Sherry Broder


Broder Ramifications

February 1992

Mandatory unification has changed the face of the Hawaii State Bar Association, given it new regulatory teeth, hastened the dissolution of its old-guard network and, for the first time in its 92-year history, produced a woman president-elect in Sherry Broder .

On a Friday afternoon in July 1990, 65 lawyers took their seats in a ballroom at the Turtle Bay Hilton.

All members of the just-unified Hawaii State Bar Association, they were meeting to forge goals and a mission statement for the 92-year-old legal organization. Every participant was aware that a state Supreme Court edict had for all practical purposes thrust unification on a cozy voluntary group, making membership mandatory for anyone licensed to practice law in Hawaii.

That explained the wary, suspicious mood that permeated the ballroom. "When the moderator asked, 'What do you think about the bar?' everybody came out with deregatory comments: We're elitist, dominated by males, kind of old-fashioned, and many people just got elected for their resumes," recalls Coralie Chun Matayoshi, then in her fourth month as the bar association's executive director. "It wasn't as bad as that, but that was the general perception--even among our own."

Consolidated had crept up on a cliquish group dominated by establishment males from Honolulu's larger private law firms, its leaders hamstrung when it came to taking decisive actions or stances because unhappy members were apt to quit. With more women entering the legal profession, the organization's ranks of female officers and directors had grown through the 1980s, but the same couldn't be said for government, neighbor island or solo attorneys.

The Supreme Court rule that took effect November 1, 1989 would force change. Membership rose by 40 percent, to nearly 4,000 active Hawaii lawyers, and in a special mid-term election called by the high court the following spring, the unified bar voted in a board of directors comprising people from the formerly disenfranchised groups.

The democratization of the Hawaii State Bar Association has been reflected in its choice of presidents since unification. The first was Paul Alston, a former Legal Aid Society lawyer who heads a medium-size firm with a reputation for pro bono work. The second is 40-year-old Larry Gilbert, a small-firm practitioner who took office last month as the youngest president of the Hawaii bar. Come next January, the third will be Sherry Broder, 43, whose recent election as vice president and president-elect signals another series of firsts for the office: first solo practitioner, first woman, first mother.

Turning Point

Bar association leaders peg unification as the turning point in their recent history for reasons that go beyond the breakdown of the old networks. More pressing from the Supreme Court's point of view were its own burdens as the admissions, licensing, disciplinary and regulatory authority for a profession marked by growing numbers of lawyers and lawsuits. Unification, the court told bar members in a memo in late 1989, would "give lawyers a voice in the regulation of their profession, and establish a single, umbrella organization to supervise and coordinate the increasing number of regulatory programs relating to attorneys."

The ensuing shift of responsibilities empowered the bar association with new oversight and management clout. For the first time it had input into Supreme Court rule changes, and began administering, approving budgets, and nominating people for the industry's Disciplinary Counsel, Clients' Security Fund (which compensates consumers victimized by dishonest lawyers), and a substance abuse program for judges and attorneys.

While the concept mirrored by some of the programs--collective responsibility for the mistakes of a minority--has been for some lawyers hard to swallow, the fact that none can quit the body has emboldened its leaders to end years of waffling on at least one other important issue. "Within a matter of seven months we were able to resolve the debate about whether the bar should adopt mandatory public service requirements," says Alston. "We decided in favor of a voluntary program, and more importantly, we decided to back that commitment with money to hire a coordinator. Without unification, I'm convinced we'd still be talking--what should we do, who will we offend, who'll quit the bar?"

Money to back all its new commitments has tripled the bar association's budget from $300,000 in 1989 to a projected $950,000 this year. To the chagrin of some members, much of that has come from increased dues and fees, but a third is from non-dues sources that didn't exist two years ago. It sells advertising in and desktop-publishes the Hawaii Bar News, a monthly magazine; sells its mailing list to legal firms and businesses hawking law-related services; and rents out its penthouse conference room in Union Plaza, among other initiatives. Gilbert, the new president, likes to boast that the bar association has gone from one of the worst ratios of dues to non-dues revenues in the country to one of the best.

But even this new entrepreneurial bent has not deflected persistent grousing about the heftier bill to fund the new role. Before unification, a Hawaii attorney in practice five years or more would have paid $340 in four assessments spaced throughout the year; today that bill, compiled and collected at year-end, is $430--reportedly the second highest among bar associations nationwide. "The result has been a lot of resentment by some rank-and-file members whose dues have gone up, but without a corresponding increase in their benefits," notes Gilbert. "Sure, they benefit indirectly by having a better disciplinary system that removes bad lawyers more promptly, for example. But nobody can sit at their desk in the morning and say, 'Well gee, this is really helping me out.'"

the survey says

According to an HSBA-commissioned survey, women attorneys in Hawaii are less likely to be partners or supervisors ...


