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August 6, 2012

Outstanding Women Lawyers Receive ABA Margaret Brent Awards

From left to right

From left to right: Mary Cranston, chair of the ABA Comission on Women in the Profession; Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye; Marcia Devins Greenberger; Arlinda Locklear; Amy W. Schulman; Joan M. Hall and ABA President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III

Five trailblazing women lawyers whose journey in the profession paved the way for women around the world were honored at the _ Annual Meeting with the 2012 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Awards.

“The _ is pleased to play a part in recognizing such women of great accomplishment,” said ABA President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III. “The Margaret Brent Awards are not only an opportunity to recognize great women but also for all of us to be inspired and uplifted by these women.”

Established in 1991, the awards honor outstanding women lawyers who have achieved professional excellence in their area of specialty and helped other women achieve success. They are named for Margaret Brent, the first woman lawyer in America.

Video profiles of the Margaret Brent Award Recipients:

“I am humbled and privileged to join the ranks of such accomplished women,” said Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, chief justice of the California Supreme Court and the first Asian-Filipina American woman to serve as a state chief justice. “I have to say that when I see my name on the same list containing the names justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg I am inclined to check that list several times.”

Cantil-Sakauye also discussed the increased number of women in the California judiciary.

“I am proud to say that on our supreme court for the first time we have a majority of women, and in our judiciary 31.1 percent are female,” said Cantil-Sakauye, who serves as chair of the judicial council that has made diversity one of its chief priorities.

Honoree Marcia Greenberger, co-president and founder of the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C., reflected on her passion for the profession and the changes that have been made in her lifetime.

“My legal career has given me more joy and satisfaction than I could have ever had imagined,” Greenberger said. “I never would have believed when I graduated law school that there would be three brilliant women on the Supreme Court at one time… and that Title IX would power over half of the U.S. Olympic Team this summer.”

Joan M. Hall, retired partner at Jenner & Block in Chicago, expressed her gratitude for receiving the award and discussed the need to strengthen public education in America in order to increase the nation’s ability to compete globally.

“I am tremendously grateful to the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession for this very important award,” Hall said. “I want to urge each one of you to get involved with education wherever you live. There are so many opportunities to do that, and the need is so great.”

Honoree Arlinda Locklear, a solo practitioner in Washington, D.C., explained that the award represents several principles and life lessons she learned from her tribe.

“I consider myself greatly blessed,” Locklear said. “I had the great good fortune to born into an Indian community that fostered value much like those the Margaret Brent Award represents. These are the values of commitment to each other, the values of community, and the value that we are all in this together. We all have a mutual responsibility to provide for the well being of those who come after us.”

Locklear explained that the discrimination faced by Native American tribes motivated her to dedicate her life to making life better for her community.

“As a member of the Indian community, I’ve witnessed and experienced the pain and humiliation that discrimination can cause,” Locklear said. “It is a very hurtful thing and it injures not only communities but individuals.”

Amy W. Schulman, executive vice-president and general counsel of Pfizer and president and general manager of Pfizer Nutrition, said she was honored to be granted the award and remarked on the shift in how gender issues are discussed. Instead of addressing the essential problems that create inequity, she observed, women are being characterized as “wanting it all” or demanding more than they need.

“It’s not that we want too much or blindly think we’re entitled to it all, but as long as that is the lens through which we allow the conversation to be conducted …  that will be the vehicle for which we will be divided and conquered,” Schulman said.