CALIFORNIA GIRLS STATE ALUMNAE SPOTLIGHT
Our Law Network
Tell us about your career in law. What types of positions did you hold?
I am now retired and am an "inactive" member of the California State Bar. I spent much of my career writing draft opinions for justices of the California Court of Appeal. The cases involved civil and criminal law and any matter that can be appealed from the Los Angeles Superior Court. I also spent two years as a Los Angeles City Attorney, prosecuting criminal cases (mostly DUI cases). For a few years, I was in private practice, first in a medium-sized firm and later in a small firm where I was named partner. There, I represented clients on appeal in civil cases.
What steps did you take to become an attorney?
Girls State had an influence in that it got me interested in government and policy decisions. I studied American Studies at Smith College in Northampton, MA, and that only increased my interest. Back then, law was an odd field for women. Only 3% of the lawyers in the United States were female when I applied to law school. The summer before my senior year at Smith, I was an intern for Margaret Heckler, one of the very few women Members of Congress. She was an attorney, and her head legislative assistant was a female attorney. I returned to college that fall, took the LSAT (there were no prep courses at that time!), and applied to law schools. In the fall of 1969, I began law school at Boalt Hall, UC Berkeley. In the spirit of the 1960s I wanted to change the world, and law seemed to be a good way to do that.
Is this where you thought your career would go?
I knew I'd be a lawyer. I interned for a member of Congress in summer of 1970 - Pete McCloskey, so I might have gone back to DC to work at the FTC or some other public-interest agency, or on Capitol Hill. But there was a hiring freeze in the federal government the year I graduated from law school. Instead, I returned to Los Angeles where my parents lived. I sometimes wonder where my career would have gone if I'd been in DC at the outset.
What's the coolest thing you've been able to do in your career? What are you proud to say you've done?
I'm proud of mentoring young women in their careers, some of whom I met at Girls State sessions. When I was President of Women Lawyer's Association of Los Angeles in 1983-1984, I helped develop an oral history program that involved recording memories of women judges and attorneys. My only child was born during that year, and soon after I formed a mothers' support group that still exists as a parents' support group today.
I also served on numerous professional committees over the years and probably was most proud of being on the Judicial Council Committee on Access and Fairness.
What skills do you use regularly as a lawyer?
The ability to research, write, and think critically. In my opinion, the ability to analyze and write persuasively is the most important. Oral presentation is also key.
What educational and professional preparation would you recommend for someone interested in the legal field?
Many people used to major in Political Science as a track to law school. A broad liberal arts education is probably more helpful. And believe it or not, many of the women lawyers I know have a background in Mathematics.
After law school, continuing education is required of lawyers. Find mentors who want to help you as you progress in your career. Learn how to develop business relationships; this is very important if you plan to be in private practice. Be active in professional associations that enrich your life and help society.
What advice do you have for an aspiring lawyer?
Be the best lawyer you can be. Your word and your reputation mean a lot. Be ethical and prepared.
How has California Girls State and/or its alumnae community positively impacted your life and career?
One of the most fun things was volunteering to be Courts Counselor for Girls State and developing mock trials and mock appellate arguments for the GS Supreme Court.
I attended Girls State over a half a century ago (1964). The program, participants, and counselors have remained an important part of my life. I treasure the friendships (from my GS roommate to many friends I've made over decades of involvement with this wonderful program). My week at Girls State introduced me to young women throughout California, with different races, religions, and beliefs than my own. We need to utilize the diversity and talent represented in Girls State to make this world a better place.