CHARLESTON — A relatively new organization created to promote the welfare, interests and professional development of women attorneys in West Virginia held its first conference in June.
The inaugural conference for West Virginia Women Attorneys (WVWA) was held June 9 at the West Virginia University College of Law. The conference provided participants with five hours of continuing education credits.
Sandy Henson Kinney, president of WVWA said they began as an informal networking group in September 2016 and had their first formation meeting in spring 2017.
Sandy Henson Kinney | provided photo
"We had a formation committee come together to create a formal organization because there hadn’t ever really been a statewide women’s bar association," Kinney said in an interview with The West Virginia Record. "They had tried to start one in the 1970s, but due to the demands of work and family, it was difficult for people to get it off the ground."
This time around, the women involved were able to stick with it and in August 2017, Kinney filed their articles of incorporation as a non-profit.
"Once we formed, we had a board and I sought out the National Conference of Women’s Bar Association," Kinney said. "Basically, the way the associations work is there are local events put on, but all of them have a statewide conference each year where the new board is typically installed."
Kinney said they weren't ready to install a new board because their formation board was set for two years to have some continuity as they got things off the ground.
"We had a conference planning committee," Kinney said. "We had a number of teleconferences where we discussed what we thought would be interesting and useful to women lawyers or any lawyer who wanted to come in the state."
At the inaugural conference, which was an all-day event, there were several panel discussions, as well as an update on the law, a presentation by Kim Mauer of Frost Brown Todd and a discussion on lawyer well-being in West Virginia.
Two notable speakers were West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Beth Walker and Kanawha Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit. There were also attorneys from Spilman Thomas & Battle, Steptoe & Johnson, Dinsmore & Shohl, Legal Aid of West Virginia, Public Defender Services and Jackson Kelly.
At the end of the day, there was a "Helpy Hour" where attorneys helped clients of Bartlett House by assembling hygiene bags.
As a new organization, Kinney said they are still trying to get a foothold and build up membership.
"One thing we learned at the conference was that a lot of people didn’t understand that we were an organization with a membership application and membership dues," Kinney said. "They thought we were just a Facebook group. We’re attempting to build our membership and get more people involved we will be able to plan more events."
Kinney said as they grown, they would like to do two big events each year and several smaller local events across the state the get more people involved.
"In Charleston we’ve been very successful and consistent in having a lunch on the first Thursday of each month," Kinney said. "We typically have 20 to 25 people come to the lunch. Other areas we haven’t had as much success to get our members together."
Kinney said they are currently looking for regional delegates for Beckley, Huntington and Parkersburg.
"I would really encourage anyone who is at all curious to get in touch with us," Kinney said. "It’s a great opportunity to network and make connections and a great way to get some mentoring where you might not otherwise find it. We can share our experiences and support each other."