Women and the Law Program Hosts Dynamic Fifth Annual Ms. JD Conference Designed to Cultivate New Women Leaders

This fall, American University Washington College of Law hosted the Ms. JD: Fifth Annual Conference on Women and the Law. The dynamic, full-day conference was themed She Leads, and was designed to cultivate the next generation of women leaders.

The Women and the Law Program at the law school co-organized the conference hosted by Ms. JD, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to the success of women in law school and the legal profession.

Women from around the country gathered at the law school to learn about the progress and challenges of students and young lawyers. The participants heard from inspirational speakers, met top lawyers, and attended valuable break out sessions. Two male advocates also attended and spoke about bridging the gap between men and women in the legal profession.

“This school has a history of being an institution where women can thrive, and where women can really reach their full potential,” said Daniela Kraiem, associate director of the Women and the Law Program. “This conference was just another manifestation of our commitment to making sure that students are encouraged to reach as high as they possibly can in any endeavor that they choose.”

Ms. JD hosts an annual meeting every year, but this is the first time the conference was held in Washington, D.C. As sponsors of the event, American University Washington College of Law students were invited to blog on the Ms. JD website about the essential traits of a leader.

“Asking our students to blog about leadership was a very new social media idea that highlighted how committed they are to being front and center in our community,” Kraiem said. “I was really proud of them for writing the blog posts, and I’m really happy with how it turned out.”

“How do you make fearless career decisions? You must be open, you must be daunted, and you must be present.”

Students travelled from California, Texas, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York to attend the popular event.

Speakers in the morning workshops taught key negotiation and team leadership skills, and the lunchtime keynote speaker Marne Levine, vice president of global public policy at Facebook, motivated the women in the audience to push beyond their comfort zones.

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Levine asked. “How do you make fearless career decisions? Not crazy career decisions. Not reckless career decisions--fearless career decisions. There are three requirements. You must be open, you must be daunted, and you must be present.”

After lunch, the women attended breakout sessions to learn about running for office and effective communication.

“People in the law want to hear what your ideas are, that’s why you’re there,” said Karen Lockwood, CEO and founder of the Lockwood Group LLC and facilitator of the She Communicates workshop. “They may disagree with you and you may be in the minority, but you’re adding a critical perspective, critical input, and critical reaction. If you have something to say, say it. If you can project confidence, enthusiasm, and sincerity, you can never go wrong. The only wrong thing you can do is to not use your voice.”

“You don’t have to have a job at a big law firm right when you graduate, there are so many options out there - you can still be very successful.”

When the afternoon sessions ended, the women gathered for She Rocks, an informal networking session where participants could plan future collaborations and discuss the day’s events.

Liz Vaysman, a 2L at American University Washington College of Law and co-coordinator of the conference, said she appreciated the fact that the participants had the opportunity to develop leadership skills that they could use during law school and after graduation. She was also grateful that the skills were not just useful for women in the legal profession; they were also useful for women working in non-legal fields.

“When you think about law it’s not just a law firm; we have women who work in government, women who have written books, and women who are professors,” Vaysman said. “It’s just great to see how many different things you can do with your degree and where you can go. Especially as law students and professionals, it’s inspiring to know that you don’t have to have a job at a big law firm right when you graduate, there are so many options out there and you can still be very successful.”

Sponsors of the event included the Women & the Law Program at American University Washington College of Law, the Women's Bar Association of the District of Columbia, Fulbright & Jaworski, Munger, Tolles & Olson, Latham & Watkins, LexisNexis, Baker Botts, Haynes Boone and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom.