The Path to the Bench: Interviews with Women Appellate Judges

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State and federal appellate judges offer their advice for women considering a career on the bench.

Margaret McKeown, Judge, U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (1998–present)

Q: What was your path to the bench? And what was the most unexpected aspect of being a judge, once you were appointed?

There has to be this confluence of serendipity and professional excellence and timing for an appointment to happen. Lucky is the best way to describe it. I was the first woman partner, first woman on the executive committee, and first woman managing director at Perkins Coie in Seattle and Washington, D.C., where I specialized in high technology and antitrust work. I had an international and national practice that I loved. I served the community in diverse ways, through national board service on the Girl Scouts of the USA, the White House Fellows Foundation, and work with national and local bar associations. I was the first co-president of the statewide Washington Women Lawyers and one of the founders. I was not contemplating the bench. But then a judge in Washington asked whether I might consider applying for an opening on the Ninth Circuit, which made me consider whether I would enjoy serving as a judge. I threw my hat in the ring for what turned out to be a long and arduous process. It took three and a half years to go through the appointment process, which was a politically tumultuous time. While some would say that there is a script for a professional life leading to the federal bench, I did not follow any script and did what I felt passionate about; had I followed a script, I might never have done the pro bono women’s rights and civil rights cases I did in my career and that I was grilled about during the confirmation process.

Originally published in The Woman Advocate - ABA Litigation Section on March 26, 2014.

Please see full publication below for more information.

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Topics:  Judges, Women in the Law, Young Lawyers

Published In: Professional Practice Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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