It wasn't that long ago that Jackie Boney's role as the first woman president of Cooper & Walinski was an oddity within the Toledo legal community.
Now the nearly 40-year-old legal firm that broke that glass ceiling is plowing new ground again as women assume majority ownership of the expanding practice.
"It's just something that happened naturally over time," explained Cary Coop-
er, one of the firm's founders. "Dick [Walinski] and I always thought that the most important thing is hiring people smarter than us."
Unlike many law firms, which are set up as partnerships, Cooper & Walinski is organized as a professional corporation, with what would be considered partners instead considered shareholders.
In December, Patty Wise and Renisa Dorner wrapped up their own law firm and joined Cooper & Walinski. Their addition meant women were the majority of the firm's 39 lawyers and the majority of the shareholders.
Ms. Boney was the firm's first woman lawyer when she joined in 1978. She became its president in 1990. "It's something I'm very proud of," Ms. Boney said yesterday. "We've really nurtured a lot of women, given a lot of women opportunities."
She said that although women lawyers certainly weren't rare in Toledo, women litigators in private practice were uncommon.
Margaret Lockhart, the firm's current president, said women were attracted to the firm because it offered "balance" between work and home life as well as a chance to advance.
"There's never been a glass ceiling here," Ms. Lockhart said. Women lawyers were attracted to Cooper & Walinski because "they looked to see where other women were successful."
The American Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession reported in October, 2007, that 30 percent of lawyers are women, but women represent less than 18 percent of law partners nationwide.
The firm has scheduled an open house at 4 p.m. today in its offices at 900 Adams St. to celebrate a new satellite office in Cleveland.
- Larry P. Vellequette