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President's Message - July 2017
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“Leadership: Rising to the Challenge”
Olga Álvarez, Lawyers Club President 2017-2018
I am honored and humbled to serve as the next president of Lawyers Club. I believe Lawyers Club has played a critical role in my success as an attorney and I am dedicated to paying it forward. The women who have come before me created an extraordinary organization that has nurtured and propelled the careers of many women and men. That legacy is not forgotten. Our mission to advance the status of women in the law and society will be at the heart of everything we do this coming year with a particular focus on “Leadership: Rising to the Challenge.
Why leadership? After the November election, I watched a news program that discussed presidential candidates for 2020. When mentioning female candidates, the commentators brought up Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina briefly and then moved on. When the topic of potential male candidates surfaced, several names were discussed. A healthy debate ensued about strengths and weaknesses of male candidates from both parties like an assorted box of chocolates. Great strides had been made by women in the last election including three new U.S. Senators who were women of color. But even so, where was our pool of women candidates or our box of chocolates?
After a bit of research, I discovered that attorneys are 100 times more likely to win a Congressional election than any other profession. I thought to myself, problem solved. I know a few good female attorneys – a little over 1000. But after scratching the surface regarding the experiences of those female attorneys who were actually elected, it revealed that those women had enjoyed highly successful legal careers prior to their successful campaigns. Consequently, the answer to creating a larger pool of female candidates for the presidency or any other elected office depends upon ensuring that larger numbers of women achieve success in their legal careers.
As a result, the mission of Lawyers Club becomes ever more important in increasing that pool of potential leaders, because successful female lawyerlegislators have successful legal careers prior to running. Since the year 2000, women have comprised around 50% of the graduating classes of American law schools. However, after more than 15 years of men and women graduating at the same rate, less than 18% of women are equity partners. That percentage has changed little, despite the increases in the number of female law graduates. Studies reflect that 56% of women leave the practice of law within five years and 85% of women of color leave the practice within seven years. So where do we begin?
First, on July 20, Lawyers Club will host a luncheon with a panel focused on “Leadership and Lawyers: Building the Pipeline.” Experienced female attorneys who have achieved success and are leaders in their firms and agencies will share their advice on key leadership skills that are necessary for advancing within the profession and how those skills translate into pursuing other goals.
I would not be where I am today without all of the leaders who came before me and cultivated my leadership skills and my passion for this cause. I am deeply grateful to those who invested in me, and I will pay it forward by investing in the next generation of Lawyers Club leaders. It has been my great pleasure to serve on the Lawyers Club board and this year as President. Those with whom I have served are some of the finest leaders in San Diego. 
Second, Lawyers Club will continue to provide programs to assist women in perfecting their legal craft, navigating the politics of their firm or agency, and understanding the obstacles within the field. The programming of the Professional Advancement, Work-Life Balance, Diverse Women’s, Leadership and Development, LGBTQ, and the Bench Bar Committees, to name a few, will focus on programs that will address the four causes of why women leave the profession including obtaining interesting work, meeting billable hours, finding a mentor or sponsor within the organization, and addressing sex discrimination. In addition, these committees will focus on ensuring that women receive the professional development they need to continue practicing law, as well as the advice necessary to pursue promotions, apply for the judiciary, and seek equal pay. All of these topics are critical in helping female attorneys navigate their careers and continue practicing.
Third, Lawyers Club will continue promoting women in society through its Women’s Advocacy, Reproductive Justice, and Community Outreach Committees as well as the Human Trafficking Task Force and newly formed LGBTQ Task Force. These groups will identify policies and regulations that affect women in society, and will also pinpoint opportunities that will empower our members to rise to the challenge and lead on these issues. It is here that practical leadership skills can be developed.
The goal is not only to provide women assistance with the skills and knowledge they need to stay in the profession, build their craft and become successful; but it is also geared toward more seasoned attorneys to encourage them to take that leap of faith whether it is to lead their firm or organization, to apply to the judiciary, or to take a stand and lead on a policy or regulation to advance women in the law and society.
If the task of increasing the pool of attorney leaders seems daunting, I understand. But if it is important to you, I ask that you take a small step by either joining Lawyers Club, becoming more active, or contributing financially. If you are unsure of where you might fit in, just call me. I promise that together we will figure out how to rise to the challenges before us. We can do anything! It’s going to be a great year!
Olga Álvarez is co-founder and shareholder of Heisner Álvarez, APC in La Jolla. She is a Certified Legal Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law and is president of Lawyers Club.
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26th Annual Golf Tournament

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