Women's Initiatives

At Willkie, we meet our clients’ needs for trusted legal advisors by providing a diverse team of top professionals.  Willkie consistently develops and promotes our women colleagues at all levels of their careers.

Women’s Professional Development Committee

Our Women’s Professional Development Committee (“WPDC”) is comprised of partners, counsel and associates.  Established more than a decade ago, the WPDC offers professional development programs and guidance to women attorneys as they navigate their careers.  The WPDC’s guiding mission statement is the promotion of women at the firm and promotion of the firm by women.  The WPDC’s mission includes highlighting the accomplishments of our women attorneys, providing opportunities for them to network with each other and with other successful women across industries, and ensuring that they are positioned to assume leadership roles during the course of their careers. 

We consistently address these goals through a variety of initiatives, both formal and informal, which include educational programming, client networking events, speaking opportunities and pro bono matters.  Through the work of the WPDC, we also provide opportunities for the cultivation of successful mentoring relationships among younger women attorneys and the firm’s more senior attorneys.  The WPDC initiatives and programs are regularly recognized as models to be duplicated and expanded upon, both within Willkie and by external audiences.

In addition, the WPDC makes recommendations to the firm’s executive leadership regarding policies, practices and procedures to respond to the changing legal landscape, to enhance the work environment and to monitor important developments in the marketplace.  

The WPDC is co-chaired by Laura Delanoy, a partner in the Corporate and Financial Services Department, and Deirdre Norton Hykal, a partner in the Litigation Department.  The WPDC is comprised of fourteen partners, three counsel and thirteen associates.

Programming and Initiatives

  • Educational Programming Over the past decade, the WPDC has offered substantive programs and workshops to our women attorneys as they navigate their way in the firm and the legal profession.  Each year’s programming relates to a general theme, and recent ones have included “Presentation and Perception,” “Navigating Your Career” and currently, “Hitting Your Stride.”  The content and format of each individual program are designed primarily by and for women associates. The programs focus on professional development topics of interest and help to sharpen the skills of our women attorneys and develop the next generation of leaders in the business of law.
  • MentoringIn addition to the firm-wide mentoring program in which partners are assigned to serve as career advisors to all of our new associates, the WPDC facilitates and monitors an initiative with cross-departmental associate mentoring circles. Each mentoring circle is designed to provide a framework for increased interaction among women at the firm by introducing associates to a “network” of Willkie women lawyers at all levels and in all practice groups.  For associates in our smaller practice areas who may have limited daily interaction with other women at the firm, this program provides the opportunity and structure for both professional development and social interaction with women colleagues of varying seniority and expertise.  For those in larger practice areas, it broadens their experience with, and deepens their knowledge of, the firm as a whole while also introducing them to women with whom they may not work directly.  Participation in the mentoring circles is optional, and the success of the program has resulted in substantial participation, including more than two-thirds of our women associates in 2015.

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  • Communications:  With a focus on raising the profile of our women attorneys both outside and within the firm, our Communications Subcommittee monitors and updates information on the firm's intranet and external website, distributes information of interest to women attorneys and monitors developments in the marketplace as they relate to our initiatives and the professional lives of women at the firm. On a regular basis, this subcommittee shares news with a broad internal audience highlighting our women attorneys’ accomplishments and awards.

In addition, the WPDC helps implement the firm’s initiatives relating to expanding Willkie’s recruiting efforts.  In recent years, Willkie has participated in programs related to women's issues at Columbia, Georgetown and NYU law schools.

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Awards and Recognitions

Willkie’s women lawyers have been recognized by clients, peers and industry publications for their outstanding work and achievements.

Recent Willkie Awards for Our Women Partners

Law360 – 25 Most Influential Women in Securities Law
Litigation partner Elizabeth Gray was named to Law360’s list of the 25 Most Influential Women in Securities Law. In selecting just 25 women from a “fiercely competitive field,” Law360 chose attorneys who have achieved impressive success in securities litigation and enforcement. The elite group includes current and former senior regulators and private practitioners.

NYSBA’s Empire State Counsel
Litigation partner Mary Eaton was honored by NYSBA’s Empire State Counsel as one of just two 2015 Outstanding Pro Bono Volunteers.

Latinvex – Latin America News and Analysis
Corporate partner Maria-Leticia Ossa Daza named among Latinvex’s "Top 100 Female Lawyers” for Latin America from 2014-2016, and recognized for excellence in the categories of Banking & Finance and Corporate/M&A in 2016.

