As more women practice law, law firms increasingly focus on how to facilitate conversations and interactions among their female attorneys. The Women’s Lawyer Group at Durham Jones & Pinegar in Salt Lake City was created to provide a forum for the firm’s female attorneys to learn from each other and establish a network of support and mentorship in what has traditionally been a male dominated profession. DJP is a business-focused firm offering legal services in 12 practice areas. The firm’s team of approximately 15 women lawyers are represented in most of these practices, including intellectual property, real estate, healthcare law and business and finance among others.
The DJP Women’s Lawyer Group provides professional development, social networking and mentoring opportunities to the firm’s female attorneys. It also hosts workshops and events that are open to women in the legal and business community throughout the Salt Lake City area.
Co-chairing the group are firm shareholders Gretta Spendlove and Tadiana Jones. Spendlove, who has been with Durham Jones & Pinegar since 2001, focuses her practice in commercial real estate and is a former chair of the firm’s real estate practice. She is involved with such real estate and business organizations in Utah as NAIOP, CREW, and the Salt Lake Rotary, and is a past president of Women Lawyers of Utah. Jones, an intellectual property attorney, was the first woman lawyer with Durham Jones & Pinegar when she joined the firm in 1996. She was the 11th attorney hired by DJP, which now has more than 90 lawyers.
Both Spendlove and Jones say that the firm’s leadership has been very supportive of the Women’s Lawyer Group and its women attorneys. The firm has allowed attorneys with young children, both male and female, to work flexible schedules and remotely from their homes, which Spendlove acknowledges is still an unusual thing for a law firm to do. As the first woman to join the firm and with two young children at the time (she now has four children), Jones paved the way for other female attorneys who followed her. When she joined Durham Jones & Pinegar she struck a deal to work part-time out of her home, which she still does today. Jones was made a firm shareholder despite this work arrangement.
Since it began, the Women’s Lawyer Group has provided female attorneys at the firm a more formal vehicle for discussing concerns and addressing work-life balance issues. It evolved a number of years ago out of one attorney’s desire to connect with other woman attorneys at the firm.
“One of the women here felt a little isolated and thought it would be a good idea to get together [with other female attorneys] and talk about common challenges,” Spendlove says. “Women in Salt Lake City firms are still in the minority. Women lawyers, and I think particularly younger women lawyers, appreciate being able to share issues common to women with women in the same situation.”
EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES
The attorneys connect through regular events and activities that the Women’s Lawyer Group organizes and hosts. It holds continuing legal education workshops that include topics such as risk, client development, corporate law and more. The group also brings in speakers and invites women lawyers from other firms, women business leaders and other community members to attend. Legal heavyweights such as Justice Christine Durham, who was then chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court, have been featured speakers. Justice Durham spoke about implicit bias. Ann Edwards Cannon, a columnist from Salt Lake City’s Deseret News, was also a guest speaker. The firm’s senior leadership, Paul Durham, Jeffrey Jones, Kevin Pinegar and N. Todd Leishman, have all spoken to the group.
“We talk and plan and try to make our meetings interesting and valuable,” Jones says. “Gretta and other past chairwomen have done some wonderful things in bringing in people with different expertise. We have had some wonderful social events that included our spouses and partners, and have done some other things that included just the women.”
Being visible and helpful in the community is also important to the group. Group members are encouraged to get involved in legal, business and advocacy organizations outside the firm, and a number of them have. “We think and talk about how we can participate in the community, and just be more successful, generous and active lawyers,” Spendlove says.
In addition to its professional development meetings and events, the group has put in place a mentor system. Group members are paired together and are encouraged to go to lunch and talk and get to know each other.
“The diversity of the areas in which our women practice is pretty wide,” Spendlove says. “I do commercial real estate. Tadiana does intellectual property. Some of the attorneys do mergers and acquisitions. We have a patent lawyer. We have litigators. It is very useful to get together and learn about each other and our different practice areas.”
Jones agrees, noting that the difference in years of experience in the field is also important.
“It is great to have regular interaction between the senior women attorneys and those newer in the field,” she says. “The younger lawyers can hear about our experiences, get advice and have someone to go to with questions. We are also examples of the different ways being a woman in law can work for you. A lot of women are really interested in how I have worked things out with the firm. Then you have someone like Gretta who has been very successful in a different way and is involved in different organizations. I think it is important to show that range of paths you can take.”
SUPPORTING EACH OTHER
Spendlove’s career path did differ from Jones’. While Jones opted for a more flexible working schedule, Spendlove worked full-time while also raising four children. Spendlove acknowledges the challenges women in particular can face and the importance of having support from like-minded women.
“I love to see women progress,” she says. “Having a group that shares the challenges makes it easier. I think women have a lot to give. At this stage in my career, I also want to ‘give back’. I find it satisfying to encourage younger lawyers to find a way of working that is satisfying to them and their families.”
