Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts
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Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts
Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts
WOMEN’S BAR ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES LELIA J. ROBINSON AWARD RECIPIENTS AND EMERGING WOMEN LEADERS IN THE LAW HONOREES
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
BOSTON, MA– July 7, 2021 – The Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts (WBA) proudly announces its 2021 Lelia J. Robinson Award recipients and its Emerging Women Leaders in the Law Honorees.
The Honorable Nonnie S. Burnes (Ret.)
Christine Hughes and Caryn R. Mitchell-Munevar
The Lelia J. Robinson Award honors women attorneys who have captured the spirit of Lelia J. Robinson, the first woman admitted to practice in Massachusetts. The award recognizes women who, like Robinson, are pioneers in the legal profession and who have made a difference in the community. In 2021, the WBA is proud to recognize three women who have both excelled in their fields and committed their careers to serving the public: the Honorable Nonnie S. Burnes (Ret.), Attorney Christine Hughes and Professor Caryn R. Mitchell-Munevar. Judge Burnes, Attorney Hughes and Professor Mitchell-Munevar will be honored at the WBA’s annual Gala on October 25, 2021 at Artists For Humanity in Boston. The Gala, the WBA’s largest event of the year, is attended by hundreds of attorneys, judges, legislators, and business professionals.
“We are thrilled to honor Judge Burnes, Christine Hughes and Professor Caryn R. Mitchell-Munevar as this year’s Leila J. Robinson award winners,” said WBA President Heather Gamache. “All three awardees exemplify the spirit of this award – they are skilled trailblazers and dedicated public servants who have worked to make people’s lives better. Each is an amazing role model for women seeking to join and participate in the legal profession. We look forward to celebrating and publicly thanking them for their work.”
JUDGE NONNIE S. BURNES (RET.)
Judge Burnes has been a leader in the Massachusetts legal community advancing and improving the conditions for women in the Commonwealth and for women attorneys for many decades. She began her legal career in private practice and became the first woman promoted to litigation partner and the first woman to serve on the Management Committee at Hill & Barlow. After only 18 years in practice, she was appointed as Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court in 1996. In that role, she chaired the Gender Equality Advisory Board and provided invaluable guidance and support to female litigators who appeared before her. Judge Burnes continued her public service after leaving the bench and served as the Massachusetts Commissioner of Insurance from 2007 to 2009. Since 2009, Judge Burnes has continued to support women and issues important to women, including as a Northeastern University Senior University Fellow, as Chair of the Board of Directors, interim President, and CEO of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, as a board member of the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, the Massachusetts Law Review Institute and the Center for Law and Education, and as Commissioner of Massachusetts Ethics Commission and Massachusetts State Advisory Committee for the United States Civil Rights Commission.
As the recently retired General Counsel at Emerson College, Christine Hughes is a leader among higher education attorneys, and she exemplifies professional excellence. She has achieved high-ranking and important positions in her career with unmatched integrity. She was in an early co-ed class at Dartmouth College when women co-eds were not welcomed by their male classmates. She began her legal career in the real estate department of Goodwin Proctor in the late 1970s, both a male-dominated practice area and industry. She became a junior partner at WilmerHale in 1983 and started in her first in-house role as University Attorney at Harvard University. She then served as General Counsel to the University of Washington system from 1993-2001 and General Counsel at the New England Legal Foundation from 2001-2004. In 2004, she became General Counsel at Emerson College until 2020. Most notably, Christine has consistently influenced other women to pursue legal careers in-house, championing, and opening doors for women she hired as in-house attorneys and as external counsel. She used her role as in-house counsel to seek out women associates at law firms, valuing their opinions, and asking them to play critical roles in cases. For example, she encouraged and sent business to a woman of color and external counsel to Emerson. In another example, she advocated for a female senior associate to argue an important and high-profile motion for Emerson in Federal Court.
PROFESSOR CARYN R. MITCHELL-MUNEVAR
Professor Caryn Mitchell-Munevar has achieved professional excellence as a family law litigator and as a law professor. Practicing law since 1998, Professor Mitchell-Munevar currently teaches in NESL’s clinical program and is the Co-Director of NESL’s Charles Hamilton House Enrichment Program (“CHHEP”). She has influenced numerous other women – particularly other women of color – to pursue legal careers through thoughtful and deliberative informal mentoring and in numerous formal mentoring programs. Professor Mitchell-Munevar has advanced opportunities for women, in academics, in the classroom and in the courts. She has also performed exemplary public service on behalf of women, including pro bono legal services for survivors of sexual and domestic violence and their children. Prior joining NESL’s faculty in 2003, Caryn Mitchell-Munevar was an attorney in the Family Law Unit of Greater Boston Legal Services. For many years, Professor Mitchell-Munevar has worked with the Volunteer Lawyers Project, taking pro bono cases, participating in its Elder Law Project, its Guardianship Clinic, and serving as a mentor for other volunteer attorneys. She is quoted as saying, “Being a lawyer is a privilege, and with that privilege comes responsibility. We owe it to marginalized communities and indigent individuals to ensure that the justice system works for them. I don’t do this work for recognition; I do it because I always wanted to represent individuals and families who are similar to the community that I grew up in.”
Emerging Women Leaders in the Law Honorees
The WBA’s Emerging Women Leaders in the Law Award honors women attorneys who have demonstrated professional excellence or had a significant professional achievement in approximately their first 12 years in the legal profession, and either promote the status of women in the legal profession or contribute meaningfully to the equal participation of women in a just society. The 2021 awardees will be celebrated and honored at the WBA’s annual Gala on October 25, 2021. They are:
“This year’s group of Emerging Women Leaders is exceptional in their talent and their accomplishments thus far in their careers,” said President Gamache.
About the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts
Founded in 1978 by a group of activist women lawyers, the Women’s Bar Association (“WBA”) boasts a large membership of women lawyers across Massachusetts. The WBA is committed to the full and equal participation of women in the legal profession and in a just society. The WBA works to achieve this mission through the work of its committees, events, and the development and promotion of a robust legislative agenda to address society’s most critical social and legal issues. Other WBA activities include networking and professional development, amicus advocacy, studying employment issues affecting women, encouraging women to enter the judiciary, recognizing the achievement of women in the law, and providing pro bono services to women in need through its sister organization, the Women’s Bar Foundation. For more information, visit www.womensbar.org.
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