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Archive for Wednesday, August 26, 1998

WOMEN KEY TO LEGAL PROFESSION

August 26, 1998

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The other day I was confronted by a woman who challenged me with the statement that the legal profession is dominated by white males and does not embrace diversity. I was somewhat taken aback by the accusation and attempted to tell her that while the law is far from ideal as a profession for women, it has made great strides in terms of welcoming women to its ranks in recent decades.

I further pointed out to her that the legal profession was far better for women than many others. Nonetheless, this chance encounter made me think about the need for a good way to convince women, young and old, who might be interested in the law, that the legal profession wants them. Thus, it was with a great deal of pleasure that I discovered a newly published book which chronicles the history of women in the Kansas legal profession.

``Journeys on the Road Less Travelled: Kansas Women Attorneys'' has just recently been published as a cooperative venture of the Women Attorneys Association of Topeka and the Kansas Humanities Council. It is edited by Barbara Brackman, Mary Droll Feighny, and Camille Nohe. It is a wonderful volume, with marvelous illustrations, and one long overdue. This book provides an episodic history of the role women have played and the struggles they have endured at the bar in Kansas.

There are nine essays in the book, all profusely illustrated. Together they provide an inspiring story of how Kansas women lawyers have overcome unthinking prejudice to become a vital part of our state. Barbara Brackman recounts a statement made by a high school counselor to now Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court, Kay McFarland: ``you can choose secretarial work, teaching or nursing.'' How wrong he was!

Women attorneys in Kansas are a vital part of our legal profession. Both Kansas judges on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals are women. There are several women on the Kansas Court of Appeals. The Kansas attorney general is a woman, and there are numerous women who occupy other state judicial positions and positions of vital importance throughout the bench and bar. Without these women, and all the other women lawyers throughout Kansas, our legal profession would be a pale shadow of itself.

There is no question that all of the problems experienced by women lawyers in past years are not solved. There is still a long way to go before equality of opportunity is achieved. But progress is being made and publications like this one are an important tool in making that progress. As more young women decide upon law as a career, the legal profession will become more diverse so far as gender is concerned, and it will become better.

This book, so marvelous in conception and production, will help to convince its readers that the legal profession in Kansas has a noble history of women lawyers and, one may hope, will have an even more noble future. This is a book everyone should read. Its authors and its publishers deserve the highest praise.

-- Mike Hoeflich is dean of the Kansas University School of Law.

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