THE HISTORY OF SONOMA COUNTY WOMEN IN LAW

FOR OVER FORTY YEARS, SONOMA COUNTY WOMEN IN LAW HAS BEEN COMMITTED TO PROMOTING THE EDUCATION AND ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN IN ALL ASPECTS OF THE LAW.

STARTING IN THE MID 1970'S, A GROUP OF PREDOMINANTLY FEMALE LAWYERS AND LAW STUDENTS BEGAN TO MEET FOR BROWN-BAG LUNCHES IN THE SONOMA COUNTY LAW LIBRARY. THEY MET TO COMMISERATE AND TO SHARE THEIR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCES WHILE WORKING IN A MALE DOMINATED LEGAL COMMUNITY. THESE LUNCHES WERE FRIENDLY, RELAXED, AND FUN.

TOWARDS THE END OF 1976, THIS INFORMAL GROUP BECAME AN OFFICIAL STANDING COMMITTEE OF THE SONOMA COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION. IT WAS THE CALLED THE "WOMEN AND LAW COMMITTEE." MS. TERRY ANN BLOCH SERVED AS THE GROUP'S FIRST CHAIRPERSON.

FROM ITS INCEPTION, THE "WOMEN AND LAW COMMITTEE" ENRICHED THE LIVES OF WOMEN WITHIN AND OUTSIDE THE LEGAL COMMUNITY. SOON AFTER ITS FORMATION, THE COMMITTEE DRAFTED AN AMENDMENT TO THE SCBA BYLAWS SO THAT LAW STUDENTS, PARALEGALS AND OTHER NON-ATTORNEYS COULD SERVE AS MEMBERS. IT ADVOCATED FOR VARIOUS LOCAL PROGRAMS SUCH AS ATHENA HOUSE AND THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S FAMILY SUPPORT DIVISION. THROUGH ITS ADVOCACY, THE WOMEN IN LAW COMMITTEE DEMONSTRATED ITS DEDICATION TO MAKING A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE IN WOMEN'S LIVES.

THE COMMITTEE ALSO CREATED A LOCAL SUPPORT SYSTEM THAT HAD PREVIOUSLY BEEN ABSENT FOR LOCAL FEMALE LAWYERS AND STUDENTS. IT CREATED A TALENT BANK. A SPEAKER'S BUREAU OF WOMEN ATTORNEYS, AND A LEGAL HANDBOOK FOR SONOMA COUNTY WOMEN. IT CONTINUED THE TRADITION OF MONTHLY LUNCHEONS BUT ADDED KEYNOTE SPEAKERS TO THE AGENDA. IN DOING SO, THE WOMEN IN LAW COMMITTEE CREATED A UNIQUE FORUM FOR LEGAL EDUCATION. SOCIAL RECOURSE AND THE PROMOTION OF A SUPERIOR AND ETHICAL PRACTICE OF LAW FOR ALL MEMBERS OF THE BAR.

BY MAY 1986, THE ORGANIZATION HAD BEEN RENAMED "SONOMA COUNTY WOMEN IN LAW." SCWIL WAS NOW AN INDEPENDENT ORGANIZATION, SEPARATE FROM YET RECOGNIZED BY THE SONOMA COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION. BY THE MID 80'S, SCWIL HAD APPROXIMATELY 50 MEMBERS WHICH INCLUDED ATTORNEYS, PARALEGALS, LEGAL SECRETARIES, PROCESS SERVERS, PRIVATE INVESTIGATORS, COURT REPORTERS, MEDIATORS, AND COUNSELORS.

IN 2001, THE SCWIL SCHOLARSHIP LEGACY WAS BORN. WHILE SERVING AS A BOARD MEMBER, THE HONORABLE GAYLE GUYNUP SUCCESSFULLY MOVED TO CREATE AN ANNUAL SCHOLARSHIP FOR DESERVING LAW STUDENTS. IN ADDITION, JUDGE GUYNUP HAS CONSISTENTLY HOSTED THE ANNUAL SCHOLARSHIP EVENT AT HER HOME. AN EVENT WHICH HAS BECOME A BELOVED SCWIL TRADITION.

THE SCWIL SCHOLARSHIP WAS DESIGNED TO SUPPORT A STUDENT BASED ON HIS OR HER ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT, FINANCIAL NEED, AND DEMONSTRATED COMMITMENT TO INCREASING WOMEN'S INVOLVEMENT IN THE SONOMA COUNTY LEGAL COMMUNITY. ON MAY 12, 2001, CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT JUSTICE JOYCE KENNARD PRESENTED THE FIRST-EVER SCWIL SCHOLARSHIP TO A LOCAL LAW STUDENT.

IN 2008, SCWIL ESTABLISHED THE HONORABLE GAYLE GUYNUP SCHOLARSHIP ENDOWMENT IN ORDER TO ENSURE THE SCHOLARSHIP'S PERMANENCE, SCWIL'S MISSION, HOWEVER, REMAINED THE SAME: TO ENCOURAGE PROFESSIONAL AND ETHICAL EXCELLENCE AND TO FURTHER THE LEGAL CAREERS OF SONOMA COUNTY RESIDENTS. THE ENDOWMENT WAS FUNDED THROUGH THE GENEROUS SUPPORT OF TEN PROMINENT LOCAL LAW FIRMS. THESE GENEROUS DONORS ARE NOW REFERRED TO AS "THE FOUNDER CIRCLE."

THE HONORABLE GAYLE GUYNUP SCHOLARSHIP ENDOWMENT HAS CONTINUED TO PROVIDE FINANCIAL AND SCHOLASTIC SUPPORT TO BOTH FEMALE AND MALE LAW STUDENTS IN THE ENSUING YEARS. ITS RECIPIENTS HAVE GONE ON TO BECOME CIVIL PRACTITIONERS, PROSECUTORS, DEFENSE ATTORNEYS, AND HEADS OF NON-PROFIT LEGAL ORGANIZATIONS.

THROUGHOUT THE YEARS, SCWIL HAS CONTINUED ITS EFFORTS TO RECOGNIZE THOSE WHO CONTRIBUTE TO THE LEGAL COMMUNITY. FOR EXAMPLE, SCWIL PARTICIPATES IN THE ANNUAL COURT STAFF APPRECIATION BREAKFAST AS WELL AS HOSTS ITS ANNUAL FEMALE JUDICIAL OFFICERS' LUNCHEON, WHICH HONORS OUR HARDWORKING FEMALE JUDGES AND COMMISSIONERS. IN ADDITION, SCWIL CONTINUES TO HOST MONTHLY LUNCHEONS WITH NOTABLE SPEAKERS WHO SHARE SOCIALLY AND LEGALLY RELEVANT INFORMATION. SUCH SPEAKERS INCLUDE POLITICAL ACTIVISTS, HISTORIANS, ELECTED OFFICIALS AND PROFESSIONALS TRAINED TO ASSIST THOSE JUGGLING THE CONFLICTING DEMANDS OF CAREER, HOME, AND FAMILY.

SONOMA COUNTY WOMEN IN LAW LOOKS FORWARD TO CONTINUING ITS MISSION OF PROMOTING AND STRENGTHENING THE EDUCATION AND ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN IN ALL ASPECTS OF THE LAW IN THE YEARS TO COME.