Ohio ranks above the national average of trailblazing women attorneys

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Floren​ce E. Allen in her judicial chambers, 1912

By Tori Metzger​


The first woman lawyer, Arabella Mansfield, was admitted to practice law in the U.S. in 1869, yet in 2015 The Washington Post dubbed the legal profession “the least diverse profession in the nation.”1 Where does Ohio rank on the women’s diversity scale comparatively? 


Years ago, many law firms claimed that there simply weren’t enough highly educated women who applied for hire, but those women didn’t, and still don’t, agree. Like many other careers, women weren’t welcome for hire until it was absolutely necessary. In the 1940s during World War II, young and middle-aged men went overseas to fight in the war, forcing law firms to either hire women attorneys or pause business. When 417,000 men didn’t return, law firms decided to keep those women attorneys and hire even more. 

According to Constance Cook, a graduate of Cornell Law School during the war and one of the first women hired by Shearman & Sterling, “Women with marvelous qualifications had been graduating from law school for 75 years, and they never took any of them. There’s no question. They were desperate for help.”

Many believe the glass ceiling has been shattered, but reports prove otherwise. The ABA Journal reported in March 2016 that full-time female lawyers still earn only 77.4 percent of the pay of their male counterparts, equating to roughly ¾ or 77 cents of the male dollar.

In 2006 the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) challenged America’s 200 largest law firms to increase the number of women equity partners, women chief legal officers, and women tenured law professors to at least 30% by 2015.

After nearly a decade, those numbers have hardly budged. Today women comprise 18% of equity partners, up only 2% from the 2006 survey.4 “If the pace of progress over the past 10 years continues, women equity partners will not reach the NAWL Challenge goal of 30% until the year 2181,” a NAWL press release said.5 

​​​​​​​​​"If the pace of progress over the past 10 years continues, women equity partners will not reach the NAWL Challenge goal of 30% until the year 2181​."


Although these numbers might be different for solo, small and mid-sized firms, it seems that only a handful of large firms nationwide took this challenge seriously, which seems to be the issue at the core of the profession’s diversity struggle. 

Similar to an early 1900s women’s suffrage advertisement, some of today's law firms tout women’s diversity programs on their websites, career pages or marketing initiatives. When will women attorneys be welcome at all law firms, not just some, and when will it be universally understood by the legal profession? 

Even after the continuous effort to prove their intelligence, prestige, business value, work ethic and passion ​for the law to their clients, male counterparts and bosses, women 
in the profession have more glass ceilings to break. Just as before, Ohio’s women lawyers are at the forefront of that challenge.

Ohio’s practitioners should be proud of their history of trailblazing women attorneys. Out of 50 states, Ohio became the sixth state in the nation to admit its first woman lawyer to practice in 1873, and the sixth state to appoint its first woman judge in 1921. The last state to admit a woman to the bar was Delaware in 1923, exactly 50 years after Ohio. The last state to appoint its first woman judge was North Dakota in 1979, only 37 years ago.6

"As of Oct. 1, 2016, there are 15,781 registered women attorneys in Ohio. With a total of 38,237 attorneys in the state, 41% are women, putting Ohio ahead of the country’s average."


Ohio has been ahead of the curve since 1873. According to the American Bar Association’s 2016 lawyer demographics, 64% of America’s lawyers are men and 36% are women.7 As of Oct. 1, 2016, there are 15,781 registered women attorneys in Ohio.8 With a total of 38,237 attorneys in the state, 41% are women, putting Ohio ahead of the country’s average.

Among Ohio’s trailblazing women are the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio, the first woman Attorney General of Ohio, the Mayor of Toledo, business partners, presidents and chief counsel. Read about their journeys, accomplishments and current goals on the next page.​

To join and support the success of other women attorneys, become a member of the OSBA’s Women in the Profession Section. 




Why did you want to become a lawyer?

To help people. My law degree opened many opportunities for public service work—and the good that public servants can perform in those roles—as a magistrate, judge, county prosecutor, lieutenant governor, and member of the Supreme Court of Ohio.

Give us an overview of your day-to-day work and lifestyle.

My day consists of handling administrative matters that are the Chief Justice’s responsibility, writing opinions, reading the briefs for upcoming cases set for oral argument, speaking to groups about the Supreme Court and judicial election reform, and meeting with staff members to keep abreast of projects the administrative staff is working on. Of course it varies by day, but most days consist of one or more of those tasks.

What goal are you currently working toward?

Ending the scourge of opioid addiction in Ohio and addressing the ongoing impact that court fines, fees, and bail practices have on communities, especially the economically disadvantaged, across the United States. I am co-chair of the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators’ National Task Force on Fines, Fees and Bail Practices.

What is the best career advice you’ve received?

To turn my passion into a career if at all possible.