Jones knows she gains from the other women as much as she gives. “I really appreciate the many different personalities that we have in the group. We are not cookie cutter by any means. There are so many different points of view and it has helped expand my horizons and understand other ideas.”
WHAT DO SPENDLOVE AND JONES HOPE FOR THE GROUP’S FUTURE?
“I hope there will be lots more of us and that each member will pull from the group what is valuable to her,” Spendlove says. “For some of us it might be getting together and feeling that support from others. For some it might be gaining a specific skill or others’ insights into what they can do in the community. For others it might be learning how they can balance family life with work.”
“I hope to see the percentage of women in the firm continue to grow,” Jones says. “We would love to see one of the women in the group be on the firm’s board of directors.”
SAHREHOLDER DURHAM JONES & PINEGAR Salt Lake City Office (801) 297-1390 [email protected]
Julia D. Kyte is a litigator at the Salt Lake City office with a primary practice in health law. Ms. Kyte has successfully represented physicians and health care providers or entities (including psychologists, psychiatrists, certified physician assistants, nurses, social workers, counselors, and medical spas) in: licensing matters involving the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (“DOPL”); medical malpractice or negligence cases in both Federal and State Court; and privileging matters at numerous hospitals across the State of Utah. In addition, Ms. Kyte has assisted with health care contract reviews, insurance paneling, appeals, and credentialing matters. She also has represented a broad range of licensed professionals before the Department of Commerce, in addition to acting as a Patient Care Ombudsman pursuant to appointment by the Bankruptcy Court.
In the area of general civil litigation, Ms. Kyte has appeared on behalf of clients in complex cases arising out of personal injury and professional liability matters. Ms. Kyte has represented individuals as well as nursing homes, mental health care facilities, hospitals, retail stores, escrow agents, solid waste collection entities, lawyers, and judges.
Ms. Kyte also has significant experience regarding the defense of law enforcement personnel and governmental entities.
SHAREHOLDER DURHAM JONES & PINEGAR Salt Lake City (801) 297-1328 [email protected]
Melinda H. Birrell focuses largely on real property disputes, breach of contract cases, employment actions, and adversary proceedings in bankruptcy. Whether Birrell is representing a large corporation in a multimillion-dollar defense case or assisting an individual in collecting on a small loan, her goal as a litigator is simple – to achieve the best possible result for her client. Birrell strives to truly listen to client’s concerns, educate them concerning the law and how it affects situations, and ultimately craft a solution that is cost effective and well-tailored to their client needs. As a litigator, she enjoys the diversity of subject matter her practice affords and has been involved in cases spanning many areas of civil litigation, from defamation to trademark infringement, water rights to will contests.
DURHAM JONES & PINEGAR WOMEN LAWYERS Salt Lake City Office (801)-297-1146 [email protected]
Gretta C. Spendlove is a member and former Chair of the Firm’s Real Estate Section. She is also a member of the corporate and intellectual property sections. Her practice focuses on real estate, corporate law, and business transactions. Gretta has been successful in representing buyers and sellers in purchasing, selling, leasing, and developing real estate. She also benefits her clients with extensive experience in creating legal entities such as joint ventures, corporations, and limited liability companies; in buying and selling businesses; and handling intellectual property issues such as trademarks and copyrights.
SHAREHOLDER DURHAM JONES & PINEGAR Salt Lake City Office (801) 297-1187 [email protected]
Elisabeth Calvert is a shareholder in the Salt Lake City office’s Business & Finance section. Her efforts focus on helping companies with general business law items such as start-up documentation, tax law, general counsel consulting, and mergers & acquisitions.
Prior to dedicating herself to full-time legal work for business clients, Ms. Calvert spent six years as a faculty member and lecturer of law at Boston University School of Law.
Elisabeth has worked as an attorney in the private sector — representing large public companies and small private businesses — in state and federal government, and in academia. she brings a wealth of experience from all three sectors of the legal profession.
Through her diverse experiences, she is uniquely situated to advise clients in fulfilling their business plans and achieving their goals. This could include drafting a limited liability company agreement to helping a client form a new business, or advising a client in structuring the sale of a successful family-owned business.
SHAREHOLDER DURHAM JONES & PINEGAR Lehi Office (801) 297-1170 [email protected]
Before joining D|J|P, Tadiana W. Jones worked for the firm Lewis and Roca in Phoenix, Arizona, and was in-house counsel to WordPerfect Corporation and Novell, Inc. from 1992 to 1996. She has a rich background in technology law and licensing.
Ms. Jones’s practice emphasizes software and technology transactions, particularly license agreements, development and distribution agreements, support agreements, supply agreements, Internet and e-commerce agreements, and nondisclosure agreements. Her law practice also includes general contract and corporate law, trademark and copyright registration and licensing, and stock and asset acquisitions and divestitures.