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Thought Leadership

Female Powerbrokers Q&A: Husch Blackwell's Hanaway, Law360

 
June 06, 2014
 
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Catherine L. Hanaway is a partner in Husch Blackwell LLP's St. Louis office and leader of the firm's government compliance, investigations and litigation group. The former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri and speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives, she litigates complex civil and white collar criminal cases and representing clients in regulatory challenges.

As U.S. attorney, she personally and successfully tried cases to jury verdicts and supervised more than 4,000 cases and a staff of over 100. During her tenure, the office set records for the most cases tried and money forfeited. Hanaway led major expansions of the office’s prosecution of sophisticated white collar crimes, including securities and bank frauds. She created a Mortgage Fraud Task Force that prosecuted at every level from borrower to those up streaming bad loans into the asset-backed securities markets.

As the first and only woman to serve as speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives, she held the line against tax increases proposed by the governor, balanced the budget in an economic downturn, reformed the state’s corporate laws and passed innovative economic development tools.

Q: How did you break into what many consider to be an old boys’ network?

A: From an early age, I just didn’t see any reason why women couldn’t follow almost any pursuit. When I was in the fifth grade, I wrote our pastor and asked him why girls couldn’t be “altar boys.” I just never stopped asking those questions.

Focusing on how the “old boys’” keep score and figuring out how to put points on the board has also been important. When I was the minority leader of the Missouri House of Representatives, I focused on fundraising, recruiting candidates and winning the majority. When we won the majority, I was the first woman ever elected speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives.

Q: What are the challenges of being a woman at a senior level within a law firm?

A: Balancing work and family is the toughest whether senior or junior. I don’t have any magic recipes of striking the right balance. I will say that it is important to try to give up on guilt and the word “should.” There are a whole lot of expectations that get set for us, particularly as women, that don’t really make a difference at work or home, but which are extremely time consuming. If you can have the discipline to not allow the guilt to creep into your productivity or your grey matter, you will be more successful in striking the right balance … that said, I really should be doing something billable.

Q: Describe a time you encountered sexism in your career and tell us how you handled it.

A: Early in my political career, I am fairly certain I was passed over for a campaign manager job because I wasn’t a man and didn’t drive a pick-up truck. I handled the disappointment by applying for the next big job that came up, getting it and winning the campaign … P.S., the other campaign was lost.

Rarely are the different treatments of men and women so overt. I think many more opportunities are lost for women because men are simply more comfortable with other men, and they likely don’t even realize that they are excluding women. They are just trying to get the job done, as quickly, efficiently and easily as possible. Women are often guilty of the same thing. I realize that readers are now thinking I am indeed the master of the obvious, but I don’t think we can recognize this point too often. It really is the thing that holds women back much more often than overt sexism.

Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring female attorney?

A: Figure out how to get noticed and how to bring unique value to your firm. For me, this meant leaving a large law firm early in my career to work for a U.S. senator and then running for office. After I became speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives, the president appointed me to serve as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri. This experience was few that others could bring to a firm. So, I would say think out of the box about how to get known, be a specialist and consider public service or lateral moves.

Q: What advice would you give to a law firm looking to increase the number of women in its partner ranks?

A: The women who are there should be very good to the other women. I just joined Husch Blackwell in September 2013; the firm enjoys a great reputation for recruiting, retaining and rewarding its women partners. Frankly, before getting there, I was a bit skeptical (I am a lawyer after all) that it might be a lot of hype. Even my fondest expectations have been exceeded. It is clear that the women here look out for each other and really root for each other. This is the kind of atmosphere that helps women flourish.

Q: Outside your firm, name an attorney you admire and tell us why.

A: Kit Bond, U.S. former senator from Missouri. I worked for Sen. Bond for five years, and he has been a mentor to me for most of my adult life. I mention him as a lawyer that I admire because he has exemplified for me so much of the best of our profession. He graduated (more than a few years ago) No. 1 in his law school class from the University of Virginia, he clerked for one the leading jurists on civil rights issues during the 1960s, he was the youngest person elected governor of any state (until President Bill Clinton beat him by a few months), and gave nearly all of his life to serving others. He held statewide office for more than four decades and broke all kinds of barriers for women and minorities. He truly used the law to help others.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or Portfolio Media Inc., or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

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