Current Position Respondents Men Women

Partner/Supervisor 44.8 48.0 33.7

Assoc./Staff Atty. 35.6 32.1 46.2

Of Counsel 1.7 1.9 1.0

Other 18.0 17.9 19.1

... and more likely to earn less than their male counterparts.


Income Respondents Men Women

$24,999 8.2 5.0 15.7

25-39,999 10.7 8.6 18.2

40-54,999 23.8 21.4 30.9

55-74,999 20.3 21.2 17.6

75-99,999 12.1 13.3 9.1

100-149,999 8.7 10.1 3.8

150-174,000 4.8 6.0 1.4

175-199,999 2.6 3.2 1.0

200,000+ 8.2 10.0 1.0

Mean $84,125 $92,762 $54,185

Median $63,926 $65,000 $47,500

Reprinted with permission from the Hawaii Bar News, June 1991.

Copyright Hawaii State Bar Association.

These concerns elicit little sympathy from Alston. "My view when we started the process was real simple: The court gave us some responsibilities, and we were going to do those things right. We weren't ever going to come to a point where we can't do the job because we don't have the money,'" he says. "I'm not very sympathetic to the notion that lawyers, who by and large make good incomes, can't expend $10, $20, $100 to see that the profession is well-managed."

Alston's unusual 18-month tenure was marked by a platform of service to the public--primarily through encouraging attorneys to donate legal services to the poor--as opposed to service to members. Gilbert wants to emphasize the latter and has already begun feeling out insurance carriers about funding a specialist on malpractice coverage for lawyers, for instance, while other officers look into making appellate court opinions available to attorneys through computer hook-ups. Broder, who has gained national repute for litigating public interest cases like the class-action heptachlor suit of the early 1980s and a 1986 suit representing 10,000 victims of Ferdinand Marcos's regime in the Philippines, has indicated she will take up Alston's emphasis on serving the public.

Unequal Jusitce

Within Hawaii, Broder's name is identified almost as often with gender-equality issues. In 1981 she was a founding member of Hawaii Women Lawyers, a now 500-person organization that works to elevate women attorneys to power-wielding positions such as partners in law firms, judges on state and federal courts, and directors on the boards of large companies and non-profit organizations.

Her election to the presidency of the bar association, where she had been treasurer and a director, came about with the vigorous help of members of Hawaii Women Lawyers (a part of the Hawaii Women's Legal Foundation), among other groups, and was taken in some quarters as a significant victory for her gender. Nor was it lost on bar members that Gilbert alone among the four current officers is a man, or that roughly half the 15-member board of directors this year is female.

But that's only the bar association. "In 1992, we still have no women judges on the federal court, no women judges on the appellate court, and only two women judges statewide at the trial court level," says Broder. "There still aren't that many women in partnership positions at law firms, and even when there are, few make it to the executive committee where major policy decisions are made. And we don't see any women attorneys being appointed to boards of major corporations. We've made some progress, but only at the lower levels."

Broder's concerns were bolstered last summer by the release of a statewide survey that represented the bar association's first official study of itself (see charts, page 22). Not surprisingly, it showed that women lawyers--who make up 24 percent of the Hawaii bar--are less likely to be partners or supervisors, even compared with men of similar age and experience; and more likely to work in government or non-law positions, where the hours are typically shorter and paychecks smaller than at private firms. These demographics translate into average annual salaries of $54,185 for women lawyers versus $92,762 for men, ostensibly but not entirely because women are generally younger, less experienced and often forced to choose between putting in longer hours and raising children. Put another way, that means in Hawaii's legal world, women earn 58 cents on the male dollar.

Other findings spoke to broader constituencies: Island lawyers work longer hours than their mainland counterparts, make less money, and are unhappier about lack of private and family time. Broder prefers to direct her pronouncements as president-elect to these concerns, and speaks generally of representing judges' and attorneys' interests well enough that, amid the new attention to community and family priorities taking root in the profession, bar members can find a decent balance between career and family life.

Broder's status as a mother of three tends to add weight to this promise, especially among other attorney-mothers expected to work late and ring up billable hours. "I think the reason a lot of women campaigned for her was because she represents feminist issues," notes Carol Mon Lee, a close associate and a former president of Hawaii Women Lawyers. "But she doesn't want to be seen as a one-issue person, or everything she does will be colored by that. She has to represent all members of the bar on all their issues."

Broder is sensitive to the perception, and to media coverage that has accentuated her status as the bar association's first female president-elect while the significance of Alston's and Gilbert's elections have been relatively ignored. "I'm very proud to have been elected, and I know that a lot of other women lawyers also take pride in it and see it as a great achievement," she says. "But one of my main goals is to be bar president for everyone."

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