Phillips Murrah recognized by Law360’s Glass Ceiling Report for second year

Phillips Murrah is proud to announce that for the second year in a row, our Firm is recognized in Law360’s Glass Ceiling Report for setting the pace in the legal industry for representation of women.

2021 GCR GridTo produce the 2021 Glass Ceiling Report, Law360 collected data during 2020 from more than 270 law firms on the demographic makeup of their lawyer workforce. The report ranks U.S. law firms, broken out into law firm size categories, on their overall representation of women at all levels of the firm.

Reflecting demographics as of Dec 31, 2020, Law360 reported that the national average of all women attorneys at law firms in the U.S. is just under 40 percent. Women represent less than 25 percent of equity partners and just over 48 percent of associates.

To achieve the rank of number five on the Glass Ceiling Report, Phillips Murrah demonstrated numbers far above the national average. Our survey results showed that 42.9 percent of equity partners and 73.7 percent of associate attorneys are women. Additionally, our overall Firm gender makeup is 53 percent women, and our Firm’s Executive Leadership is composed of 75 percent women.

Phillips Murrah is also ranked for the second year on Law360’s “Ceiling Smashers” list, which includes the top ten firms in each law firm size category that have the highest representation of women in equity partnerships.

2021 ceiling smashers gfxFirms on the Ceiling Smashers list are characterized by Law360 as those forging a path to progress and which “demonstrate the potential and possibilities of law firm efforts to work towards parity.”

“Phillips Murrah is proud to be recognized again this year as a ‘ceiling smasher’ and trailblazer in gender equity and inclusion,” said Candace Williams Lisle, Phillips Murrah Director and Chair of our Firm’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. “This repeat performance demonstrates consistency of purpose and continued growth as we move toward gender parity in the practice of law. At Phillips Murrah, it isn’t just about numbers on a graph – but real opportunities for women to lead and flourish in their legal careers and in their lives. We celebrate all of the outstanding women who are valued members of our team.”

Phillips Murrah shares personal stories about tribal memberships

PIF KGOU OILS graphicPhillips Murrah celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day in recognition of the contributions of the Indigenous communities that have lived in the United States for thousands of years. To commemorate the occasion, Phillips Murrah is supporting Oklahoma Indian Legal Services as its Pay It Forward beneficiary for the month of October.

In addition, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee invited members of the Phillips Murrah team who have Native American tribal affiliations to participate in a video interview to discuss what their ancestry and heritage mean to them.

Interviewees are Phillips Murrah Directors G. Calvin Sharpe and Kathy Terry; Associate Attorneys Phoebe Mitchell, Eric Davis and Molly Tipton; and Paralegal Donna Anderson.

Special thanks to Chickasaw classical composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate for allowing us to feature his music in the video.

Please enjoy the video by clicking the player below.

 

Phillips Murrah commemorates National Hispanic Heritage Month

Phillips Murrah is honored to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month and its Hispanic and Latinx attorneys and staff. To commemorate this occasion, the Firm is continuing its support of the Oklahoma City Latino Community Development Agency by making a donation to the college scholarship fund in memory of late Director Shannon K. Emmons, who served on the agency’s Board of Directors.

National Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes the history, culture, and achievements of Hispanic Americans. For more information on events and exhibits held in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, visit the official website here.

Phillips Murrah participates in 2021 Midsize Mansfield Rule certification

Mansfield Rule graphic logoPhillips Murrah P.C. is pleased to announce our participation in Diversity Lab’s Midsize Mansfield Rule certification process. During the 18-month certification period, more than 70 participating firms across the nation will track activities that demonstrate their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Phillips Murrah is the only Oklahoma-based firm participating in the 2021 Midsize Mansfield Rule.