Euromoney Legal Media Group’s – Americas Women in Business Law Awards 2015

  • Partner Rachel Strickland shortlisted for “Best in Insolvency & Restructuring”
  • Willkie shortlisted for “Best International Firm for Diversity”

The Legal Aid Society – Pro Bono Publico Awards 2015
Litigation partner Mary Eaton and the firm were honored by The Legal Aid Society with 2015 Pro Bono Publico Awards for exceptional service to the Society and its clients.

New York Law Journal Rising Stars
Litigation partner Deirdre Hykal was named to the New York Law Journal’s 2014 Class of “Rising Stars,” an elite group of 42 attorneys under the age of 40 from across New York State.

Willkie Named as a Finalist for Bank of America Diversity Award 
This award recognizes law firm commitment to partnering with Bank of America in its mission to promote diversity and inclusion.  The firm was one of six finalists out of nearly 200 participants in Bank of America’s Diversity and Inclusion Business Council’s survey in 2014.

Law360
Corporate partner Laura Delanoy included on Law360's 2014 roster of “Rising Stars” under 40 for her expertise in M&A transactions.

The National Women’s Council
Corporate partner Angela Olivarez was named one of Houston’s Top 25 Business Women by The National Women’s Council in 2014, which recognized award recipients for driving change, innovation and inspiring others to succeed while contributing to the business growth and the strategic direction of their organizations.

Sylvia Rivera Law Project
Litigation partner Mary Eaton and the firm were recognized by the Sylvia Rivera Law Project with the 2014 “Attorneys and Advocate Award,” recognizing “tireless commitment to reducing systematic discrimination and violence and ensuring greater access to safety and survival for transgender people who are low-income, people of color and immigrants.”

Latin Trade Group 
Corporate partner Maria-Leticia Ossa-Daza named a 2014 “Rising Legal Star” for excellence in handling complex legal issues in the Latin American business environment.

Euromoney Legal Media Group’s – Americas Women in Business Law Awards 2014

  • Partner Rachel Strickland shortlisted for “Best in Insolvency & Restructuring”
  • Partner Rose DiMartino shortlisted for “Best in Investment Funds”
  • Partner Laura Delanoy shortlisted for “Best in Mergers & Acquisitions”
  • Willkie shortlisted for “Best International Firm for Diversity”
  • Willkie shortlisted for “Best International Firm for Talent Management”

The Legal Aid Society – Pro Bono Publico Awards 2014
Litigation partner Mary Eaton and the firm were honored by The Legal Aid Society with 2014 Pro Bono Publico Awards for exceptional service to the Society and its clients.

France’s Best Lawyers/Les Echos 2014
Business Reorganization and Restructuring partner Alexandra Bigot and Corporate partner Annette Péron recognized in Les Echos as Best Lawyers’ 2014 selection for Paris “Structured Finance Lawyer of the Year” and “LBO Lawyer of the Year,” respectively.

Euromoney Legal Media Group’s – Americas Women in Business Law Awards 2013

  • Partner Margery Neale shortlisted for "Best in Investment Funds"
  • Partner Adrienne Atkinson shortlisted for "Best in Private Equity"
  • Willkie shortlisted for "Best International Firm for Talent Management"

France’s Best Lawyers/Les Echos 2013
Tax partner Marie-Hélène Raffin recognized in Les Echos as Best Lawyers’ 2013 selection for "Paris Tax Lawyer of the Year."

Turnarounds & Workouts – Outstanding Young Restructuring Lawyers 2013
Business Reorganization and Restructuring partner Rachel Strickland was once again one of 12 attorneys nationwide profiled on Turnarounds & Workouts' Outstanding Young Restructuring Lawyers" special report. (Rachel also received this honor in 2012, 2010 and 2006).

The Legal Aid Society – Pro Bono Publico Awards 2013
Litigation partner Mary Eaton and associate Jennifer Schanes were honored as a team and individually with 2013 Pro Bono Publico Awards for exceptional service to the Society and its clients.

New York Magazine – The New York Area’s Lawyers of the Year 2011
Asset Management partner Margery Neale was named "Mutual Funds Law Lawyer of the Year."

France’s Best Lawyers 2011
Business Reorganization and Restructuring partner Alexandra Bigot was named “2011 France Insolvency and Reorganization Lawyer of the Year.”

Other Honors and Appointments

American Law Institute’s Practical Lawyer Magazine
Corporate counsel Cindy Chernuchin was named to the Editorial Board of the American Law Institute’s Practical Lawyer Magazine as the Uniform Commercial Code Specialist.

