In the latest installment of Women Who Wow, an ongoing series of women leaders who inspire me, read about Katrina Dewey, the founder of Lawdragon.
I met Katrina many years ago when I worked at Sullivan & Cromwell and she met with us to tell us about her magazine. I was so impressed with her business acumen and her entrepreneurial skills. It’s been great to see Lawdragon grow over the years and to see how Katrina has paved the way for women in her field. Learn more about Katrina and her career in this profile.
What do you love most about what you do?
Speaking with the most brilliant legal minds in the country every day, many of whom happen to be women. I’m always inspired by the intelligence, drive, and do-it-all-ness of these rockstar female lawyers.
Tell us about a woman you look up to.
I’m crazy about so many, but here’s a shortlist. Faith Gay is an absolute powerhouse litigator who took a huge risk starting a new firm, Selendy & Gay. It is majority women-owned, takes on cases against big banks and corporations that other major law firms are conflicted out of and goes to bat for environmental sustainability and LGBTQ rights.
Judge Patricia Brown Holmes of Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila in Chicago is an icon who has made her own path against great odds through extraordinary determination. She is the first minority female name partner of a major law firm and exemplifies the very best in lawyering and as a person.
Judy Livingston always comes to my mind, as she should to anyone discussing women in the legal profession. She is a remarkable plaintiff lawyer at Kramer Dillof in New York, and has won hundreds of millions of dollars for individuals badly injured by medical malpractice, including birth injuries. She was the first woman admitted to the very exclusive 100-member Inner Circle and inspires me with the barriers she’s broken in the classiest way.
Sandra Goldstein is the epitome of the power player, having headed litigation at Cravath and now building Kirkland’s New York office. She leads billions of dollars in litigation and is totally top of her game in every way.
I’m forever fascinated by Cheryl Bormann, the Chicago-based capital defense lawyer who helped end the death penalty in Illinois. She has been representing one of the five Sept. 11 defendants at Guantanamo Bay since 2011.
Please let me name drop just a few more – as we need all the inspiration we can get: Donna Wilson leads Manatt (while her partner Linda Kornfeld manages a staggering insurance coverage practice at Blank Rome); Kelley Cornish of Paul Weiss has quietly been breaking barriers for years in law practice and the bankruptcy bar; Damaris Hernández of Cravath shows you can do anything you put your mind to; Debra Wong Yang of Gibson Dunn shows the power of political savvy paired with legal mastery; Lexie White, Kalpana Srinivasan and Erica Harris (and all the women at Susman Godfrey) put the lie to the narrative that there aren’t powerful women trial lawyers. You just have to know where to look!
How are you breaking barriers faced by women in your field?
When I entered the world of legal journalism, both law and legal journalism were male dominated, to put it mildly. I worked for one lawyer who connived to keep me in the office late at night with him, and another who was the hiring partner and gabbed with other male lawyers about hiring women based on the size of their “feet.” My mentor in legal journalism required mild flirtation, but he also imparted the knowledge of journalism and storytelling that no sexism could take away. Knowledge and skills are power.
I established the first legal newsroom whose top editors were majority female. Since founding Lawdragon 15 years ago, we have made it a core mission to find and tell the stories of women and minority lawyers whose voices are relegated to ‘women’ or ‘minority’ special sections by most legal journalism or rankings. Lawdragon publishes the only recognition ‘list’ that is consistently one-third female on the merits up against the best male talent, and not as a pink subdivision. Our recent guide to top family lawyers was majority female.
We all know how important representation is. The more visible female lawyers are, the more young women and girls will think, I can be a lawyer too. It’s been an absolute honor to play our small part in helping female lawyers take the spotlight, and a thrill to watch as the gender imbalance in this profession slowly – but make no mistake forever – corrects itself.