Celebrating Women’s History Month… Q&A With Jw’s Co-Founder And Executive Vice President Of Business Development, Rosemarie Drohan
Judicate West

As we close out our celebration of Women’s History Month, we asked Judicate West’s own Rosemarie Drohan, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of Business Development, to reflect on the role of women in business, in the legal profession, and in alternative dispute resolution. Here’s some of what she shared…

You’ve been with Judicate West since the beginning. As we celebrate our 30th anniversary, what changes have you seen in the prevalence of women in the legal industry – and particularly in alternative dispute resolution?   

When I first started my career in the business of law, the profession was heavily male-dominated. We still have room to grow, but it’s getting a lot better, especially in the last 10 years. Our first woman neutral, the Hon. Roberta Ralph, joined us in 1993. She was credited with co-founding the California Women Lawyers Association. Later, in 1996, the Hon. Arleigh Woods came on board. She had been the first Black woman in the United States to hold the position of senior partner in a major law firm and went on to become the first Black woman to be appointed to the California Second Appellate District Court of Appeal, where she served as presiding justice during her tenure before joining JW. Women like these two trailblazers paved the way for so many professionals in law. Now, women make up about a third of our neutral roster. As more women come up through their careers and serve as judges, the pool of available neutrals will continue to grow and, by extension, ADR providers will continue to evolve to better reflect our communities.

Is there a woman from history who inspires you?

From a young age, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and I focused on the business of law relatively early in life. While taking business classes in college, all of the case studies and books we read were written by or about male executives. There simply weren’t many visible women role models. At the time, I remember reading Mary Kay Ash’s You Can Have it All. I did a report on her. While I wasn’t interested in the makeup aspect of her business, the book had a big impact on my thinking at the time. She inspired me to understand that you don’t have to sacrifice family to have a fulfilling career and financial stability, or vice versa. It gave me the confidence to design my own career path and to follow my heart, knowing that it’s okay to emphasize the importance of personal relationships in business. That has had a profound impact on how I approach life and Judicate West’s core values.

Now, I’m inspired to see the many women, from all kinds of industries, who live their passions and grow their businesses. Today’s young women have many more examples of female entrepreneurs to inspire them.

Why is it important to you to celebrate the achievements of women?

It helps us get where we want to go, when we can acknowledge where we have been. The stories of those who came before us remind us that, even when things get hard, you should never give up on your dreams.

In what ways do you and Judicate West support women in the legal profession?

As a company, we actively seek neutrals who reflect the communities we serve. This year, we are launching an annual diversity scholarship to support building a pipeline of future neutrals who are women and/or minorities. We see this as an important step to providing career opportunities to those in underrepresented communities and providing clients more options and better access to justice.

About 90% of Judicate West’s professional staff, including case managers and research attorneys, are women. We celebrate each person’s strengths and contributions to the entire team. It’s a big part of our culture.

As a board member on the Judicate West Foundation, which has the mission of enhancing access to justice for all, I am extremely proud of the grants we have given to fund the legal representation of women in prison who have been subject to sexual harassment and assault. I’ve also previously been involved with organizations, such as the Beverley Hills Bar Association’s Committee on Empowering Women, and various charitable activities, like Working Wardrobes.

Currently sitting on the board of Public Counsel, I am excited about the organization’s “Audrey Irmas Project for Women and Girls’ Rights,” which works at the intersection of gender, race, disability, and socioeconomic status to advance worker justice and education equity through a combination of direct legal services, policy advocacy, impact litigation, and community education.

For many years we have supported women in the legal industry, often through bar organizations, such as California Women Lawyers. Probably a decade ago, we held a luncheon during a legal industry conference to celebrate the selection of the first woman to be a presiding judge in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Judge Leigh Edmund. The event filled such a need among women lawyers that attendees encouraged us to host another women’s lunch – starting an annual tradition.

There is still a lot of work to be done, but there are some amazing organizations that are doing really good things in the community.  

What would you want future generations of women to remember when reflecting on today’s women in law?

Hopefully, they will see and appreciate everything that those who came before did to help smooth the way for their success. I know I do. We’re on a continuing path, so it would be wonderful if they continue the tradition of lifting each other up through support, allyship, and mentorship.