Photo: Lieff Cabraser attorneys (left to right) Sarah London, Lexi Hazam, Paulina do Amaral, and Annika K. Martin at the 2014 Women En Mass conference in Colorado.
The legal industry at the partnership level across all practice areas predominantly consists of male lawyers. According to the National Association of Women Lawyers, only 17 percent of partners at the nation’s largest 200 firms are female.
In a commentary entitled Where Are All the Women in the Courtroom? published last year, Elizabeth J. Cabraser focused on the role of women on the plaintiffs’ side of mass torts litigation. She wrote, “Women are noteworthy for their relative absence from court appointments to plaintiff leadership roles; the result is that women are far too few in the courtroom, as first or second chair trial attorneys or as oral argument presenters in all phases of litigation. Yet they are involved, they are committed, taking risks in contingent cases, working for lower salaries and with less prestige than their defense-side sisters. They are there behind the scenes, by writing brilliant briefs, researching, investigating, cross-examining deposition witnesses, and working with experts. These are demanding and valued functions, and women acquit themselves brilliantly in these roles. This should lead to more visibility in the courtroom, but it hasn’t. Why not?”
This month, The National Law Journal highlighted this issue, and quoted Cabraser extensively. Cabraser stated, “Over the years, a few more women came into the picture, but they were still few and far between. The guys were in charge.”
The NLJ article noted that progress that is being made by women lawyers in plaintiffs’ mass torts cases, and that women lawyers are taking on more leadership roles in these cases.
One catalyst for this positive development has been Women En Mass. Founded by plaintiffs lawyer Andrus Wagstaff of Lakewood, Colorado, Women En Mass brings together annually female mass tort attorneys to discuss gender and litigation issues in the legal profession. Several Lieff Cabraser attorneys have participated and spoken at the Women En Mass conferences. In addition, numerous women lawyers at Lieff Cabraser serve in leadership roles in mass torts cases. This month Lieff Cabraser attorney Sarah R. London served as lead trial counsel in a lawsuit in the Florida smokers litigation, obtaining a $3 million judgment for the plaintiff.