Of the 50 largest law firms in Los Angeles, only six have had women managing partners. Now there's a seventh: Pamela Kohlman Webster, the new president of downtown L.A.-based Buchalter, Nemer, Fields & Younger.
Even in her own firm, Webster is something of a minority. Less than one-fourth of the firm's 91 attorneys and only five of the firm's 33 partners are women.
But being a woman in what remains a man's world hasn't slowed Webster's career path. Even maternity leave didn't delay her promotion to partner. In fact, the only difficulties she has encountered have come from outside the firm.
"I have had some problems with the legal community, especially with a few federal judges," says Webster. But she says her own firm has been supportive.
Webster joined Buchalter in 1981 as a summer associate while attending law school at U.C. Davis. Upon graduation, she joined the firm full-time. In 1990, she was named partner. Five years later, she joined the board after her colleagues urged her to take a larger role.
"In a way, I've been groomed for this position for a long time," Webster says of her appointment to managing partner.
Webster, 42, says she is "a good selection to bridge all the generations of partners. I have a foot in both camps. I'm close to the senior partners as well as the young partners."
Webster's specialty is bankruptcy, and she is an editor of the California Bankruptcy Journal and a member of the International Women's Insolvency and Restructuring Confederation.
As president of the firm, Webster intends to "spend time with the real estate lawyers and the labor lawyers and figure out how we're going to grow the practice. I think they want people to help them focus their energies, and I think I'm good at that."
She's also good at focusing her own energies. Webster will continue practicing during her term as president. And as the mother of two girls, Webster must juggle responsibilities at work and at home.
"You just put your head down and just do it," she says. "If it means I don't get to the gym that week, then so be it."
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