series seeks, according to Professor Paula Monopoli, founding director of the WLE Program, to “provide a vehicle for seasoned alums to pass down hard-won knowledge to the next generation.”

The first installment Practical Advice from Women Law Firm Leaders did just that, bringing together five women in top leadership positions at their firms to share advice on everything from work-life balance to learning the skill of saying “no.”

Participants included Diane D’Aiutolo ’83, managing partner, Tydings; Lynne Espy-Williams ’06, chief diversity, equity & inclusion officer, member, Cozen O’Connor; Nancy Greene ’97, chairman, president and chief executive officer, Miles & Stockbridge; Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum ’87, managing partner, Brown Goldstein & Levy; K. Nichole Nesbitt ’99, co-managing partner, Goodell, DeVries, Leech & Dann. These Maryland Carey Law alumnae are unique. Nationally, less than 20% of law firm managing partners are women and less than 30% of law firm governance committee members are women. The percentages among women of color are even lower.

Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum, also a member of Maryland Carey Law’s Board of Visitors, moderated the panel, asking thoughtful questions designed to elicit helpful tips and stories from the highly accomplished women. One question blossomed into a discussion about how to get noticed and considered for promotion as an associate. It starts with “constantly working really hard,” said Greene, and taking opportunities when they present themselves.

Krevor-Weisbaum agreed, adding that stepping up made a big difference as she climbed the ladder. “Anytime there were committees or opportunities to help a partner or another lawyer in the firm, I would say ‘sure’. Partners tell me now that that was a big deal; they noticed.”

Another theme that emerged was the importance of women supporting and mentoring each other. “Key in my retention was having a safe place to be able to grow and thrive and develop and serve,” said Espy-Williams, “and to have women standing right next to me rooting for me, pushing me along the way.”

To the surprise of some in the audience, the panelists universally said that their younger selves would not have guessed they would be sitting in top jobs at firms. “Law school was just a detour on my way to becoming an actress,” shared D’Aiutolo. That is until she discovered trial advocacy. Nesbitt revealed that her original ambition in law school was to join the FBI, but her perspective was altered as she worked with “legend” Sherrilyn Ifill, a professor at Maryland Carey Law for two decades before taking the position as president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Ifill led students in challenging the construction of a highway set to run through a neighborhood on the Eastern Shore. That project, and other experiences in law school, added Nesbitt, were key to building the confidence to take on leadership positions.

The rich discussion ended with a commitment from Monopoli to follow up with other webinars in the fall and spring, noting that upcoming panels will include women serving as in-house counsel and women who have started their own firms.

“We hope this wonderful conversation was the first in a series,” said Monopoli, “where leading women share their insights with the next generation.”

The webinar is available for viewing here.

The Women, Leadership, and Equality Program at Maryland Carey Law provides an opportunity for students to engage in critical thinking about cutting-edge issues in gender and leadership. The program works to produce lawyers who are aware of the barriers that face women seeking positions of leadership in society and who will actively promote women in these roles.


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