Phillips Murrah Diversity Equity InclusionDiversity Lab created the Mansfield Rule to increase the representation of historically underrepresented lawyers by broadening the pool of candidates considered for advancement. This includes consideration for entry-level and lateral attorney job openings, leadership opportunities, equity partner promotions, and client presentations and interactions. After successful completion of the Midsize Mansfield Rule criteria, participating firms will be designated as Mansfield Certified.

“Phillips Murrah looks forward to strengthening its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, internally and in the legal community, by participating in the Mansfield certification process,” said Candace Williams Lisle, Chair of Phillips Murrah’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. “By engaging in this challenging initiative, we are committed to make meaningful progress in hiring, promoting, and including historically underrepresented attorneys.

We are proud of our success at smashing the glass ceiling with our percentage of female firm leaders, equity partners, and attorneys, which nearly double the national averages. Now, we look ahead to creating more opportunities for attorneys who are racially and ethnically diverse, associate as LGBTQ+, and who are disabled. We are proud to partner with Diversity Lab to create a more diverse and inclusive profession.”

In 2021, Phillips Murrah is ranked #5 nationwide – up from #12 in 2020 – in Law360’s “Glass Ceiling Report” for U.S. law firms of 100 or fewer attorneys, based on our percentages of female attorneys, female equity partners, and female executive leadership. Additionally, Phillips Murrah is listed for the second year in a row as Top 10 “Ceiling Smashers” for “outpacing peers as the legal industry works towards closing the gender gap in its top ranks.”

2021 Phillips Murrah Externship Program teaches law students career lessons

Externship group photo

From L: Phillips Murrah Attorney Lauren Barghols Hanna, Phillips Murrah Director Candace Williams Lisle, OU Law 2L and PM Externs Christopher Punto and Camille Burge pose together in the courtroom of Federal Judge Jodi Dishman during their Apr. 14 educational visit and tour.

In January 2021, Phillips Murrah initiated its inaugural Externship Program in partnership with the University of Oklahoma College of Law, continuing the Firm’s efforts to recruit talented and motivated future attorneys who reflect the diversity of our local community. The Externship Program is spearheaded by the Firm’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. The Program, chaired by Director Candace Williams Lisle, is designed in alignment with Phillips Murrah’s goal to create a workplace culture that is open to all needs, perspectives, contributions, experiences, and backgrounds. The Externship Program exposes a diverse group of students to the everyday practice of law, cultivates relationships, and provides mentorship and opportunities to enhance legal skills. Participating students gain legal experience while working at Phillips Murrah’s Oklahoma City office and receive 3 hours of course credit.

This year, Phillips Murrah welcomed second-year OU Law students, Camille Burge and Christopher Punto. As externs, Burge and Punto were mentored by Phillips Murrah attorneys while learning about practice areas including litigation and appeals, labor and employment, business transactions, real estate, tax, family law, oil and gas, bankruptcy, municipal financing, energy and regulatory, administrative, estate planning, cannabis and liquor licensing, and workers compensation. The externs attended events including depositions, client meetings, a trial, and frequent lunch and learns.   They worked on a variety of research and writing projects and received feedback from their supervising attorneys. The externs also enjoyed a presentation by a Firm client about practicing law as Deputy General Counsel for a large public corporation.

A highlight of the program was a visit to the William J. Holloway Jr. United States Courthouse. Burge and Punto accompanied Lisle and Phillips Murrah Attorney Lauren Barghols Hanna to meetings with federal judges Hon. Bernard Jones, Hon. Patrick Wyrick, and Hon. Jodi Dishman. The federal judges offered advice, answered the externs’ questions, and Judge Dishman gave a tour of her courtroom.

“It was a unique opportunity for the externs to meet one-on-one with the federal judges, learn about their respective paths to the bench, and receive the benefit of their wisdom and advice,” Lisle said.

Below is a video interview with Burge and Punto discussing their courthouse visit as well as their experience participating in the 2021 Phillips Murrah Externship Program.

