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May 7, 2013

5 Women Lawyers to be Honored with 2013 Margaret Brent Awards

The _ Commission on Women in the Profession has chosen five women lawyers to receive its 2013 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award.

The award ceremony luncheon will take place Sunday, Aug. 11, at the Moscone West Convention Center in San Francisco, during the ABA Annual Meeting.

The honorees are:

mb_hironoMazie K. Hirono, from Honolulu, is the first Asian-Pacific American woman elected to the U.S. Senate and the first female senator from Hawaii. Throughout her career, first as a lawyer, then in public service, Hirono has mentored, supported and encouraged women — especially women of color — in pursuit of careers in the law and in public service. She has helped to sponsor women candidates to run for office and helped to support and place women in leadership roles. Hirono previously served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, where she had an outstanding voting record on women’s issues and serving the needs of children, seniors and small business. Hirono was the second Asian immigrant elected lieutenant governor in the U.S., a position she held for eight years. She has received numerous awards, including the Women’s Leadership Award, presented by the Women’s Leadership Committee of the National Asian Pacific _, and the Trailblazers Award, presented by NAPABA.

mb_holtzSara Holtz, founder and CEO, ClientFocus, in San Francisco, has trained and coached more than 500 women partners from large and small law firms in business development skills. Recognizing that the power, influence and resulting compensation for lawyers rested in their rainmaking ability, she formed her firm to help women compete successfully in the rainmaking arena. Before founding ClientFocus in 1996, Holtz was among the “first wave” of women general counsel and was vice president and general counsel for Nestlé Beverage Co. and division counsel for the Clorox Co. She was a trailblazer in the early years of the Association of Corporate Counsel (previously known as ACCA) and helped found and then chaired its young lawyers committee. Holtz ultimately served as the first woman chair of ACCA, and during her term, ACCA adopted the ACCA and diversity mission statement. She is the author of the book Bringin’ in the Rain: A Woman Lawyer’s Guide to Business Development and has been honored by the State Bar of California for outstanding leadership of the in-house community.

mb_kesslerJudge Gladys Kessler, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, in Washington, D.C., has served on the federal bench since 1994. She has adjudicated a wide array of complex, important cases, including the U.S. Department of Justice’s suit against the tobacco industry, a challenge to the Affordable Care Act and significant cases involving detention at Guantanamo. As a young lawyer, Kessler was a co-founder of the Women’s Legal Defense Fund, which represented women who were not receiving legal assistance in situations involving domestic violence, child support, job discrimination and lack of employment benefits. She later joined with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and other women judges to organize the National Association of Women Judges and served as its third president, providing early leadership essential to the establishment of NAWJ as a viable organization. Kessler was heavily involved in NAWJ’s trailblazing judicial gender bias task forces and has been a relentless advocate for greater diversity on the bench at all levels.

mb_melliMarygold Shire Melli, Voss-Bascom Professor Emerita, University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison, Wis., is a well-known and well-regarded expert in the areas of family, juvenile and criminal law, both in Wisconsin and on the national and international levels. Upon graduation from law school, she earned a prestigious fellowship with the Wisconsin Legislative Council and helped revise the Wisconsin Criminal Code. Melli later took a director position with the council, where she participated in a large-scale research project on the Wisconsin Children’s Code. As a result of the council’s research, the Legislature reformed Wisconsin’s child support system, and these changes served as a model for the federal government when it mandated that all states adopt child support guidelines. Melli returned to the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1959 as the school’s first female member of the tenure-track faculty, and as an academic, Melli continued her teaching and research to become a pioneer in the field of family law.

mb_stewartTherese M. Stewart, chief deputy city attorney, city and county of San Francisco, has devoted her legal career to advocating — in both the private and public sectors — in support of women, minorities, the LGBT community, people with disabilities and other marginalized groups. She most recently has achieved national acclaim for her work as lead attorney for the city and county of San Francisco in the California state and federal court cases relating to marriage equality for same-sex couples, which litigation now awaits a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. During her term as president of the Bar Association of San Francisco, she co-founded the bar’s School-to-College program, which provides mentoring and guidance to inner-city high school students to help them prepare for, select and apply to college. Stewart has served in numerous leadership roles in the fight for LGBT equality since the 1980s and in 2009 received California Lawyer’s Attorney of the Year Award for her achievements in the fight for marriage equality in California.

The ABA Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, established in 1991, honors outstanding women lawyers who have achieved professional excellence in their area of specialty and have actively paved the way to success for others. The award is named for Margaret Brent, the first woman lawyer in America.  Brent arrived in the colonies in 1638 and was involved in 124 court cases in more than eight years, winning every case. In 1648, she formally demanded a vote and a voice in the Maryland Assembly, which the governor denied.

Previous winners range from small-firm practitioners in Alabama and Alaska to U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Winners are selected on the basis of their professional accomplishments and their role in opening doors for other women lawyers. Mary Cranston, chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, says of this year’s Brent winners, “These highly distinguished women have been trailblazers throughout their careers. They are inspirational role models for women throughout the legal profession, and indeed all women.”