The BCWB supports the efforts of all women to advance within the profession, and strives to recognize the achievements of our members in improving the status of women in the profession and in the community. The BCWB is governed by a board of directors and officers elected from the general membership. The officers and directors assemble monthly for board meetings. The general membership meets many times throughout the year for social, educational, and professional programs, which often relate to the roles of women in the legal profession. These programs include monthly luncheons, usually with MCLE speakers, for which members receive a discounted admission, family-friendly events such as a night at the San Antonio Missions or an afternoon movie, health and wellness events such as fun runs, and BCWB-oriented events such as our annual president’s party and mentor-mentee happy hour. The December monthly luncheon is our annual holiday and end-of-the year celebration, at which the BCWB distributes the proceeds of our annual fundraiser, Autumn Affair, to charitable organizations and programs benefitting our community.
The BCWB’s current activities include mentoring members of the St. Mary’s University School of Law’s Women’s Law Association, sponsorship of one night at the Community Justice Program’s pro bono divorce clinic, an annual CLE Retreat, community service projects with the Young Women’s Leadership Academy, and an annual swearing in ceremony for new bar passers.
Members also receive a monthly electronic copy of our newsletter, the Equal Times, access to the electronic Membership Directory, email announcements of upcoming events and activities of interest, access (subject to availability) to discounted tickets to legal community functions (e.g. Peacemakers Gala, SABA Installation Dinner, SABA Law Day Luncheon), and a profile on the BCWB Membership Website.
The Bexar County Women’s Bar Association was conceived in 1982 and founded the following year with a mission to bring together women attorneys, legal assistants, and law students in Bexar County and to provide a local forum for the exchange of ideas about women in the legal profession. The first organizational efforts were prompted by the desire to have a woman appointed to an open judicial seat in Bexar County and a goal of placing more women in leadership positions in the San Antonio Bar Association. Approximately seventy people attended the original informational social in 1983. The initial membership roster listed 74 women and 3 men. Today, the BCWB has more than 275 members, including judges, legal assistants, friends, honorary members, and students. The current size of the BCWB evidences the continued role for an organization to encourage women in the legal profession.
The first edition of the BCWB’s monthly newsletter, now called the Equal Times, was issued in 1984 and the following year, the BCWB began publishing its annual membership directory. BCWB has implemented several important projects during its history, many of which continue to today. In 1984, a BCWB committee designed a child-support formula that was accepted by the Bexar County District Judges. It became the model for the child-support formula eventually set by the Texas Supreme Court for the entire state of Texas. That same year, the BCWB began hosting its annual Bench Brunch, which was founded in an effort to keep the Women’s Law Center from closing. That first Bench Brunch raised $5,000 and met its goal. The event came to promote women in the judicial and legal fields and raise money for those most in need in our community. At the time of the first Bench Brunch, there were only 32 women judges in the entire state. By 2000, there were approximately 335 women judges. That number is now over 1,000. In 1985, the BCWB began honoring local women attorneys at Bench Brunch with the annual Belva Lockwood Award, named after the first women allowed to practice before the United States Supreme Court. In 1988, the Bexar County Women’s Bar Foundation was formed and began overseeing Bench Brunch. The successor to Bench Bunch, Autumn Affair, continues to raise funds for programs benefitting women and children.
In 1990, the BCWB welcomed the opening of the Teddy Bear Room in the Bexar County Justice Center, a special waiting room for children (trial witnesses and others) in the District Attorney’s Office. The BCWB sponsored the project after then Judge Susan Reed and then state Senator Cyndi Taylor Krier told the membership about a similar project in California. The BCWB also successfully lobbied in 1990 for amendments to the San Antonio Bar Association bylaws, allowing presidents of all the local minority bar associations to serve as non-voting members of the SABA board. Similar success was achieved in obtaining minority representation on the Texas Young Lawyers Association board.
Starting in 1993, the BCWB hosted an annual Judicial Recognition Reception to honor student mentees and the BCWB’s judicial advisory committee. One of the BCWB’s original goals was achieved in 1994, when five women were nominated for four director positions in the San Antonio Bar Association.
In the years that followed, the BCWB continued its contributions to the community through such projects as the Elder Law Handbook, a day-long training program on representing battered immigrant women, a regular Wills Clinic, and the Working Parents’ Summer Guide.
BCWB’s success has been recognized many times over the years. For example, in 1991, 1993, and 2003, BCWB received the State Bar of Texas Achievement Award. The State Bar presented the BCWB with the Stars of Texas Bars Award in 1995, 2001, and 2015. BCWB won the State Bar of Texas Pro Bono Award in 2002.
The BCWB’s records are part of the permanent archives of UTSA’s Center for the Study of Women and Gender.
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