 

 

“We are very pleased with our inaugural externship program,” Lisle continued. “Through the interview process, we had the opportunity to meet a number of outstanding diverse students from OU Law School. Our externs, Camille and Chris, were talented, energetic, and enthusiastic. We were able to provide them with wonderful opportunities to learn about various areas of law practice from our talented practitioners, and to observe legal work in action. Our primary goal for the externship program was to develop relationships and collaborate with students with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and we definitely achieved that goal with this program. We’re very excited to expand on our externship program in the future.”

Phillips Murrah continues to be a leader in gender equity in Oklahoma with 44% of Shareholders and 53% of all employees identifying as female. In 2020, Phillips Murrah was nationally recognized by Law360.com as “Ceiling Smashers.” Not only is Phillips Murrah a leader in the percentage of women attorneys, but more importantly, in women who have a seat at the table as equity partners and firm leaders,” Lisle said.

Through the Externship and other programs and initiatives, the Firm seeks to build on this success and further our team’s innovation, engagement, and creativity in our work.  As a six-time-consecutive recipient of the Top Work Place in Oklahoma honor, an award chosen annually by employees of Oklahoma businesses, the Firm is confident in our ability to grow and continue making Phillips Murrah a fulfilling place for all current and future employees.

Law360’s 2020 Glass Ceiling Report: Phillips Murrah ranked for gender diversity

Phillips Murrah is proud to announce that our Firm is ranked in Law360’s 2020 Glass Ceiling Report.

Phillips Murrah Glass Ceiling Report visual

Click to enlarge.

Each year, Law360 surveys participating law firms in various size categories and ranks their percentage of female attorneys and female equity partners. They publish their findings in the Glass Ceiling Report. For the 2020 GCR, Phillips Murrah is ranked 12th in the nation for firms of 100 attorneys or less.

Click on the graphic on this page to examine details of Law360’s findings about Phillips Murrah. The full story and an interactive data graphic is HERE. The numbers used by Law360 were collected on their survey in April 2020.

“We’re pleased to receive this recognition for Phillips Murrah and its culture, which rewards talent, skill, and work ethic, and affords equal opportunities to all,” said Candace Williams Lisle, Phillips Murrah Director and Chair of our Firm’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. “Not only is Phillips Murrah a leader in the percentage of women attorneys, but more importantly, in women who have a seat at the table as equity partners and firm leaders. Our goal is not simply diversity – but equity and inclusion as well. We’re fortunate that the pool of legal talent in our region includes so many accomplished women, and that so many practice law with us at Phillips Murrah.”

Law360 Ceiling Smashers 2020 graphic

Click to enlarge.

Phillips Murrah is also featured in a Law360 article titled “These Firms Have The Most Women In Equity Partnerships,” which names our Firm among those that have the highest representation of women equity partners.

“Here are this year’s Ceiling Smashers — the top 10 firms in each law firm size category that are outpacing their peers as the legal industry works towards closing the gender gap in its top ranks.” – Law360

Phillips Murrah has a long history of elevating attorneys based on skill and talent, and we continue to lead, both locally and nationally, in our number of women attorneys and equity partners.

However, according to Law360, progress has not been easy in the overall legal industry.

“While law firms continue to tout efforts to close the gender gap in their ranks, parity is still a distant goal, our annual survey shows. Law360’s Glass Ceiling Report indicates only incremental growth in the number of female lawyers in private practice. Female attorneys remain underrepresented at U.S. law firms, particularly at the highest levels.” – Law360

Law 360 wrote that they see the Glass Ceiling Report as the beginning of a conversation that they hope will expand as they develop new ways of examining gender diversity in the profession and evaluate the data that is the most relevant to answering the difficult questions. As they continue to collect and analyze data, they also welcome your comments here.


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Phillips Murrah recognized as Champion of Justice Law Firm by Texas Access to Justice Commission

The Texas Access to Justice Commission announced Phillips Murrah is among the recipients of their Champion of Justice Law Firm Award. The Commission presents the awards to attorneys and law firms who champion and support the important work of Texas legal aid and pro bono providers.

