Last month, attorney Paulette Brown became the first black woman elected to lead the American Bar Association. The American Bar Association has 400,000 members, and did not allow black people to join until 1943. Brown is a partner at Edwards Wildman Palmer, LLP, in Boston, and will take her position as head of the ABA next summer.
She studied political science at Howard University in Washington and earned a full scholarship to law school at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. She began her career doing health and pension plan work at a steel company in Wayne, N.J., then served as in-house counsel for Prudential Insurance Co. of America and other Fortune 500 companies.
Later, she opened her own firm, focusing on employment, civil rights, and product liability law, and served as a municipal court judge. She joined Edwards Wildman as a partner in 2005.
Along the way, she successfully defended companies in discrimination cases involving sexual harassment, age, race, and wage and hour claims, while working to make her profession more diverse. In 2006, Brown helped the bar association produce a study showing that a growing number of minority women were leaving the country’s biggest law firms. Women of color make up less than 2 percent of partners nationwide; at Edwards Wildman, it is 1 percent.
In 2008, Brown was named one of the National Law Journal’s “50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America.”
Brown, who specializes in labor and employment law, is the firm’s chief diversity officer. She travels around the world to Edwards Wildman’s 16 offices to conduct trainings.
When she isn’t busy with her legal tasks, Brown monitors elections in low-income communities to ensure that they are conducted fairly.
Congratulations to Ms. Brown on her historic election.
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