Incoming WLALA President’s Message: Mary McKelvey

Twenty years ago, I walked into a large hotel ballroom room filled with women lawyers and judges and had an experience that forever changed the trajectory of my life. At the time I was a first-year law student in my late thirties attending the annual dinner as a guest of a friend who had previously been president of the organization. The energy in the room that night was palpable. The raw power that exuded from these confident, elegant, and educated women was exhilarating—I had never before been in the presence of so many influential women. After that night, I could not stop thinking about the things these women spoke about and the unapologetic and assured way they owned the space they occupied.

I am also compelled to share that I felt utterly and completely out of my league—an imposter of the highest order. A couple decades earlier, I’d left high school and home at barely 16 years old as a pregnant teenager and worked for years as a waitress and bartender before going back to school. Words cannot quite convey the significance of that evening. These women provided me a glimpse of a possibility I had never known simply by their collective presence. Since that time, there have been many women I have met along my journey who have encouraged and inspired me through their actions and their support.

This month as I step into the role of WLALA President, I am flooded with the memory of that night twenty years ago. I am reminded that there is nothing more beautiful or more formidable than women working together and supporting and encouraging other women. Importantly, our true “together” must include marginalized women—including women of color and lesbian, gay, transgender, and queer (“LGBTQ+”) women—or we have failed.

I have also come to know that the magnitude of our “together” is exponentially increased by the sum of the parts. To that end, bringing all of me to the table is one of the most important contributions I can make. I am a woman, a mother, a grandmother, a wife, a lawyer, a sister, an aunt, a law firm partner, a survivor, an advocate, a leader, and much more . . . . I know something about grit, discipline, succeeding and failing (and how to get back up again), and I’ve learned much about the humanity of it all. I bring it all to my WLALA presidency. My commitment to all of you is to be the best leader possible this year: to act with integrity, be true to the mission of WLALA, fearlessly pursue WLALA’s principles, and try to give back in some meaningful way what has been shown and given freely to me by countless women over the past few decades.

Rather than pontificate on our theme this year—“Stronger Together”—my goal is to live it out with all of you as we address the real issues of promoting and improving the status of all women. Let’s do it!

Mary McKelvey
WLALA President

Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles (WLALA) leaders.

WLALA Website