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In her words: Chris Goodman elected President of California Women Lawyers

June 30, 2016 -- Professor Chris Goodman has been elected President of the California Women Lawyers Association (CWL), a Sacramento-based organization established in 1974 and which currently represents over 30,000 women in the realm of the legal profession. She will be installed as President at the association's Annual Dinner on September 29 in San Diego, concurrent with the first day of the California State Bar Annual Meeting. The keynote speaker at the event will be University of California President and former United States Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. 

We sat down with Chris to learn more about her involvement with California Women Lawyers and her goals as President.

Pepperdine Law: Tell me about California Women Lawyers (CLA).

Chris Goodman: California Women Lawyers is the statewide organization advocating for the rights of women and children. It was started in 1974 by a group of women who felt their presence in the legal profession was not necessarily being taken as seriously as they would like. They were at a bar association meeting, and one woman wanted to be recognized to speak. She wasn't able to be recognized because she wasn't part of a local bar association. So she said something akin to "I'm here on behalf of California Women Lawyers," and then a group of around ten women went in the bathroom and created this organization. It grew from there. We're now coming up on our forty-second year.

PL: Wow! Those are quite unique origins. So, what exactly does the California Women Lawyers Association do?

CG: One of our most important activities is our affiliate program. Examples of our affiliates are the Black Women Lawyers of Los Angeles, Women Lawyers of Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara Women Lawyers. California Women Lawyers is also involved with the legislative process. For example, we will go to the capital for a lobbying day with other female bar associations to bring attention to bills that have an impact on women and families. One of the most recent lobbying days was sponsored by Hannah-Beth Jackson and focused on the Fair Pay Act. We were able to provide support for that effort, which I expect to be a great help to women in the profession who still earn notably less than men doing the same work. Another of our programs -- one that is winning an award at the Bar Association mid-year meeting in August -- is called "Elect to Run." It's an annual campaign to encourage and equip women to run for office. There are so few females in the highest ranks of political office, Congress, Senate, etc. So we bring in people from all different levels of government -- local politicians, state politicians, and so on -- to give basically a boot camp about "all the things to think about if you want to run for office."

California Women Lawyers has a close relationship with judges and with the Governor of California's judicial appointment secretary. Every year we do an award-winning event entitled "So You Wanna Be a Judge?," which consists of a one-day seminar with judges and people interested in becoming judges. We bring in speakers to talk to them about how to run or be appointed to office and what you need to do to be considered for appointment as a judge. That has been a very successful program because of our relationship with the judges.  We also have a judicial reception every year, one in Northern California and one in Southern California, where we honor a female judge for her outstanding contribution to the bar, to the profession, and to society. This year we're honoring Judge Holly Fujie, who happens to be a longtime mentor of mine from the Diversity Committee of the LA County Bar. I am event chair, so I have been involved with that as well.

Our Annual Conference is usually held around April or May. The focus there, again, is bringing up information for women in the legal profession. We have a variety of panels: at our most recent conference, held just outside of Oakland, we had panels on "Partnership for Private Practice," "What In-House Counsel Want From Outside Counsel," "Using the Grit and Growth Mindset," "Perceived Identity," "Women in Leadership," "Implicit Bias," and a great panel on "Effective Advocacy in the Courtroom," where there were judges discussing what works and doesn't work in their courtroom. We also give our Judith Soley Award at the conference. The Board meets seven times a year in various locations up and down the state and is composed of approximately 40 members including those elected and appointed as well as representatives from affiliate bar associations.

PL: How long have you been involved with California Women Lawyers?

CG: I've been involved since about 2008. I joined when I first became a lawyer and would occasionally go to the events. One day I received a call in my office from the then-president. She said of CWL were having a meeting in Los Angeles, and she asked if I would be able to come for lunch. She mentioned that she had heard about some of the programs that I do and wanted to talk more. At the lunch, I did a presentation on my involvement with the Diversity Committee of the LA County Bar, of which I was chair around that time. I also discussed high school outreach and mentoring programs in which I had been involved, as well as mock trial and similar programs to help youth consider a profession in the area of law. After the lunch, I met with attendees and found that I knew several members of the board already without having been aware of their involvement with the group. A few weeks later, I got a call and was asked if I wanted to join the board as a representative of Black Women Lawyers of LA. That led to opportunities helping with various activities. While serving as a representative for Black Women Lawyers Association, I found I really loved the organization. I started thinking about getting moved up into leadership of a committee and then to the executive committee. Now I'm President-Elect.

PL: What aspirations do you have as President?

CG: I want to increase our impact, which I believe is related to increasing our membership. I want to work on outreach efforts to try to figure out how we can get more involved. My motto for the year is "Inspire, Inform, Illuminate." I want to motivate people. I want people to know what issues are facing women in the law, and I want to shine a light on our accomplishments and achievements.

PL: What parts of this new role are you looking forward to?

CG: I love speaking to groups. I love to interact with audiences. As President, I will be expected to attend events up and down the state and to participate in affiliate events to the extent that I can. In the course of that, I will be able to meet more people, to illuminate, to show the possibilities of concerted actions, to remind women that when we band together, there is so much more that we can do. I'm going to be in a great position to continue advocacy and mentoring.

PL: Why do you feel it is important to have an association for women in the law profession?

CG: The pay gap; the gender discrepancy among higher-level politicians, even local and lower level politicians; the continuing gap in judicial appointments... The statistics tell me that there is still not the type of equality that we were expecting when we were finally permitted to enter the legal profession and to get a bar license.

As a professor at a law school, I've observed that many of my female and male law students don't recognize the need for specialty organizations yet. Fortunately for them now, they've gone to a school where they've had much the same treatment the whole time: women and men participate equally in classes, and there aren't different expectations put on men versus women. But what they don't see yet is the implicit bias against women or minority groups. When they get out, they see it for the first time and wish they'd focused on it more. Having California Women Lawyers available to them at that time, once they realize they need it, is one of the real reasons why we need to keep these types of associations prominent. Associations like this play a role something like a watchdog, being alert for suspicious activity, asking questions like "What's going on at this firm?" or "Why did the Daily Journal only have men in its top 100?"

PL: How has Pepperdine been a resource as you have advocated for the role of women in the law?

CG: When I first started getting more involved with the bar associations, Pepperdine Law had an interim dean, Tom Bost. He had been a partner in a major law firm before he came to be a law professor at Pepperdine, so he understood the importance of membership in bar associations. When I became the chair of the Diversity Committee the LA County Bar and needed to attend more of the events, he was very excited and supportive, and also allowed for budgetary flexibility. That continued with with his successor, Dean R. Tacha. Dean Tacha, as a former practicing attorney and judge, also understood the importance of bar associations, so she was very supportive financially of me participating in the events and being an active leader.

PL: Thank you so much, Professor Goodman, for your passion and dedication. Congratulations on your achievement, and good luck in your efforts at California Women Lawyers!

About Christine Goodman

Christine Goodman has been a professor at Pepperdine Law since 2001. Professor Goodman writes on equal protection topics, including affirmative action, preferences, diversity and racial privacy, as well as evidentiary and criminal law issues such as the lack of transparency in the death penalty decision-making process in California and medical privacy.

--by Alexa Brown, Pepperdine Law