The Cobb County, Ga., Bar Association has a long history of contributions by women attorneys, including past presidents and prominent members in private practice and on the bench, but until now, has had no women's section.
That has changed.
A group of women attorneys in Marietta has been working since 2009 to create a section for women within the state's second-largest voluntary bar. At first it was an informal committee. In August, the Cobb Bar Board of Trustees received a proposal to formally create a new section by four Marietta women lawyers: Nancy Ingram Jordan, Laura Murphree, Dawn Levine and Sarah Cipperly. The proposed mission statement said the section would be "committed to the unique needs addressed by female attorneys in their daily practice of law."
The proposal said the group would connect women members, as well as any member "interested in understanding and supporting" these unique needs to "focus on the development of women in such areas as professional and social networking, mentorship and professional and economic growth through shared wisdom and guidance." The board approved the proposal in September. The new section, called Women of the Bar, held its first event Thursday.
True to their promise to include all interested members of the bar, the group chose a man to be the first speaker: Darrell Sutton of Sutton Law Group. He talked about accomplished women of the Cobb bar. The first event, a sold-out lunch for 50 at the Chicken and the Egg restaurant, was social and organizational, but upcoming monthly events will include community service and continuing legal education.
"Now that there's a section, there's been a very enthusiastic response," said Jane Manning, president of the new section and a prosecutor for the Cobb County solicitor general's office. She noted a long list of names of prominent women in the Cobb bar, including the two most senior judges in Cobb County Superior Court, Dorothy Robinson and Mary Staley, and some of the most senior judges in Cobb County State Court, Irma Glover and Melodie Clayton.
Manning said members have expressed a need for a section. "I think women attorneys, especially in court, have unique challenges," she said.
"There is a lot of interest in this. A lot of women entering the profession are looking to connect to women who've gone before them as mentors," said Dawn Levine, a wills and estates partner with Lyle & Levine. "This is a great place for women who've already blazed a trail to show others how."
Jordan, a family law attorney with Brock, Clay, Calhoun & Rogers and a former president of the Cobb bar, met with the board on the day of the vote on the new section to promote the idea, to "make sure they knew this wasn't a conspiracy," and to offer a welcome to all members. "Male lawyers have wives and daughters who are lawyers," she said.
"Women network differently. They think differently," said Jordan. And they have different conversation starters. "We say, 'I love your shoes. That case was awful.' Men like sports. Women like shoes. That doesn't make it good or bad, it's just different."