The National Association of Women Lawyers® Celebrates the Twelfth Anniversary of its General Counsel Institute®
Friday, October 14, 2016

Although the legal landscape continues to rapidly evolve, many obstacles still remain for women striving to advance their careers. Identifying opportunities, even ones that may seem unconventional, and seizing upon such opportunities, provides pathways to success that may not have been visible in the past. On November 3-4, the National Association of Women Lawyers’ General Counsel Institute expands on this concept with a program entitled, Pathways to Success: Embracing Opportunities with Agility and Creativity.

For twelve years, the General Counsel Institute (“GCI”) has provided an incomparable outlet for women who serve as in-house counsel across the country to discuss pertinent issues that affect their companies. Whether learning and discussing substantive legal matters or attending workshops that focus on professional development, GCI ensures that attendees are gaining insight and knowledge throughout the two-day conference.

But what really makes GCI unique is the inclusive atmosphere of the conference. Attendees range from General Counsel from Fortune 500 companies to in-house counsel for smaller boutique companies, all intermingling and providing valuable insight in a relaxed, friendly, and collaborative setting. The approachability of the speakers, as well as the attendees and organizers, encourages everyone to excitedly anticipate the conference each year.

The mission of National Association of Women Lawyers (“NAWL”) is to provide leadership, a collective voice, and essential resources to advance women in the legal profession and advocate for the equality of women under the law. NAWL was founded in 1899 by a group of eighteen (18) women lawyers in New York City and originally called The Women Lawyer’s Club (“Club”). In 1915, women’s suffrage became the first major project undertaken by the Club. Three-time Club President, Olive Scott Gabriel, argued for women’s voting rights across the country. Four years later, Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, prohibiting any United States citizen from being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex. The Club’s membership mobilized to work for ratification by the states. It also worked consistently on social legislation – including child labor laws, minimum wage, divorce and marriage laws, the right for a woman to keep her name after marriage, and the right for women to serve on juries. In 1923, due to increasing nationwide membership, the Club became the National Association of Women Lawyers. That same year, it held its first national convention in Minneapolis with Chief Justice William Howard Taft.

In 1935, NAWL became one of the first national organizations to endorse the Equal Rights Amendment (“ERA”), first introduced to Congress in 1922. The ERA became one of NAWL’s highest priorities for the next several decades. In 1943, NAWL became an affiliated organization of the American Bar Association. It led the creation of opportunities for women to serve in the military and had more than 150 of its members serving in the Woman’s Army Corp., Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service, and the Marine Corp.’s Women’s Reserve. In 1952, NAWL drafted the Uniform Divorce Bill, calling it “the greatest project NAWL has ever undertaken.” In 1985, NAWL began granting membership to male applicants.

Two decades later, the then Immediate Past President of NAWL, Stephanie Scharf, now a partner at Scharf Banks Marmor LLC, founded the General Counsel Institute (“GCI”). Scharf targeted the meeting to senior corporate counsel who had the goal of advancing to the role of chief legal officer. She recognized the need for in-house attorneys to build top-tier professional and management skills in a supportive and interactive learning environment and to learn from experienced officers and directors about the points of pressure and success for general counsels. Together with NAWL President Lorraine Koc, then General Counsel and EEO Officer at Deb Shops, Inc. (now Senior Counsel at SugarHouse Casino) and NAWL President Elect, Cathy Fleming, then a partner at Edwards and Angell, LLP (now a partner at Fleming.Ruvoldt PPLC), Scharf quickly formed a planning committee which consisted of themselves, as a well as Carole Basri, then adjunct professor at University of Pennsylvania School of Law (now adjunct professor at Fordham University School of Law), Caroline K. Cheng, then Management Principal and Associate General Counsel at Deloitte LLP (now General Counsel at PricewaterhouseCooper LLP), Dorian Denburg, then Chief Rights-of-Way Counsel for BellSouth Corporation (now Executive Director- Senior Legal Counsel for AT&T Services, Inc.), Michelle Speller-Thurman, then a partner at Jenner & Block (now Division Counsel at Abbott Laboratories), and Betty-Lynn White (now an Adjunct and Area Chair for the University of Phoenix and Adjunct Professor at Albertus Magnus College). The Committee arranged plenary and workshop sessions to foster frank discussions about what it takes to be promoted and provide the means to improve skills and knowledge in a collegial atmosphere. They developed an innovative CLE program with opportunities to learn and network with other senior legal and business professionals and featured speakers Peter Harvey, then Attorney General of New Jersey, Catherine R. Kinney, then Co-Chief Operating Officer of the New York Stock Exchange, and Carol Robles-Román, Deputy Mayor, New York City. GCI met with rave reviews!

This year’s GCI will feature keynote speeches from accomplished General Counsel and business leaders who will focus on discussing their successful career paths, as well as providing advice and tips on how attendees can do the same. Keynote speakers will include:

  • Teresa Wynn Roseborough, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, The Home Depot U.S.A., Inc.

  • Monique Svazlian Tallon, CEO & Founder, Highest Path Consulting

  • H. Gwen Marcus, Executive Vice President, General Counsel, Showtime Networks Inc.

  • Lauren Stiller Rikleen, President, Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership

  • Karen Hough, Founder & CEO, ImprovEdge, LLC

Through programs like GCI, NAWL has been empowering women in the legal profession and cultivating a diverse membership dedicated to equality, mutual support, and collective success.

For further information and to register for GCI 12, go to


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