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Local attorneys form association for female lawyers


The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A group made up of of women lawyers is in the process of forming a statewide association for female attorneys.

“We put up a Facebook page, and we had 500 members within two weeks,” said Sandy Kinney, an attorney with Bailey & Glasser in Charleston and one of the founders of West Virginia Women Attorneys.

“Now we’re up to 650 members,” she said.

The group could loosely be described as a women’s “bar association,” although the organization has no official affiliation with the West Virginia State Bar.

“We’re a business league,” Kinney explained.

According to the organization’s mission statement, the purpose of West Virginia Women Attorneys is to “promote the welfare, interests and professional development of women attorneys, advance the honor and integrity of the legal profession by advocating principles of fairness and equality and champion justice for all individuals.” The organization also will allow women attorneys to get together to network, compare notes and support one another.

“The practice of law in West Virginia is still something of a good-old-boys club,” said Kelly Elswick-Hall, an attorney with the Masters Law Firm in Charleston. “We want to create some good-old-girls networking. Promoting the interests of women in the law helps elevate the practice of law generally.”

According to Kinney, law partnerships in firms tend to skew more toward male attorneys, while women tend to gravitate more toward government work. Men tend to make partner more often and tend to make more money than their female counterparts.

“(Women) trade off pay in order to have more flexibility,” Kinney said.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

“If the majority of leadership (positions) are male, there are less opportunities for women to have leadership models who are female,” Kinney said. “When someone thinks, ‘I need a lawyer,’ they shouldn’t think in terms of a specific gender.”

“There’s still the perception that women are going to make law a part-time job,” agreed Elswick-Hall, who, like Kinney, has to juggle a career and a family. “If anything, women work longer and harder in their legal jobs and as mothers.

“We want to work on the perception that women who have children, or are in the profession generally, are not going to do as good a job as men in the profession with children, or men in general,” she added.

Not all women attorneys will get married or have children, but West Virginia Women Attorneys is intended to be a resource for them as well.

“We hope that, in the end, young women lawyers will have the help they need to be successful,” Elswick-Hall said.

She and Kinney said the organization is intended to be inclusive of race, gender and sexual orientation, and will be open to men who share the group’s mission.

“We really want women from across the state to be involved,” Kinney said. “We don’t want it to be a Charleston-only group.”

Association organizers have split the state up into nine regions. Each region will have its own delegate within the group to serve on the board of directors.

Elswick-Hall serves as the delegate for the district that includes Kanawha, Clay, Nicholas, Braxton and Gilmer counties.

Kinney said the group is still looking for delegates from the Parkersburg area, the Northern Panhandle, Beckley and the Huntington areas.

She said the organization hopes to officially incorporate in September, at which time the Facebook group will be taken down.

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