Phillips Murrah is recognized via our Texas office, located in Dallas.

Texas Access to Justice Champion of Justice Law Firm

Click to enlarge.

About The Texas Access to Justice Commission:

The Supreme Court of Texas created the Texas Access to Justice Commission in 2001 with the mandate of expanding access to justice for low-income Texans. Because there are a variety of challenges to access to justice in Texas, the Commission’s work is necessarily multi-faceted. These are our primary areas of focus:

  • Policy Initiatives: By promoting policies that remove barriers to our judicial system, the Commission works to create a framework for equitable access to justice.

  • Resource Development: Through ongoing fundraising efforts and a strong partnership with the State Legislature, the Commission works to secure funding and other resources for legal aid across Texas.

  • Awareness and Education: By educating the legal community about access to justice issues and the importance of pro bono work, and by training legal aid lawyers to effectively advocate for their clients, the Commission seeks to expand and enhance the delivery of legal aid and pro bono services across Texas.

To contact Phillips Murrah’s Dallas office, email or call:

Janet A. Hendrick photoJanet A. Hendrick
Shareholder
jahendrick@phillipsmurrah.com
214.615.6391
3710 Rawlins Street
Suite 900
Dallas, TX 75219


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Phillips Murrah maintains support of National Association of Women Lawyers as 2020 Sustaining Sponsor

National Association of Women Lawyers logo

Phillips Murrah is proud to announce its inclusion as a 2020 National Association of Women Lawyers Sustaining Sponsor, continuing the Firm’s mission to promote gender equality in the legal field.

NAWL is the nation’s oldest professional organization devoted to the interests and progress of women lawyers and women’s legal rights, and members include individual attorneys, including private practice, corporate, academic, government and non-profit attorneys, and groups, including law firms, corporate legal departments, law schools, and bar associations.

“NAWL has been empowering women in the legal profession for more than a century,” Director Janet A. Hendrick said. “I am proud of Phillips Murrah’s continued support of this venerable organization and its important work, and equally proud of our firm’s demonstrated commitment to advancing and supporting women in the legal profession.”

NAWL’s events and resources help bring awareness to gender-based topics and challenges within the legal profession, and the group’s advocacy initiatives address current and ongoing gender and racial equality issues across the country.

For more information, visit the NAWL website at https://www.nawl.org.

 

Phillips Murrah attorneys remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg at OKC candlelight vigil

Phillips Murrah attorneys attend RBG vigil in OKC

From left: Nikki Jones Edwards, Cathy L. Campbell, Charlotte Hanna, Rev. Lori Walke and Lauren Barghols Hanna.

Tuesday night, Oklahomans gathered at the state capitol to mourn the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an American legal, cultural and feminist icon and, as described by Chief Justice John Roberts, a justice of historic stature and a cherished colleague.

Among those who gathered were Phillips Murrah attorneys Nikki Jones Edwards, Cathy L. Campbell and Lauren Barghols Hanna, joined by (see photo) Cathy’s granddaughter and Lauren’s daughter, Charlotte, and Rev. Lori Walke, Associate Minister at Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ.

“Justice Ginsburg famously declared that ‘Women belong in all places where decisions are being made,’” said Hanna, who practices employment law at Phillips Murrah. “In 1956, she was one of only nine women in her 500-person law school class. Today, thanks to the tireless efforts of Justice Ginsburg and other fierce advocates for equality, almost half of Phillips Murrah partners and two-thirds of our Executive Committee are women. We owe a great debt to Justice Ginsburg and the other women attorneys who paved the road, and we must now continue her efforts to ensure ‘justice for all.’”

The event, A Candlelight Vigil in Remembrance of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was organized by The Oklahoma Women’s Coalition to honor and remember Justice Ginsburg, who died Friday at the age of 87. Video of the speakers at the vigil are available here.

