Oregon State Bar Bulletin — JULY 2007
Women in the Law
From generation to generation, the ever-increasing ranks of women find satisfaction (and no shortage of challenges, too)
in their legal life

By Janine Robben

In 1993, the OSB Bulletin sat down with a small group of women who became members of the Oregon State Bar in 1973 and 1983 to talk about their experiences with gender bias.

Recently, the Bulletin invited the same women back for an afternoon roundtable, and added a morning group of women with Oregon bar memberships from 1993 and 2003.

The "mommy track" was a hot topic of conversation — ’03 graduate Sharnel Mesirow called it "the scariest question out there."

The issue is still quite real: a study publicized just two weeks after these conversations took place concluded that "Mothers are still treated as if they were a third gender in the workplace," with mothers only half as likely to be hired as childless women or men with or without kids. (Boston Globe, "A Third Gender in the Workplace," by Ellen Goodman, May 11, 2007).

But — the more-experienced women lawyers advised their younger colleagues — there is very real hope for women in our profession.

One of them, Neva Campbell, was a 40-year-old mother before she even looked for her first law job — and went on to become what is now megafirm Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt’s first woman lawyer and its first woman partner.

Pamela Knowles, who was told she would be off the partnership track if she became a part-time mom, part-time lawyer, made partner at what is now Davis Wright Tremaine while working part-time. And Jody Stahancyk, who was warned against leaving work to raise kids, did just that and now runs law offices in five Oregon communities.

What was new, in this 2007 discussion, was a sense, among the older lawyers, that being pioneers was challenging, exciting and even — looking back — kind of fun. And both groups shared the understanding that the downsides of the profession — the 80-hour work weeks and the pressure to look and act a part — can be as hard on some men as it is on some women.

The OSB classes of 1973 and 1983
The OSB classes of 1993 and 2003
The entirety of the 1993 article

Janine Robben has been a member of the Oregon State Bar since 1980 and is a frequent contributor to the Bulletin. She facilitated the two conversations that follow, both held on April 27, 2007 at the Oregon State Bar Center. Nancy Morgan of the Oregon Court Reporters Association reported and transcribed the discussions. The transcripts have been edited for clarity and length.

All photos are by Art Thompson Photography.

© 2007 Janine Robben

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