Minnesota Women Lawyers: Leadership, Equality & Community

Minnesota Women Lawyers
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Founded in 1972, Minnesota Women Lawyers (MWL) is a statewide association of nearly 1,300 attorneys, judges, law students, legal employers and supporters, all dedicated to the mission of advancing the success of women attorneys and striving for a just society.

Through a determined commitment to its values of leadership, equality and community, MWL offers myriad opportunities to network across the Minnesota legal profession, build community and collegiality, gain valuable leadership and professional skills, and make a direct impact on the MWL mission.

As featured in its recently released FY17-18 Annual Report, MWL is excited to highlight a thriving organization, thanks to the strong foundation built over many years, the dedication of its members, and the tremendous support of the legal community. Although the Annual Report can neither capture the full extent of MWL’s accomplishments over this past year, nor all that MWL anticipates during the year ahead, it does tell the story of a robust and welcoming organization making meaningful and measurable progress as it engages in advancing the success of women attorneys.


With “equality” as one if its three primary values, MWL leverages the collective voice of its members in support of its mission and continues work related to the systemic advancement of women attorneys across the profession. Key initiatives include the MWL Media Resource Project, the Non-Profit & Corporate Board Leadership Initiative, MWL’s Judicial Pipeline Project, the MWL Mentor Program, and the MWL Compendium Research Database.

Additionally, later this year MWL will release an update to its “2015 Gender Data Report.” The 2015 Report provided a first-of-its-kind count of the number of women in the Minnesota legal profession and determined that women made up 37 percent of attorneys licensed in Minnesota. By compiling and updating such data, MWL leads the effort to better understand the demographics of our legal community, measure ongoing progress, and ultimately work towards equity for all women attorneys.

MWL also works to collaborate across the legal community on issues and initiatives central to its mission. Most recently, these included working with other affinity bar leaders on the Diversity Report Card initiative, taking a stance against the separation of families at the border, requesting that Minnesota collect and make more attorney demographic information available, and presenting comment and oral testimony on the evolving waiver rules for part-time practice (Rule 7). MWL has partnered on successful programs with Minnesota Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel, the National Association of Women Lawyers, Women in Financial Services, the Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, and many others, all in support of its mission. MWL is also grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with employers across the legal community. MWL President Shannon Harmon continues to focus her efforts on deepening relationships among MWL’s leadership, members, and allies. Each collaboration undoubtedly makes our collective efforts even more impactful in working to achieve common goals.


With leadership as another of its key values, MWL provides ongoing opportunities for members to not only hear from leaders across the national and local legal community, but also to develop as leaders themselves.

MWL’s two annual signature events, the MWL Rosalie Wahl Leadership Lecture and the 2019 MWL Conference for Women in the Law, along with other workshops and seminars allow MWL members to hear from prominent and inspiring thought-leaders from across Minnesota and the nation. These speakers focus on a wide-range of topics related to both successes and challenges experienced by women in the legal profession, as well as best practices for professional advancement and equity. By participating in these programs, MWL members gain critical leadership skills, develop core competencies, and build expertise relevant to their career success.

In looking ahead, MWL is pleased to announce its 2019 Conference will be held on April 26th, 2019 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Minneapolis. This annual event will provide attendees the chance to collaborate across MWL’s statewide community, attend a full day of high-value CLE programming, and take advantage of meaningful networking and business growth opportunities. Complete details and registration will be available in the coming months.

Furthermore, through their active participation, MWL members meet, work alongside, and build relationships with attorneys who practice across the legal community. Volunteers also have the opportunity to gain leadership and professional skills and make a direct impact on MWL’s mission.

During the past year, MWL was pleased to launch four new Affinity Groups: Alternative Careers, In- House, Public Sector, and RISE: New Lawyers. Together, all ten of MWL’s Affinity Groups support the unique interests and needs of our diverse members. MWL invites its members to get involved with and benefit from one of these existing groups and to also propose additional Affinity Groups. Members are encouraged to reach out with their innovative ideas and help MWL start something new!


Central to its mission, MWL fosters a strong sense of community among its membership. MWL members have meaningful opportunities to develop relationships with leaders and trendsetters from across the legal community at receptions, events, and meetings, as well as engage with their interests in and outside the practice of law.

MWL also builds community by celebrating the success of women across the legal profession. MWL’s recognition efforts include its Annual Awards, MWL’s quarterly publication With Equal Right’s “Members on the Move” feature, “Celebrating Success” on LinkedIn, and the MWL Foundation’s Law Student Scholarships. In providing these opportunities, MWL offers a forum for members to share their accomplishments, amplify their voices across Minnesota, and inspire the leaders of tomorrow.

Outside the Metro area, MWL is pleased to collaborate with its four regional chapters: Central (St. Cloud area); Northeastern (Duluth area); South Central (Mankato & New Ulm area); and, St. Croix Valley (Washington & Chisago Counties). Each chapter elects its own leadership and coordinates various events, initiatives, and service projects throughout the year specific to the needs and interests of the women attorneys in the area.

Finally, thanks to the leadership of the MWL Community Action & Advocacy Committee, MWL members lead and participate in service initiatives that encompass MWL’s four key focus areas of pay equity, access to justice, ending violence against women, and girl empowerment. Current projects include Girl Scout Law Day, the Professional Women’s Clothing Drive, a partnership with the Domestic Abuse Legal Advocacy Center, and our public policy CLE series.

The legal community is invited to collaborate with MWL in continuing to advance its mission. Join as an MWL member. Become actively engaged with one of MWL’s nine Committees or ten Affinity Groups. Participate in a Chapter meeting. Support MWL through a Premier Membership, as a 2019 Partner, or as an event sponsor. Engage with MWL on social media. Attend one of many seminars and socials. Through these many points of engagement, members have the opportunity to take full advantage of the MWL’s benefits in support of their own career success, however each person may define that success.

As MWL and the legal community continue to advance the success of women attorneys, there is clearly more work to be done, but there is also so much to celebrate. In the year ahead, Minnesota Women Lawyers invites you to join us in doing both.

For more information about Minnesota Women Lawyers, its upcoming events, current initiatives, and to read the FY17-18 Annual Report, please visit www.MWLawyers.org.

Attorney at Law Magazine

Attorney at Law Magazine is a national B2B trade publication for and about private practice attorneys. The magazine focuses on the industry, its events, happenings and the professionals and firms that drive its success. The editorial is a collaboration of interviews with professionals, industry expert penned columns and articles about advancing your legal practice through marketing, practice management and customer service.

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