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  • Attorney Robert L. McKenna III Shares Insights into Supporting Women Lawyers

    Published on February 7, 2023

    The growth of women in the legal profession is increasing, but there’s still a lack of equal treatment and respect present. Some firms are working to change that, speaking out on the need for parity and doing their part to encourage it. Robert L. McKenna III, the founding partner of Kjar, McKenna & Stockalper LLP (KMS), is one such example. He has long encouraged and supported the presence of women in the legal industry, including working to support efforts to encourage it.

    Are Women Still Not Treated Equally in Law?

    The data continues to be striking. The American Bar Association’s recent report, the ABA Profile of the Legal Profession for 2022, shared some striking concerns. Specifically, it found that only 38.3% of all lawyers in the U.S. are women. That is a significant improvement from 1950 to 1970, when just 3% of all attorneys were women. Yet, it also points out that there’s still a big gap to reach.

    For Robert L. McKenna III, it’s a Mission to Change.

    Attorney McKenna has taken to heart the need to foster change in the world he lives in. In a recent article, he shared, “Law has a history of being a very toxic Type A, mostly man kind of environment…. I’ve seen great changes – and I just hope it continues on – but that’s the culture.”

    Why does he have any focus on the topic? It could be because he’s working to raise his children in a positive manner where women are equal to men. As a single family to two children, including daughter Katie, he wants to see significant change before she’s off and ready to start her own career, whether that is in law or not. 

    He’s fostered a sense of equality in his children from the start, always making it clear that drive, talent, and interest are the core factors behind determining their future rather than gender. He’s worked hard to be a positive role model to his children throughout their lives, serving as a leadership member in his son’s Boy Scout Troup and his daughter’s Girl Scout Troop. 

    Speaking of being in a leadership role with the Girl Scouts, Robert L. McKenna III shared, “There were 14 girls, 13 months, and me who would go on campouts. We did that for probably five years… It was nice for me, and it made Katie feel really special that I did that for her.” Of course, he was required to camp at least 100 yards away from the girls. 

    Does Equality in the Workplace Continue to Be a Concern?

    There are many reasons why equality in the workplace is critical. Some of the core benefits of that include:

    • Creating a more productive workplace and atmosphere.
    • Fostering better customer and client service because of the ability to relate better.
    • Supporting the overall success of a partnership or business space.
    • Offering varied and diverse perspectives that can shed light onto business practices and decision making.
    • It helps to attract and retain the best talent for the team.
    • Workplace equality helps to open new opportunities for all people.

    Improving the presence of women in the workplace is important, but it is not enough to simply have a woman present. Rather, it’s about encouraging the growth of women as attorneys and leaders within law practices.

    Changes Are Occurring from the Ground Up

    In a Law360 article, it was shared that women now make up about half of all U.S. law students. That’s a significant number of women moving into the field, and it should be good news.

    A key concern, then, is that there are so few women who are in leadership roles within the industry. The Law360 article shares that even with a strong pipeline, women are still very underrepresented in the highest tiers in law firms. They shared that they make up less than a quarter of all partners in the U.S. who have a significant financial stake.

    It will take a significant amount of change not just in providing educational options for women to enter the field of law but also to support them as they grow into leadership positions. 

    Robert L. McKenna III Shares His Insights

    As the senior partner at KMS, Robert L. McKenna III has helped many clients to achieve their desired outcomes including in everything from malpractice cases to federal civil rights claims. He has been recognized as one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators from 2018 through 2020 and as a Lawyer of Distinction from 2018 to 2020.

    His law firm is one of the most accomplished in civil litigation and professional liability defense in their practice area of Southern California. There, for more than 20 years, the firm has worked to meet some of the most aggressive tactics head on.

    Why does equality and parity for women in the law industry matter then?

    There are plenty of reasons, including the overall success of the industry in meeting the needs of women throughout the country.

    How do you foster change, then?

    According to McKenna, it will take a lot of change to balance the legal scales. It is something that he has worked hard to implement within KMS as well. He says, “We have one overall culture, and I have a subculture,” he shares. “The overall culture is creating a place where people who are young and ambitious and want to be trial lawyers can come and succeed, where they will have access to our clients and our carriers, and that if they have the desire to go in a courtroom and try a case, we’ll take them with us to train them, and then we’ll give them opportunities to go and try those cases.”

    The path to being an attorney as well as a partner is a difficult one for anyone, especially women who have to balance so many aspects of life. He shared his opinion of this challenge, sharing, “I remember 10, 15 years ago…the thought never crossed my mind that I couldn’t be a father, a spouse, and a trial lawyer,” he said. “I know women who had to make that choice — that in order to be a trial lawyer, they weren’t going to have kids — and I found that abominable. Sometimes the only thing I’ve got going for me is my kids. Work can’t satisfy all of those needs. So I made a point that whatever I was going to do, every opportunity I could give to a woman… and to have them feel valued, and respected, and appreciated.” 

    The work is challenging, but as firms recognize the need to position women in leadership positions – as partners – in the law firm, that change will come. It takes a big effort by the leadership within a law firm to make this not just something they say they will do and work on but to make it a reality.

    A Need for Change That’s Easily Recognized

    Women now make up about half of all law students. Yet, that’s not a new figure. Rather, it’s been that way for some time – even decades. Yet, only 23% of all equity partners within law firms are actually women. That figure is even more worrisome for minority female lawyers, who make up only 20% of all first-year law students and just 8% of all attorneys in law firms, accounting for just 3% of all equity partners.

    Without a doubt, there is a need for significant change. With attorneys like Robert L. McKenna III working to encourage and support that change, more women will not just become partners, but the next generation will see that women can hold these positions, and they, too, will continue to work to enter this field bettering the country as they do.

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