November 7, 2017: State Bar Association Adopts Report On Gender Disparity In The Courtroom, Commemorates Women's Suffrage Centennial

The New York State Bar Association’s House of Delegates has approved a report that determined women attorneys remain considerably underrepresented in courtrooms across the state as well as in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). The report entitled “If Not Now, When? Achieving Equality for Women Attorneys in the Courtroom and in ADR,” was compiled by the Commercial & Federal Litigation Section’s Task Force on Women’s Initiatives.

The report is based on the first-ever observational study of women attorneys in the courtroom. It reveals that female attorneys comprise about 25 percent of attorneys in lead counsel roles in courtrooms statewide.

The study took place from Sept. 1, 2016 to Dec. 31, 2016. The New York Court of Appeals, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, two of the four federal district courts, all four appellate divisions as well as commercial divisions in supreme courts in counties from Suffolk to Onondaga and Erie participated. Three of the leading ADR providers in the state also participated. Approximately 2,800 questionnaires were completed and returned by judges in participating courts.

“We recognize that more can and should be done to ensure that women and diverse voices are heard and are taking an active part in the judicial and dispute resolution process,” said Past President of the State Bar Association Bernice K. Leber of New York City (Arent Fox), a co-chair of the Task Force. 

“All lawyers and especially women lawyers should have the same chance to speak in court, conduct arbitrations, mediations, and serve as neutrals, as others have enjoyed,” continued Leber. “These are issues of fundamental fairness in our profession.” 

Other task force co-chairs are: retired U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin of New York City (Stroock & Stroock & Lavan and JAMS); former Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie H. Cohen of New York City (Morrison & Foerster); Tracee E. Davis of New York City (Zeichner, Ellman & Krause); Sharon M. Porcellio of Buffalo (Bond, Schoeneck & King); Lesley F. Rosenthal of New York City (Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts); and Lauren J. Wachtler of New York City (Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp). All are former chairs of the Commercial & Federal Litigation Section.  

State Bar President Sharon Stern Gerstman plans to present the report to the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates at its next meeting in February to urge their adoption as its official policy.

The adoption of the report comes as New York celebrates its suffrage centennial when women won the right to vote Nov. 6, 1917. In honor, the Association’s Committee on Women in the Law has unveiled its exhibition at the State Bar Center entitled “A Centennial Commemoration of Women’s Suffrage and the Achievement of Legal Rights.”

Additionally, the New York Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the State Bar Association, has unveiled its portrait of the late Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye. In 1983, Kaye became the first woman to serve on the state’s Court of Appeals. A decade later, she was named Chief Judge. The portrait will hang prominently in the State Bar Center’s Great Hall.

For a link to the report, as well as the suffrage exhibition and Kaye portrait, please visit http://www.nysba.org/womeninthelawny/.

About the New York State Bar Association
Since 1876, the New York State Bar Association helps shape the development of law, educates and informs the legal profession and the public, and champions the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.


Contact: Christian Nolan
Senior Writer 
cnolan@nysba.org
518-487-5536