What does work/life balance mean to you?

Working in a meaningful job, yet building in time for family, community, spiritual growth, and myself.

What is the biggest challenge you have overcome in your career & what did you learn from it?

As I near the end of my first six-year term as Chief Justice, handling all the administrative matters as Chief and keeping up with the caseload as a member of the Court. It was and is challenging. I have never been afraid of hard work, so it was a matter of working harder and smarter and relying on the excellent staff in place at the Supreme Court to keep up with the workflow.

What do you do in your spare time?

Play with and be involved in the lives of my five grandchildren, ages four and under; travel.

What is something others might not know about you?

 I like to fly fish.

How do you define success?

Making a positive difference in the lives of others. 




Why did you want to become a lawyer?

As clichéd as it may sound, I wanted to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

What goal are you currently working toward? 

I want to be a good lawyer for my clients, but also a useful citizen. To do this, I serve on the BGSU board, several Ohio public boards, and I also chair the JoAnn Davidson Ohio Leadership Institute.

What is the best career advice you’ve received?

From my parents: Be honest, work hard, and remember your responsibility to help those in need.

What does work/life balance mean to you? 

In my 30+ years as a public servant, I can tell you that this “balance” is a myth; rather, it is “work/life juggling,” which defined my world and those of other working women. I regret my inability to balance better and to give my loved ones enough time. My advice to women who ask this question is that it doesn’t exist, but it is a critical aspirational goal. It is important to strive for “balance,” but also to understand 1) that this quest will not be perfect, and 2) when there is time to spend with loved ones—DO IT—and do it wholeheartedly, without distraction.

What is the biggest challenge you have overcome in your career & what did you learn from it? 

My first challenge was that I was often the only woman or the first woman to hold the position I held: I was the only woman elected county prosecutor in the state out of 88 counties. I was the first woman elected Attorney General and Auditor of State. I was the first City Prosecutor in Perrysburg. I was one of only 3 women Senators in the Ohio Senate. All this required that I work harder to prove my credentials and to earn respect among my peers and those I served. While certainly daunting at times, I loved these challenges—and I might add that having a sense of humor was a great way to put doubters at ease.

What do you do in your spare time? 

I enjoy reading, sailing, and traveling with friends.

What is something others might not know about you?

As a former art major, I have some modest talent for drawing and painting…. 

How do you define success? 

I think success is finding comfort in your own skin, knowing who you are and understanding and using the talents God has given you. Success is combining that self awareness and using those talents not only for yourself and your loved ones, but also to those who are in need of your talents. ​




Why did you want to become a lawyer?

I didn’t want to be a lawyer initially. I was a biochemistry major in college for 2.5 years, but after exploding my 50th test tube in lab, I decided that the medical world was not for me. I knew I wanted to pursue a career that was rewarding and involved analytical thought processes, so the legal field seemed like a smart choice. Plus, I love to help people achieve their goals, and I get to do that every day at NCT and through my personal practice by helping small businesses develop and grow!

What is the biggest challenge you have overcome in your career & what did you learn from it? 

The biggest challenge of my career to date remains exiting law school immediately into the in-house legal profession and learning how to make the leap between what they taught you in law school versus actually practicing law. I felt like my learning curve was a straight line pointed toward the ceiling for about 9 months, but with the help of some amazing mentors and friends, I learned how to do things, why to do things, and most importantly, how to manage expectations of parties internal and external to NCT. The most important thing that I learned was this: If ever given the opportunity to mentor someone (regardless of whether they ask for the help), do it. You have no idea how immensely helpful or important you can be in setting people up for success, just as my mentors did for me.

What is the best career advice you’ve received? 

The best career advice that I have ever received is this: As an attorney, there will always be more work. There will always be more to do and more you wish you did. However, if you come in every day, work hard and get as much done well as you possibly can, do not let your inability to get every single thing done stress you or make you feel like a failure. Because guess what? The work will still be there tomorrow and the world will not implode if you don’t get it done. 

What does work/life balance mean to you?

 I love working, so I would be the first to admit that my balance is always a bit skewed to the “work” side of the scale. That said, I think it is immensely important to have some time for myself each and every day, with no cellphone, no Internet and no distractions. Finding even 5 minutes of quiet in the chaos of everyday life helps to keep me happy (and sane).

How do you define success? 

Success is a very personal thing. It is not dictated by how others see you or how they value you. It is how YOU value YOU. If you can go to bed at night knowing that you feel good because you improved someone else’s life through the practice of law (or whatever your trade may be), then you have succeeded.

What is something others might not know about you? 

I was a Division I Collegiate Lacrosse Player, 2-time team captain and 2-time defensive player of the year. Turns out, I have phenomenal hand-eye coordination! Oh, and I love science (a lot). 

