Rose F. DiMartino '81 (third from right) with Dean Michael A. Simons and St. John's Law students and alumnae at Celebrating Women, a Women's Law Society special event she hosted in 2018
When Rose F. DiMartino ‘81 graduated from St. John’s Law and started at Willkie Farr & Gallagher 40 years ago, there was just one female partner at the prestigious New York City law firm. And there were no onsite programs to support women attorneys. So DiMartino found camaraderie and community through a social group called “Women of Willkie” that met regularly off site.
“It was great to be around other women trying to make it at the firm,” says DiMartino, who retired recently as a partner at Willkie, having built a successful asset management practice there over 37 years. “But it was still a lonely path. I could have used a forum to learn from others about things like the importance of getting credit for my contributions and how to understand the culture of the firm and make it work for me.”
With this insight into the unique challenges that women face in their legal careers, DiMartino was happy to help when Dean Michael A. Simons and Associate Dean for Law School Advancement Brian J. Woods came to her with the idea of forming an Alumnae Leadership Council at St. John’s Law. “They were looking for a person to take the idea forward,” she recalls. “I had strong views on the headwinds I and many women face in law and was willing, with the Law School’s support, to work with other alumnae to build a supportive community. Brian was instrumental in identifying a group of women who might be interested in being a part of this initiative and we were up and running.”
To frame out the Council’s agenda, the alumnae teamed with the Law School’s student-run Women’s Law Society. “I was so impressed with what the students had been doing and thought that this new initiative could be helpful to them in their transition to practice after graduation and beyond,” DiMartino says. After surveys and discussions revealed that students and alumnae alike were seeking mentors, the Council prioritized that support by creating its Mentoring Circles program.
Like all aspects of the Council’s rollout, designing Mentoring Circles as a series of six sessions for up to 60 mentees and 18 mentors was a collaborative effort. Alumnae taking the lead included Elisa Garcia ‘85, Macy’s chief legal officer, Andrea Alonso ‘81, managing partner at Morris Duffy Alonso & Faley, and Danielle D’Aquilla ’12, partner at Brown Rudnick. 3Ls Willow Stowe and Sam Gagnon, president and vice-president of the Women’s Law Society, respectively, marshaled student input.
With participants set to meet online starting in April, the Mentoring Circles will cover a range of topics, including:
For Stowe, collaborating on this initiative over the past year has been a formative experience. “The Council has been an invaluable resource, providing advice while listening and internalizing student opinions and perspectives.,” she says. “The Mentorship Circles will provide an amazing opportunity for members of the Women’s Law Society and other students—who are often nervous about entering the legal field and unaware of what they don’t know—to ask questions and form lasting mentorship relationships. I’m excited to participate myself as we create this community of powerful St. John’s Law women.”
As she looks forward to the group’s inaugural program, DiMartino sees an expansive future for the Alumnae Leadership Council in partnership with the Women’s Law Society, other student groups at the Law School—many of which are women-led—faculty, administrators, and St. John’s Law Alumni Association chapters.
“Our goal is, over time, to develop a vibrant network of young alumnae, mid-career alumnae, and senior professionals who connect with each other and with current students, sharing their multi-varied and prodigious talents and skills,” DiMartino says, noting that today’s law school classes are about 50 percent female. “As the Council offers support, education, and community, alumnae and students will build on their great St. John’s Law education and help one another grow into the leaders they are capable of becoming.”
To learn more about the Alumnae Leadership Council and opportunities to participate in, and support, its work, please contact Kala Andrews Giddish at [email protected].