Margo Wolf O’Donnell, a shareholder at Vedder Price took a few minutes to answer our questions about an organization she’s involved in.
Why did you decide to get involved in the organization?
I read an article about the Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law in Chicago Lawyer, and I knew and respected some of the members of the steering committee. I thought the coalition was doing something important and unique – creating a network of women attorneys in similar circumstances (all work at law firms) to encourage the sharing of ideas about our firms’ women’s initiatives and to learn how to promote one another to become even more successful. The firm where I work, Vedder Price, has been very supportive about the coalition, and many women attorneys at my firm participate in their events and CLE programs. Three years later, this group has grown to 38 law firms, allowing me to gain a large network of colleagues and role models at virtually all of the major firms in Chicago.
Over the past few years, I have told my clients about the benefits of being a member of the coalition, and many of them have asked me if they could join. This fall, the coalition is opening up its membership to corporate counsel to plan events, CLEs and network. Corporate counsel are invited to attend the coalition’s annual Leadership Forum, which is coming up on Nov. 3 at 4 p.m. at Kirkland & Ellis. We are honoring the general counsel of Crate & Barrel, Victoria Donati, at this event and many prominent in-house attorneys are already signed up to attend.
How does it help improve diversity in the legal community?
The network you gain from being part of the coalition is invaluable in helping to promote and encourage you and other women attorneys. The sharing of ideas about women’s initiatives helps us to create effective women’s programming at our own firms and to manage our own careers better. We also are very supportive of one another – working to raise awareness about opportunities to further our careers.
What is the biggest challenge for women in law firms?
The same as all attorneys — building a book of business. Women need to make the ask and be in the chains of succession planning for existing firm clients. Controlling a book of business can allow women to control their lives and control their schedules. The support of the coalition’s network and training programs on marketing are very helpful.
Corporate counsel face different challenges as women in their companies. They can use the coalition to help meet those challenges as well.
About: Corporate counsel are invited to find out more about The Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law at its 2nd annual Leadership Forum at the offices of Kirkland and Ellis on Nov. 3, from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The Leadership Forum will feature a corporate counsel panel discussion and guest speaker Gail Evans (former CNN executive vice president, diversity expert and best-selling author of “Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman”), followed by a cocktail reception.
Attendance at the coalition’s Leadership Forum is free. You can find out more information and register for the event at coalitionleadershipforum.com.