About the Awards:

The “Women of Influence” awards are the result of the first-ever collaboration between the Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law and Best Lawyers. Coalition members in both private and general practice submitted nominations, with each nominee named for her outstanding work in her area of expertise. Ballots were counted and evaluated by Best Lawyers publication editors, and final awards were based upon a number of factors, including number of nominations, votes, nominator feedback, editorial research, and inclusion in the 23rd Edition of The Best Lawyers in America.

We at Best Lawyers believe that an endorsement by one’s peers is one of the highest forms of recognition within the legal profession. We are pleased to co-host this special feature with the Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law this year and look forward to its growth in years to come.

About the Coalition:

A decade ago, a small group of women attorneys in Chicago scattered among different law firms put out a small call to action: come to a meeting and share your experiences about being a woman lawyer in our city. A few weeks later, a couple dozen women found their way to a law firm conference room over a lunch hour. They began sharing their stories with one another, nodding along to shared experiences, and quickly running out of time for a conversation that had only skimmed the surface of their agenda. So, not surprisingly, from that meeting, an idea was born. The women talked about the “women’s initiatives” at their own law firms. But what if those women’s initiatives worked together? Could they accomplish more for women attorneys together than they could alone? Surely the answer was yes.

From that meeting, the Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law was created almost 10 years ago as a collaborative network of women’s initiatives across law firms. A law firm could join the Coalition and all of its women attorneys would have access to the shared programs, resources, and network of the Coalition. A few years later, the Coalition expanded its membership to include companies’ and non-profit organizations’ legal departments so that in-house women attorneys could participate in Coalition activities as well.

Today, the Coalition is a non-profit membership association comprised of representatives of women’s initiatives in Chicago and New York area law firms and corporations. The Coalition’s mission remains the same now a decade into existence: to provide positive avenues of communication, support, networking, and career advancement for women lawyers. Any law firm or company with lawyers based in the Chicago or New York areas that are committed to addressing issues facing women lawyers in the firm or company is welcome to join the Coalition. The Coalition’s membership now includes more than 100 law firms and companies across the Chicago and New York chapters.

Every year, the Coalition chapters host dozens of in-person and online programming for our members—all of which are free for our members’ attorneys and most of which provide CLE credit. Last year, the Chicago Coalition hosted more than 20 programs, including our Fourth Annual Managing Partner/General Counsel Forum featuring Elena Kraus, the General Counsel of Walgreen Co., and our Sixth Annual Leadership Forum featuring Brigadier-General Maritza Ryan, along with more targeted programming on substantive legal issues, climbing the career jungle gym, and utilizing personality style to be a more effective leader. Meanwhile, the New York Coalition hosted nine programs in its first full year of programming, including a Women in the Courtroom panel with federal and state court women judges. Collectively, the Coalition’s programming reached more than 1,000 women attorneys in 2016 alone.

The Coalition chapters grow every year—in membership and programming numbers—because of the strength and determination of the women attorneys at our member firms and companies who enthusiastically champion one another. And now as the Coalition begins its second decade, the number of Coalition chapters is growing as well with two potential new chapters already in planning stages for 2017–18. You can find out more at www.thewomenscoalition.com.