June 23, 2010 16:39 Age: 4 yrs

Toward one-half of the sky

By: Ginger Pyron

“Women hold up half the sky,” the saying goes—and a number of Emory alumnae are proving it true in the profession of law.

Women employed by the 94 percent of law firms that have no women managing partners may still see their potential as trapped between the floor and a glass ceiling. Louise Wells 74C 78L, unanimously elected last August as the first woman managing partner of Morris, Manning & Martin LLP in Atlanta, sees differently.

“There’s a natural evolution going on,” she says. “Once women began to go to law school, they also entered the workforce, practiced law and began to rise to the top—just like any other lawyer. In time, the law school percentages will follow on into the workplace. There are more and more powerful women; it’s a fascinating progression to watch.”

Along with Wells herself, women to watch include Mary Devlin Capizzi 94L, the second woman from Drinker Biddle & Reath’s Washington, D.C., office to serve as a managing partner of the firm; and Mary Jane Augustine 69C 71B 76L, recently elected managing partner at the New York office of McCarter & English LLP, the first woman in her office to hold this leading position.

“A thriving law firm today retains, promotes and values women,” says Capizzi. “If it doesn’t, from a business perspective it won’t be as vibrant. Having women in positions of leadership—to mentor, to provide a possibly different perspective—is key. Fresh perspectives can effectuate positive culture change in the profession.”

Wells emphasizes, “I don’t perceive a glass ceiling for women lawyers. I know I have been held to a high standard—but so have my partners around me. In terms of advancement, gender is a nonissue for me. If you come in and you produce, if you’re a good lawyer with a good practice, you’re treated on equal footing.”

“And if you find the right spot,” she adds, “the sky’s the limit!”

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