The New York Journal
Litigation partner Mary Eaton was named to The New York Law Journal’s Board of Editors.

Law360
Business Reorganization and Restructuring partner Ana Alfonso was named to Law360 Editorial Advisory Board for Bankruptcy.

Elizabeth Gray Joins Harvard Kennedy School’s Women’s Leadership Board (2016)
Litigation partner Elizabeth Gray was invited to join Harvard Kennedy School’s Women’s Leadership Board. She serves as one of few lawyers on the board, which consists of leaders from the most senior levels of government, business, academia and the non-profit sector.

Nora Ann Wallace Honored With Medal of l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Corporate partner Nora Ann Wallace was honored for her significant pro bono support for the famed Musee des Arts Decoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts) in Paris in 2015.

Julie Smith Appointed Vice Chair of DC Bar's Corporations, Finance and Securities Law Section (October 2012 – present) 
Litigation partner Julie Smith works closely with leaders of the securities bar to monitor and comment on legislative and regulatory developments in the financial industry.

Elizabeth Gray Appointed Co-Chair of ABA Subcommittee on Securities Litigation and Enforcement (August 2012 – present)  
The subcommittee is part of the American Bar Association’s Committee on Federal Regulation of Securities, Business Law Section.

Marie-Hélène Raffin Received Légion d'honneur Award
Tax partner Marie-Hélène Raffin received the prestigious Légion d'honneur from the French government.   Awarded for service to the State, the Légion d'honneur is among the highest awards bestowed upon an individual by the French government in 2011.

Women in Our Community

Willkie is committed to the development and promotion of our accomplished women attorneys. Our women partners have served on our Executive Committee for 20 years. In addition, the WPDC reports directly to the Executive Committee and provides valuable insight to the top-level leadership of the firm about women’s initiatives.

During the second half of 2013, 18 women partners from all practice areas and seniority levels of the firm’s New York and Washington, DC offices participated in a Women Partners’ Business Development pilot program. The firm partnered with a renowned consultant to develop a research-based, strategic and practical program that was, to our knowledge, the first of its kind among our peer firms. The overarching focus was on building, retaining and expanding client relationships, including cross-marketing of the firm’s diverse practice strengths. The focus on business development and client retention were in part designed to enable participating partners to assume leadership roles on important firm management committees, benefiting not only their own careers but also those of more junior women at the firm.

Feedback and results from the program have been overwhelmingly positive. The women partners gained a better understanding of their colleagues on a personal and professional level and dedicated extensive time to developing strategies for using that knowledge effectively to cross-market and increase business opportunities for the firm.

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Willkie strongly encourages attorneys, both individually and collectively, to devote a significant portion of their professional time to legal matters of public interest, especially on behalf of individuals and organizations who otherwise would have limited access to legal services.  Over the past five years, our attorneys have collectively averaged more than 29,500 hours per year.

In addition, our Firm has been awarded some of the most prestigious honors relating to pro bono work, including being recognized by The Legal Aid Society in 2015 and 2014 with Pro Bono Publico Awards for our exceptional pro bono commitment to The Legal Aid Society and its clients and being named "2012 Law Firm of the Year" for our pro bono work by the legal industry publication Law360.  In 2011, Willkie received Her Justice's (formerly inMotion, Inc.) 2011 Law Firm of the Year Award and its Commitment to Justice Award for Outstanding Legal Team.

Some organizations with which Willkie has had long-standing relationships include:

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For more information on Willkie’s pro bono efforts and accomplishments, please visit our Pro Bono page.

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Policies and Benefits

Willkie recognizes that attorneys who have strong commitments to the practice of law and are engaged in parenting may, at times, find it desirable to adjust or reduce their work schedules.  The firm has an equally strong commitment to providing alternative work schedule arrangements for attorneys at all levels, from junior associate to partner, in appropriate circumstances.  For our attorneys who work on a flexible or alternative schedule, there are designated attorneys charged with creating opportunities for exchanging ideas and experiences related to successfully managing career and life issues.

Additionally, the firm has thoughtfully designed many policies, benefits and firm practices that demonstrate the leadership’s commitment to retaining our talented attorneys, including:   

  • 18 weeks paid (and 18 weeks unpaid) parental leave for primary caregivers, including adoptive parents 
  • Subsidized health and dental insurance (including spouses and children) 
  • Designated private nursing room for mothers
  • Emergency daycare center
  • Back up in-home care for children and ailing or elderly family members

For a full list of benefits, please visit our Compensation and Benefits page.

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