I attended law school in the 70’s with a new wave of female classmates when women were just beginning to pursue careers other than nursing or education. There were a few women who blazed a trail before us, like the late Chief Justice Kay McFarland. Seeing a woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Kansas inspired me and many of my peers. We felt could be whatever we wanted to be. With my class and after, women were applying and being accepted to law school in significant numbers.
After graduating top five in my class at law school, I had two job offers and took the offer to work as a Research Attorney at the Kansas Court of Appeals. At the end of that term, I was pregnant with my first child and had to figure out how to handle children and a career. My husband, Joe, had recently started the law firm Patton and Patton where I began to work. I took my daughter, Michelle, to work with me for the first six months. About the time she started crawling around the office, I decided it was time to stay at home to care for her. I proceeded to have three more children in the next few years, but I continued to help with the office accounting for the new law firm.
I returned to work as a lawyer after my youngest was in school. The work life balance was always a struggle, but I did my best and had to lower my expectations of having a house that looked like something on TV. The law practice gave me a lot of flexibility with time so that I could attend school activities and be there for my children. My husband was very supportive of my choices both to work and leave work when I felt I needed to for our family.
I was in a mostly male environment in my law practice, and almost all of my colleagues and judges in the Workers Compensation arena were male. There were times when I did feel some discriminatory attitudes, but the majority of my colleagues, clients and judges were respectful and took my representation of clients seriously. I found that when I treated the opposing counsel with respect, they would do the same. I was part of the Women’s Attorney Association, which provided some valued camaraderie with other women in the profession. I was also fortunate to have some unique opportunities in the middle of my legal career to change things up and be the Chief Administrator at Cair-Paravel Latin School for four years and serve as Executive Director of Topeka City of Character for two years after which I returned to the practice of law at Patton and Patton. Nowadays, I feel blessed to have lots of female colleagues in the practice and appear before many excellent female Judges. I am at home with my role as a mother, grandmother and professional, and I’m looking forward to retirement at the end of the year so I can spend more time with family, friends and to serve my community.