Promoting Women as Lead Counsel: From the Courtroom to the Boardroom

Location: 1910 Courthouse, 301 Fannin Street, Houston, Texas 77002

Program Agenda & Speakers

Judicial Advisory Committee for Promoting Women as Lead Counsel

Host Committee for Promoting Women as Lead Counsel

Lunch Presentation:  Surveys on Women Lawyers as Lead Counsel and Trial Counsel in Complex Litigation
The American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession recently published a groundbreaking report, “First Chairs at Trial:  More Women Need Seats at the Table, A Research Report on the Participation of Women Lawyers as Lead Counsel and Trial Counsel in Litigation.”  The report is based on a random sample of all cases filed in 2013 in the Northern District of Illinois.  Temple University Beasley School of Law has conducted similar research on matters pending in multi-district litigation throughout the country. The panelists discussed the critical findings from these reports and continuing research on the need for greater diversity in litigation.

Benefits of Female Trial Counsel: Views from the Box
This panel explored the views and perceptions of juries and why jurors expect to see women taking active roles in trials, the psychological impact that female trial counsel may have on some jurors, and the importance of diverse communication and litigation styles within trial teams. The panel also discussed litigation and advocacy benefits that can be overlooked or lost when trial teams are monolithic in appearance and approach, and how judges can prime a jury on the dangers of implicit bias.

Women Lawyers as Lead Counsel:  How In-House Counsel Are Making a Difference
This distinguished panel of in-house counsel explored how diversity impacts the effectiveness of a team and enhances advocacy and litigation outcomes.   Panelists discussed their views and experiences, as well as the actions that in-house and external counsel can take to increase the presence of women in lead counsel roles.

Getting Real World Experience: Advancing from Within
Drawing from the recent research discussed in the lunch presentation, this panel examined how top female trial attorneys have been able to gain experience both inside and outside the courtroom and achieve success. The panel discussed, among other things, the importance of not only staffing trial teams with women but also ensuring that they have prominent, visible roles on those teams and gain the skills necessary to develop into seasoned trial lawyers. It focused on the efforts and tactics others in the legal community can use to increase the numbers of women in lead counsel positions.

Participation from the Bench:  How Judges Can Impact the Advancement of Women as Lead Counsel
The ABA’s First Chairs report started the conversation on how judges can help increase the number of women as lead trial lawyers. This panel further shared judges’ observations of lead counsel and other court- appointed positions, as well as the latest research by Temple University on MDL leadership positions.  During this interactive session the judges welcomed questions from audience participants and discussion about additional steps judges might take to promote a diverse trial bar.

Closing Remarks by Hon. Keith Ellison, Southern District of Texas

Questions? Contact CWIL Deputy Director Courtney Chavez at



Baker Botts LLP
Fibich, Leebron, Copeland, Briggs, & Josephson
Greenberg Traurig LLP
Hogan Lovells US LLP


Alexander Dubose Jefferson & Townsend LLP
American Board of Trial Advocates – Houston Chapter
DLA Piper
Gibbs & Bruns LLP
Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.
Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP
Reed Smith LLP
Vinson & Elkins LLP


Asian American Bar Association of Houston
Hispanic Bar Association of Houston
Houston Bar Association
Houston Lawyers Association

Event series: Look for CWIL