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January 19, 2010

Center for Women in Law names new executive director

Photo of Linda Chanow
Linda Bray Chanow

Linda Bray Chanow to lead Center in mission to diminish gender bias against women in legal field

The Center for Women in Law at the University of Texas School of Law has appointed Linda Bray Chanow as its new executive director, effective immediately. Launched in 2008, the Center is poised to be the premier American education institution devoted to the success of the entire spectrum of women in law, from first-year law students to the most experienced and accomplished attorneys.

“Linda is a nationally recognized expert on issues relating to women lawyers, and the Center is very gratified that it was able to recruit her and attract her family to Austin,” said Lauren Eaton Prescott, ’75, one of the Center’s founders and a member of the Executive Director Search Committee.

In April 2009, the Center for Women in Law hosted the Women’s Power Summit on Law and Leadership, a three-day summit that united women leaders from across the legal field, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, to eliminate the barriers that female attorneys face. Chanow, along with more than 150 women, attended the Summit, and it was there that she made an impression on both her fellow attendees and the founders.

“Linda has a national reputation for addressing issues that confront women in the legal profession and coming up with solutions,” said Center founder Cathy Lamboley, ’79, retired general counsel for the Shell Oil Company and currently principal consultant for CA Lamboley Consulting LLC. “She is someone whom I’ve worked with and have known by reputation for a number of years and she has great enthusiasm for this whole area.”

Of the challenges facing women lawyers, advancing women lawyers into leadership positions is of particular concern to Chanow: “Women have been graduating from top law schools in high numbers—40 percent or higher for more than two decades—but they haven’t been advancing.”

Women hold only about 18 percent of all partnerships nationwide, which represents only about a three percent increase in the number of women partners during the past decade. A similar imbalance exists in the state judiciaries, federal judiciary, and among general counsels of companies. And the higher the position, the more imbalance exists. Women attorneys of color occupy even fewer leadership positions, comprising only 1.84 percent of partners in law firms.

“One of the things I’ll be doing is working intensely with individual firms and other organizations to identify and remove barriers to women’s success in law and to establish and promote best practices,” Chanow said.

Settling in to her new position means, among other things, strategizing the best ways to continue to push for and implement change for women lawyers.

“Summit participants adopted by acclamation the Austin Manifesto, signaling the beginning of a coordinated national movement towards the advancement of women,” Chanow said. “A top priority is reaching out to each of the signatories to determine precisely what steps they have taken to honor their pledges in the Manifesto.”

“Another wonderful thing the Center started was a meeting convening the ‘Thought Leaders,’ representatives from the leading organizations across the nation who are working to advance women and diversity in the legal profession,” Chanow continued. “By bringing these leaders together, the Center has provided a forum for the groups to work together, to share resources, and to develop synergies that will lead to greater progress than if the groups continued to work individually. That’s what we hope to build on.”

In addition to working with partnering organizations, Chanow foresees implementing leadership training programs for law students. “Efforts to advance women in the profession have historically focused on women who have been practicing for a number of years,” she said. “To increase the number of women leaders, we need to start earlier to prepare law students to enter a profession that currently does not support their advancement.”

Prior to leading the Center for Women in Law, Chanow served as Assistant Director at the Project for Attorney Retention (PAR), an initiative of the Center for WorkLife Law at University of California Hastings College of the Law and a leading research and advocacy group dedicated to advancing women lawyers and improving work-life balance for all lawyers. While at PAR, Chanow worked closely with PAR’s codirectors, Distinguished Professor of Law Joan C. Williams and Cynthia Thomas Calvert, to devise business-based solutions that provide best practices to law firms, law departments, lawyers, and students.

She recently coauthored “Reduced Hours, Full Success: Part-Time Partners in U.S. Law Firms,” which details the structure and effectiveness of current part-time partner arrangements in U.S. law firms and provides recommendations for law firms and part-time lawyers. Chanow’s other recent accomplishments include writing “Actions for Advancing Women into Law Firm Leadership: Report of the National Association of Women Lawyers National Leadership Summit” and serving as cochair of the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia Initiative on Advancement and Retention of Women.

Chanow graduated from Bethany College and received her JD from Washington College of Law. She began her legal career as a commercial litigator and bankruptcy lawyer at WilmerHale.

The Center for Women in Law at the University of Texas School of Law was founded by thirty-nine accomplished women alumni. The Center serves as a national resource for both established and new attorneys, as well as law students, as they strive to overcome barriers to their advancement. See the Center for Women in Law’s website for more information.

Contact:

Linda Bray Chanow, Executive Director, Center for Women in Law, University of Texas School of Law, 512-232-1973, lchanow@law.utexas.edu