By Raychelle Tasher • January 24, 2016
Ms. JD 3.0: Ascending To New Heights
Dear Ms. JD Supporters,
I found Ms. JD about 4 years ago as a 2L student at Florida A&M University College of Law. I remember reading a Facebook post about the Ms. JD Fellowship and the mentoring experience women law students, could receive through the program. That same day, I eagerly applied; not even thinking that I would really get selected. But I was selected, and quickly became a part of the Ms. JD family! That year I joined the 2012 Ms. JD Fellowship class and was mentored by Florida Supreme Court Justice Peggy A. Quince. In the fall of 2012, I attended Ms. JD’s Sixth Annual Conference on Women in the Law, “She Leads”, in Washington, DC. If you have never experienced a Ms. JD Conference you should definitely join us at the Ms. JD: Superwomen JDs Conference on February 19th, 2016 at New York University Law School (shameless plug). It was at the Ms. JD Conference that I absolutely fell in love with Ms. JD. I left the Conference empowered, energized and most of all determined to rise. At the end of the Fellowship, I did not want to leave the organization. Ms. JD had become a part of who I was as a law student and who I wanted to be as a young woman lawyer. When I received the final “good-bye” Fellowship email from then president Katie Larkin-Wong, I humbly asked her, “are there any Board of Directors opportunities?” and as they say, “the rest is history." Or in my case, “HER story”.
(Me and some of the Fellows at the Ms. JD: "She Leads" Conference in 2012)
I am thrilled to step into exceptionally high heels as Ms. JD’s third president. It is truly a pleasure to have gone through this leadership transition with Katie Larkin-Wong guiding me every step of the way. Katie has had such a great impact on me and countless others. Looking back at Ms. JD over the past five years I am so proud of all that Katie has accomplished as Ms. JD’s second president. Under her leadership, we have increased Ms. JD Fellowship applications with over 152 2L women applying for program. Ms. JD now has Ms. JD Journalists who contribute content to the blog on issues that face our community every day. Ms. JD has revamped its website with the 2013 rebrand, giving the organization some new swag for years to come. We also hired an Executive Director, Heather Asher, who has increased our presence in the legal community. And that’s only a few of our many, many accomplishments over the years. As we celebrate Ms. JD's 10th anniversary and embark on the next 10 years of Ms. JD (and beyond!), I look forward to the continued expansion of our current programs and the development of new projects that will empower law students and further develop women lawyers. Here is a glimpse of what’s to come:
- Over the next year Ms. JD will expand the National Women’s Law Student Organization by providing national leadership opportunities
- Develop meaningful dialogue regionally at law schools across the country on issues such as intersectionality, implicit bias and equal pay
- NWLSO's annual Leadership Academy where women law students are trained to be the next generation of leaders
What is most important to me as Ms. JD’s third president is ensuring that we are equipped to take on the next challenges that lie ahead for women in the legal profession. My goal is to provide meaningful leadership opportunities to women law students so they are prepared to lead. It’s vital leadership is practiced at the law school level, so when opportunities arise at the law firm, bar association or business, women are more than ready to take their seat at the table.
(Me at the Ms. JD: "Stronger Together" Conference. I moderated this dynamic panel)
Women of Color Initiative
- Create projects and programs around the retention of women of color in the legal profession
- Promote the advancement of women of color in all levels law firm and bar association leadership
- Work with affinity bar associations to create meaningful dialogue on issues that are faced by their communities in the legal profession
One of our Ms. JD members posted a blog with the question, ”Where are all the black women lawyers?” In this article the statistics were dismal; less than 3% percent of associates in Chicago law firms were black women and .78% were partners. As a woman of color, I want to see more discussion around how we can improve these numbers. Chicago is not a rarity. Many cities have even less percentages of black, latina and asian women in legal profession. Firms have also reported the challenge they face in retaining women lawyers of color. I am passionate about finding creative ways to increase these numbers across the board. I can only do this with your continued support.
The Incredible Men (TIM) Initiative
- Encourage men in the legal profession to mentor and sponsor women lawyers
- Recognize men in the profession who are standing up for women lawyers in the work place
In 2015 Ms. JD debuted TIM initiative, an honor given to a man in the legal profession who has been a champion for women in the legal profession, promoted equality and a commitment to gender diversity. I think most women have a few incredible men who have played an influential role in their legal careers. Personally, my former Professor Alvin Benton, influenced me to pursue a career in bankruptcy law, and with his guidance I was able to gain a bankruptcy clerkship.
- Work with first generation college students to create a diverse pipeline to the legal profession
- Provide content on the blog that is focused on first generation college students and law students
As a first generation college student, I remember how difficult it was to navigate college applications and funding. When I got to law school, the process was the same but I always wished that I had someone who could provide me some insight on how to apply to law school. As we expand our pre law content, I want first generation students to know that Ms. JD is here every step of the way; from pre law to partner.
(The Ms. JD Board is Ms. JD 3.0. Here we are in San Francisco)
I am SO excited to serve the Ms. JD community as its third president. Being a part of the Ms. JD Board of Directors for the past three years has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Every day I get the opportunity to work with a diverse team of women and men who are determined to make a difference in the legal profession. It’s a great time to be a part of the Ms. JD community as we continue the mission and “ascend to new heights”. I look forward to seeing you all in New York City for Ms. JD: Superwomen JDs!
Ms. JD President