Up until this month, if you were looking to hire or refer a woman lawyer, finding one wouldn’t have been as easy as you might think. At one time, the ABA’s Litigation Section Woman’s Advocate Committee maintained a referral network but no longer does. And as I posted here, NAMWOLF, an association for women and minority counsel that serves as a resource for corporations looking for outside counsel won’t let law firms with fewer than three people even join.
Now, there’s a new site to fill the gap: the Woman2WomanReferral Network, created by Ohio based small firm lawyer Kathleen Havener. Below, you can read her description of the network along with instructions of how to join.
Welcome to the Woman2Woman Lawyer Referral Database!
I’ve spent 100% of my extracurricular activity since I entered the practice of law on efforts to improve the circumstances of women, racial and ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, members of the gay, bisexual, and transgendered communities, and others who face difficulties remaining in the practice of law and reaching the level of success in our profession that they hope to achieve. When I have the chance to refer legal work, I try always to refer to women. In the words of Madeleine Albright, “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” When I reach heaven’s gates, I don’t intend to be turned away.
One tool I’ve often longed for is an efficient means of searching online for competent, enthusiastic, and committed women lawyers in various areas of the country, with different kinds of practices and practice areas, to whom I could refer clients or fellow lawyers who wanted to engage a lawyer, find local counsel, or refer a matter that had arisen in a jurisdiction where I am not licensed. (I have 4 licenses, including the District of Columbia, so only 47 more to go.) Nothing I could find met my own requirements. So I started thinking about what I really wanted in such a tool, and how I might go about getting it.
Two months (with lots and lots of hours invested), I have launched woman2womanlaw.com—a referral network for women lawyers to find each other online. I hope you’ll visit often and use it whenever it might help you.
The primary purposes of the Woman to Woman Lawyer Referral Database are two-fold. The first goal is to provide information to potential clients—especially in-house counsel—who want to hire a woman lawyer (for whatever reason) to handle a particular matter. The second is to provide the same information to my fellow lawyers who are seeking local counsel or another lawyer to whom they might refer work that they themselves are not equipped or choose not to handle. In my 21 years at the bar, the utility of a search engine that would help me quickly to find qualified women lawyers to recommend or to whom I might refer work would have been immeasurable. A time-saver and a way of giving back to the community of women lawyers—what could be better?
It is critical to me that the database remain free to users—both potential clients or referrers and the lawyers who are listed. I wasn’t looking only for lawyers in the AmLaw 100 nor was a seeking a boutique list of litigators or estate planners or public finance lawyers. I want the broadest possible base. I started out by emailing women lawyers I know, largely through the American Bar Association, and most have been kind enough to sign on. Some of them are AmLaw 100. Some are among the best lawyers I know in their fields. They’ve signed on because they know me and trust me not to abuse their professional information. Once I had a base of about 200, I bought a domain name and the tools for building a database and the widgets (yes, they’re actually called widgets!) to embed the database and make it searchable, and—most importantly—the directions (I am a woman after all). The technical support at the hosting entity has been fabulous and available 24/7.
So, we’re up! I’ve spent my own money to purchase the site and the tools and information to build it. I’ve spent my own time and no one has access to the raw data except me. There have been a few glitches, but so far there have been easy fixes. As we grow, perhaps the site will attract sponsors to help defray the costs. In the meantime, I am content to maintain the site, knowing it is of use to people seeking especially to hire a woman lawyer.
So please—visit the site, join if you haven’t yet, tell your clients about it, tell your in-house friends and colleagues about it, critique it and let me know if you think of ways to improve it. If it’s within my capabilities, I’ll find out how to fix it. Mostly, I wish you welcome and good use of the database. Find a woman first! Find a woman fast!