WLAC began as an independent organization in 1980, evolving from a woman’s committee of the Alameda County Bar Association. As was the fashion at the time, we were loosely “governed” by a Steering Committee and reached decisions by consensus. Administrative needs and a desire to formalize our organization inspired our current identity. Now, our Board of Directors, sourced from the large community of local lawyers who strongly support our mission, leads the organization. We speak as one voice for women in the law.
California Women Lawyers (CWL) and most local women’s bar organizations were founded in the 1970s and early 1980s, when women were first entering the profession in significant numbers, to support women generally and to encourage then Governor Brown to appoint women to the bench, which he did, changing the face of the California judiciary forever. WLAC proudly sponsors an annual Judges’ Dinner. The first dinner was in the YWCA on Webster Street; the attendees remember the smell of chlorine emanating from the swimming pool. The event was mobbed, women judges being quite the novelty in the early 80’s when there were just five women judges sitting in Alameda County courts: Judges Taber, Collins, Girard, Brosnahan and Sullivan. Judge Brosnahan is the senior woman still sitting, having begun her service in 1979.
Over the years, our purpose has evolved in a myriad of ways, but the fundamental need for a voice for women in the law remains. Both our bench and bar now claim significant numbers of women in our ranks but equality of opportunity and treatment remains elusive. Today, women lawyers continue to encounter unfair or inappropriate treatment. WLAC and legal professionals of any gender should militate against conscious and unconscious gender bias, which will improve the status of women as lawyers, judges and citizens. To that end, in addition to supporting women seeking judicial office, we devote our attention to education, networking, and socializing, as well as mentoring law students and new admittees.
We welcome new members from the bench and bar year round and encourage attendance at our many events. We offer free membership to law students and first time admittees under our Herma Hill Kay (HHK) membership. This membership category was instituted to honor the former dean of Berkeley Law and facilitate participation for women who are at the start of their legal careers. Judges from Alameda County are welcome to join and/or participate as judicial liaisons.