Hickey: Meet Belva Lockwood

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IBA-Hickey-ChristineNo, Belva is not a current IBA member. In fact, she was never an IBA member; however, I was just “introduced” to her and thought the timing remarkable given that I had already decided to write this President’s Message on celebrating Mother’s Day. This holiday will have passed as you read this, and my hope is that you enjoyed a day to appreciate your own mother as I will have mine. The focus of this article is all of the women lawyers who balance the tremendously difficult task of being a great mom and a great lawyer.

Inspiration. Perseverance. Belva Lockwood was a twenty-three year old widow with a three year old daughter in 1853. To provide for her daughter, Belva sought a higher education and persuaded what is now Syracuse University to admit her as a student. Interested in the law at a college with no law department, Belva took private classes from a local law professor. As a single mother of a 16-year-old daughter, Belva moved to Washington D.C. in 1866. After being refused admittance to the Columbian Law School where trustees feared she would be a distraction to male students, she was eventually admitted to what is now George Washington University School of Law. By this time, Belva had remarried, given birth to another daughter, and had buried that daughter before her second birthday. Belva completed her coursework in 1873; however, the law school refused to grant a diploma to a woman. After appealing to the President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant, Belva Lockwood received her diploma and was admitted to the DC Bar at the age of 43.

Lockwood went on to become the first woman admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court and the first woman lawyer to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. A little known fact: Belva Ann Lockwood was the first female presidential candidate to appear on a ballot. She ran first in 1884 and again in 1888 against Indiana’s very own Benjamin Harrison. Lockwood has been credited with helping to open the legal profession to women.

Balance. Along with many other of my peers, predecessors, and successors, I am blessed with the joy of both motherhood and a legal career. I have two remarkable children, Chase and Taylor, who remind me daily of the delicate balance between squeezing in client calls, discovery deadlines, track meets, school events and, oh yes, dinner. Many of our members have been law student, young associate, and law partner as a mother-lawyer. Many of our members will face the difficult task of searching for childcare as a pregnant lawyer, showing up with baby food on their suit, and trying to stave off a child’s temperature while facing a court hearing at 9:00 that morning. The conflict of family and professional life has not been lost on legal scholars, including Justice Sandra Day O’Connor who has observed the struggle of balance for women professionals caring for children.

Work-life balance is a struggle for male and female attorneys alike. It is not reserved specifically for women; the intent of this article is not to suggest otherwise. Finding ways to enhance and enrich your personal life and legal career without “giving anything up” is not always easy but it can be done. The IBA recognizes how critical a balanced life is to enjoyment in the profession, and for this reason you will begin to see regular features in our pages on this issue. Our hope is to help tip the work-life balance in your favor.

Success. From Belva Lockwood to the modern-day mom with a law degree, lap top, and a nanny-cam, being a successful attorney and devoted mother is difficult but doable. I dedicate this column to the many attorney-mothers who find a way to make it work every day.


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  1. Lori, you must really love wedding cake stories like this one ... happy enuf ending for you?

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