“Congratulations! The National Trial Lawyers has identified you as one of the top 25 National Women Trial Lawyers in the state of Washington. Membership is by invitation only and is extended to the most qualified attorneys from each state or region, based on objective and uniformly applied criteria.”


The letter arrives along with an order form so I can get a wall plaque ($165.00) or a Lady justice Statue ($240.00) to proudly display in my womanly lawyer office.

Years ago, SuperLawyers – a different but prominent lawyer’s advertising vehicle, identified that it had a problem. It allowed a swath of attorneys in each state to nominate and vote for those considered to be the best in different practice areas. But almost no women ever made the cut. So they created the Top 50 Women SuperLawyers for each state.

Well at least in Washington progress has been made. In 2019 there were 20 females who made SuperLawyers top 100. Considering that in WA the bar is 42% female, this however is not a marvelous state of affairs. So the Top 50 Women’s award remains.

Well, Karen you might ask. You get two awards. 1 for top 100 and 1 for top 50 women. What are you complaining about.

The answer is – don’t want an award for being a female or a minority. Want an award if deserved for meeting the criteria regardless of my status. Don’ want to be a token.

On the one hand, these organizations are trying to change the reality that most of the awards given are to White men. So they create different awards to bypass the biased nomination and voting processes that result in a majority based popularity contest. But this is a lazy approach to a systemic problem.

Instead of creating sub-categories of runner up type awards, the organizations need to do the hard work of revamping their processes and procedures. For example there are lawyers on the top lists who no longer actively practice law full time – White men in their 70s and 80s who were great in their time. But by keeping them on the ”best of the best” lists, that removes one extra spot that could be filled by someone potentially more diverse.

Other fixes could include changing the nomination process. Diversifying the nomination and awards committees. Proactively investigating nominees instead of relying on principles that reward “being in the club” of the majority.

Photo: Mom pushing me on a swing with Debbie confined nearby. I still have the same scowl.