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President's Message - June 2018
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“Inspiring to Rise and Lead with Passion and Authenticity”
Olga Álvarez, Lawyers Club President 2017-2018
    This is my last president’s article, and unlike the others, there are very few statistics. Yes, I like numbers, and sometimes they are the best evidence in making an argument. But as my presidency draws to a close, what is more important than the statistics and projections is the heart and spirit of our members and the desire to change the paradigm that prevents women from excelling in the law and society. Passion cannot be measured, and what we can achieve is unknown and limitless. I hope this year and this article inspire you to rise and lead with passion and authenticity.

The fruits of our hard work this year may not be realized until sometime in the future, but I am certain that we put a few cracks in that glass ceiling. And, we did it with courage, authenticity and lots of coffee. As president, I promised to promote “Leadership: Rising to the Challenge.” In response, our leaders contributed their talents by organizing panels, analyzing amicus briefs, proposing legislation, and assuming new leadership roles. We focused on the primary reasons women leave the profession, which include lack of mentorship, the inability to meet billable hours, and the unavailability of interesting work. To that end, members actively sought out young attorneys to serve as a resource regarding these issues in our “Got Coffee” initiative. We held programs on mentorship and sponsorship, as well as a workshop on asking for raises, promotions, and business. But we also chose to inspire our members to become leaders on women’s issues. To ignite this flame, we called upon Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott, and founding mother, the Honorable Lynn Schenk.

Waiting 217 years for parity was unacceptable for Lawyers Club. We know that success requires hard work and strong skills, and that many women do not receive the same opportunities as their male counterparts. We want women to define their own success not by billable hours or by salary, but by their own values and love for the law. This required a jumpstart! In response, we established the Trial Advocacy Task Force to provide women with the trial skills they need to advance within the profession whether as a member of a firm or on her own.

At the heart of our mission, we value diversity and inclusivity; this is evident in our co-chairs, board, and the building of relationships with other specialty bar associations. The success of all women continues to be important to Lawyers Club. We held the inaugural International Women’s Day luncheon in Carmel Valley, reinvigorated the East County membership, and hosted the Women of Color Reception. We have tried to ensure that all women in all parts of the county, including those of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, different practices, mothers and persons of the LGBTQ community, will find a space in Lawyers Club and the opportunities to succeed.

Our dedication to women in society remains strong. The Fund for Justice program raised over $37,000 and issued grants to the most vulnerable women and girls in San Diego. We drafted legislation on domestic violence, fought against human trafficking, supported reproductive rights, and marched for women’s rights. We also exercised our legal prowess by joining several amicus briefs to ensure that women’s rights were protected under the law. As always, eliminating the wage gap played a central role in programming. We made a concerted effort to recruit male allies. But we asked them to be more than supporters; men need to be advocates and vocally stand up for women’s issues, especially with respect to wages and sexual harassment policies, since currently they hold the power and comprise the large majority of compensation committees and management.

This year also required Lawyers Club to rise to the challenge and respond to the women’s movement happening around the world regarding sexual harassment. Lawyers Club chose not to get mired in the headlines, but to respond with the assistance that only a group of attorneys could provide. We held a summit on sexual harassment and bullying, wrote an Op-ed in the San Diego Union Tribune, and joined forces with local officials on workplace equity issues. We instituted a Sexual Harassment Task Force not only to improve the likelihood of justice for survivors, but to also provide guidance to firms and organizations regarding treatment of such claims.

Finally, our newsletter and blog teams did an incredible job of providing substantive articles on the issues that impact women in the law and society as well as the experiences of our members. We did not shy away from presenting the hard facts and daunting statistics, because without that honesty no solution can be found.

Someone said to me this year, “Olga, I’m going to give it to you straight up, because I know you like to keep it real.” That is true. But I am also a dreamer. I dream of equality, equal access to opportunity for all, and a world without gender or racial bias; and I hope that both my son and daughter will come to know it. It is a dream that many of us share and it feeds my passion to continue to fight for equality on all levels. There are times in which I am able to give more, and other moments where all I can do is replace the word “ombudsman” with “ombudsperson.” But there is power in numbers, and that’s the beauty of Lawyers Club. Each act contributes to a greater action and permits us to change the paradigm. We have done it and will continue to do it under the direction of president-elect Danna Cotman who will proudly carry the torch forward toward equality. It has been such a great honor to serve as president, and although my year is done, our work is not over. See you at the next luncheon!

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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