Conference examines 'glass ceiling' issues

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By Mike Scott
Legal News

This may be a year where many female lawyers throughout the metropolitan Detroit region will have tremendous opportunities.
Yet being a female lawyer still has its challenges, from gaining partnership to properly balancing life and family.
Such issues will be discussed at a panel conference hosted by the Women’s Law Caucus for the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, titled, “2010 – Are there Cracks in the Glass Ceiling.”
A well-known judge will be among the three featured panel speakers.
The panel conference will be held on Saturday, April 10 from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Sinbad’s in Detroit. It will offer a diverse perspective on women in the legal field.
The Hon. Lynne A. Pierce is a Wayne County Circuit Court judge, assigned to the Juvenile Division, who will speak on building your career, family planning, women in the legal field and other issues.
Pierce will be joined by Nancy Diehl, a former Wayne County prosecutor, and Beals Hubbard associate Channelle Kizy.
Pierce presides over abuse and neglect cases, and delinquency cases. Judge Pierce was elected to Circuit Court in 2008.  Prior to that, she served for 17 years as the municipal judge for Grosse Pointe Woods and Grosse Pointe Shores. 
“One thing that can help new female lawyers is having some mentoring options from other women who have been successful in the field,” Pierce said. “It can be very beneficial to law school students to get the opportunity to interact with lawyers and judges.”
Diehl is a former Wayne County Prosecutor and former head of the juvenile and trial divisions. She was also president of the WLAM and the State Bar of Michigan and is now retired.
There are many more opportunities for female lawyers today than 30 years ago, Diehl said.
But the stresses of being in private practice or serving in a billable role at a large firm can be extensive. Diehl plans to speak about the benefits of public service opportunities.
“The salaries may not be as high as you would get in a private practice but the hours are better and it may give you a chance to raise a family without quite as much stress,” said Diehl, adding that a public service legal role can provide a strong work/life balance for many women.
Beals Hubbard associate and new mom-to-be Channelle Kizy is an associate who formerly ran her own law firm. Kizy, who has been with the Farmington Hills-based Beals Hubbard firm for nearly a year, is pregnant with her first child.
She will speak on the challenges of raising a family while also building a professional career. Kizy understands that her life will change once she gives birth but she welcomes the challenge and excitement of being a mom and a lawyer.
“I know I can do both but there will be some challenges and surprises along the way,” Kizy said. “I know that I will learn from other female lawyers that have been doing this for many years.”
This is the second such panel conference hosted by the Women’s Law Caucus for the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.
Current Caucus President Michelle Kenien, a juris doctor candidate, said that her goal is to continue this annual panel conference focusing on guest speakers who will discuss women’s issues in the legal field.
“We want to offer a diverse perspective of women from around the area who are going through many of the challenges that current law students will soon face,” Kenien said.
There are a number of issues that such a conference could tackle each year, Kenien said. This conference is also expected to include discussions on interactions between men and women in the legal field, sexual harassment, partnership opportunities, and more.
One of the most rewarding aspects of her job was the impact she had on the lives of abused children who came before her in Wayne County, Diehl said. She is still running into many of those children she helped – who are now adults – today.
“It’s the best job in the (legal) profession but I didn’t tell anyone that because then everyone would have wanted it,” said Diehl, who is now retired. “Some of the kids I helped are even attorneys today themselves.
“We’re really trying to promote this conference as much as we can and we’ve received a lot of interest,” Kenien said. “I think the school’s faculty wants to get involved and when we reach out to them in this way the positive feedback has been immediate.”
The panel conference is open to all Women’s Law Caucus members and University of Detroit Mercy School of Law students. The cost is $30 per person and will include food and refreshments.
“This is going to be an open forum and we really encourage not just a discussion of issues that impact women in law but networking opportunities,” Kenien said. “It helps all of us to have a group of peers that have been through or are going through the same challenges to ask questions of when needed.”