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Front Page - Friday, April 29, 2016

Judges join other female leaders in the legal community for Empowerment Conference

Chief Justice Sharon Lee spoke at the Tennessee Lawyers’ Association for Women’s Empowerment Conference in April. - (Photo provided)

Things have come a long way from the days when Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Sharon Lee was the only female attorney in her county. However, there’s still a lot of opportunity for women to grow their role in the legal profession overall.

That was the theme of the Tennessee Lawyers’ Association for Women’s recent daylong conference that focused on empowering females in the legal profession at all stages of their careers. Only a third of the state’s 22,000 licensed attorneys are women, and women make up only 22 percent of the judiciary. The Tennessee Supreme Court, however, boasts a majority of three women on the five-member court.

Chief Justice Lee emphasized during her keynote remarks that empowerment doesn’t just happen, it requires intention. She said that any advances made by women are something not to rest on, but to climb on.

“We cannot dwell in the past, but we must pay attention to history so that we do not lose what we fought hard to attain,” she said. 

Chief Justice Lee noted that about half of all law school graduates are women, but their career paths might get off track at some point. She outlined steps women should consider when looking ahead: help each other; surround yourself with good people; make your own opportunities; and seek a good work-life balance.

The conference also included panels moderated by Justice Holly Kirby and Justice Cornelia Clark. Other participants from the judiciary included Administrative Office of the Courts Director Deborah Taylor Tate, Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy, and Juvenile Judge Shelia Calloway.

Justice Kirby, who moderated a panel about preparing oneself for elected or appointed positions, spoke of the importance of women in public service, saying that having more women lawyers in leadership positions of public service will elevate the public discourse and bring excellence to the government. But, she added, women have to take the first step.

“Power does not come to the woman who waits for someone to recognize her abilities,” Justice Kirby said. “Power comes to the woman who sets a path for herself and goes to get it.”

Source: Tennessee Supreme Court