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Why did you want to become a lawyer?

Prior to attending law school, I worked as a lobbyist for anesthesiologists and ophthalmologists in North Carolina. I attended law school with the intention of returning to North Carolina and lobbying. However, during law school I took an interest in tax law due to a remarkable person and professor, Gwen Handelman, at Washington and Lee School of Law. As a result, after law school I joined a tax firm in West Palm Beach, Florida, instead of returning to North Carolina to lobby.

What goal are you currently working toward? 

Professionally, my goal is to increase my visibility as an attorney in the area of healthcare litigation. I also am always striving to achieve professional excellence as an attorney by servicing my clients with high quality counsel and by serving my profession with the highest level of ethics. 

What is the best career advice you’ve received? 

Be true to yourself. This means be true to the decisions you make in your career. Be honest to yourself and your clients. Be faithful to your values and beliefs.

Give us an overview of your day-to-day work and lifestyle. 

My day-to-day work involves representing and advising companies on business litigation and education law matters. I represent a broad based client list including national retailers and restaurants, hospitals, dealerships, management companies, non-profit agencies, insurance agencies, insurers and schools. Aside from work, I serve as the President and as a Board Member of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Central Ohio. I also serve as a Board Member for the Asian American Commerce Group in Columbus, a non-profit organization connecting Asian American ethnic groups and business organizations with the public sector. Also, I am an active member of St. Agatha Church and involved in my children’s schools (St. Charles and St. Agatha).

How do you define success? 

A life full of happiness with my family and career and a meaningful impact on my community.

What does work/life balance mean to you? 

Work/life balance means what are your priorities in life and how do you balance those priorities. It is imperative that you reflect on both your career (i.e., professional development/ partnership, clientele, etc.) and personal priorities (i.e., health, family, etc.) and clearly understand where each falls.

What is something others might not know about you?

I enjoying singing but according to my daughter, Lilly, I should stick with being an attorney. ​





Why did you want to become a lawyer?

As a young girl, my family and parents’ friends always said that I should become a lawyer. I was the one who always argued and believed strongly in making a case for the “underdog.” While working at Central State University, I worked in the Upward Bound Program. Sometimes I had to write letters or appear in Montgomery Juvenile Court on behalf of the students in our program. Our director viewed our program as a place to provide kids with an opportunity to see what education could provide for them. I became fascinated with how the law applied to children. Also, I needed a terminal degree and decided to pursue a law degree rather than English.

Give us an overview of your day-to-day work and lifestyle. 

My work day is generally a 12 to 16-hour day. Toledo has a strong Mayor form of government, which means that I am responsible for the operations of the city with the help of my chief of staff, chief operating officer and the various department directors. My days usually include meeting with staff, constituents, other elected officials, dignitaries, etc. I review and sign contracts. There are the various media events and council meetings in which I participate. In the evenings, I attend community meetings and events. Of course, I am constantly reading and researching best practices for improving the work that the City is required by charter to do.

What goal are you currently working toward? 

My professional goal right now is to pass Issue 2, which is a 3/4 percent income tax renewal. This renewal is vital for the ability of our safety forces and a few general fund departments to provide essential city services.

What is the best career advice you’ve received?  

Never give up.

What does work/life balance mean to you? 

Before becoming Mayor, it meant creating a rhythm by which I am able to have time for the things that are most important to me without becoming harried over a long period. Since becoming Mayor, trying to have a meal with my husband.

What is the biggest challenge you have overcome in your career & what did you learn from it? 

The biggest challenge I faced was taking over as Mayor of the City of Toledo when my predecessor became ill and ultimately died in office. I learned to trust my instincts, rely on the advice and wisdom of others and to ask for help.

What do you do in your spare time? 

Read.

What is something others might not know about you?

I am a church organist.

How do you define success?

By seeing growth and development in the people. It is important to me that I provide opportunities for others to be successful. ​



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Endnotes
1 www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/05/27/law-is-the-least-diverse-profession-in-the-nation-and-lawyers-arent-doing-enough-to-change-that/
2 Bowman, Cynthia Grant, “Women in the Legal Profession from the 1920s to the 1970s: What Can We Learn From Their Experience About Law and Social Change?” (2009). Cornell Law Faculty Publications. Paper 12. scholarship.law.cornell.edu/facpub/12.
3 www.abajournal.com/news/article/​pay_gap_is_greatest_in_legal_occupations/ 
4  www.nawl.org/2015nawlsurvey 
5 www.businesswire.com/news/home/20151027006122/en/Law-Firms-Real-Progress-Promoting-Women-Lawyers 
6  wlh.law.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/sleeth-first-woman-lawyers.pdf 
7 www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/market_research/national-lawyer-population-by-state-2016.authcheckdam.pdf 
8 Supreme Court of Ohio database. 


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