“We deeply mourn the loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Our country has lost a champion of women’s rights and progress for all Americans. Our thoughts are with her loved ones and all whose lives were shaped and touched by her unwavering commitment to justice,” OWC posted to their Facebook page.

After 13 years on the U.S Court of Appeals, President Bill Clinton appointed Justice Ginsburg to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993. Over the following 27 years, she earned a reputation for being the High Court’s liberal leader and a steadfast advocate for equality. As stated in an achievement.org profile called “Ruth Bader Ginsburg – Pioneer of Gender Equality”:

“On the high court, Justice Ginsburg was often called on to rule in cases regarding the rights of women and issues of gender equality. In 1996, she joined the majority in United States v. Virginia, ruling that the state could not continue to operate an all-male educational institution (the Virginia Military Institute) with taxpayer dollars. She also joined in the majority opinion in Stenberg v. Carhart (2000), striking down a Nebraska law banning so-called ‘partial birth’ abortions. She dissented vehemently in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire (2007), in which an Alabama woman sued unsuccessfully for back pay to compensate for the years in which she had been paid substantially less than junior male colleagues performing the same job. The U.S. Congress would later address the issue of pay equity through legislation known as the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.”

Late in Ginsburg’s life, she also became a cultural and social media icon. According to the New York Times, “a law student, Shana Knizhnik, anointed her the Notorious R.B.G., a play on the name of the Notorious B.I.G., a famous rapper who was Brooklyn-born, like the justice. Soon the name, and Justice Ginsburg’s image — her expression serene yet severe, a frilly lace collar adorning her black judicial robe, her eyes framed by oversize glasses and a gold crown perched at a rakish angle on her head — became an internet sensation.”

In a 2015 television interview, Ginsburg was asked how she would like to be remembered, to which she replied: “Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability, and to help repair tears in her society – to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has. To do something, as my colleague David Souter would say, outside myself, because I’ve gotten much more satisfaction for the things that I’ve done for which I was not paid.”


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PM Director Janet Hendrick praises Supreme Court LGBTQ decision

Phillips Murrah Director Janet A. Hendrick is featured as the lead source in a Dallas Observer article reviewing the Supreme Court decision to uphold workplace protections for LGBTQ Americans.

Janet Hendrick

Janet Hendrick is an experienced employment litigator who tackles each of her client’s problems with a tailored, results-oriented approach.

From the story:

Some employers’ advocates argue that, at the time the bill was drafted, it was intended to safeguard men or women from being discriminated against because of their sex. Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his dissenting opinion that the law wasn’t meant to include protections for sexual orientation or gender identity.

But it’s precisely because of their sex that gay, trans and gender-nonconforming people face workplace discrimination, said Janet Hendrick, a Dallas-based employment law attorney.

Although Texas’ Legislature does not explicitly outline protections for LGBTQ people, Hendrick said many companies have inclusive policies because “it’s the right thing to do.” Still, change can be slow going for certain small businesses in the Bible Belt, she said.

Hendrick, who works closely with employment advocacy groups like the North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce, said she was pleasantly surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision.

“It’s literally like a rainbow sparked up from ashes in light of all the bad news recently,” Hendrick said. “So for this decision to come coinciding with Pride Month, it’s wonderful, uplifting news.”

Hendrick is an employment law attorney based in the Firm’s Dallas office. Contact her by phone at 214.615.6391 or by email at jahendrick@phillipsmurrah.com.

Read the full article here: https://www.dallasobserver.com/news/north-texans-happy-about-supreme-court-lgbt-decision-see-more-work-ahead-11919900

For more information about this Supreme Court decision, read a summary of the decision here.

Edwards named OCU Law’s Distinguished Practitioner for Fall semester

Nicholle Jones Edwards attorneyt

Nicholle Jones Edwards’ practice focuses on family law, labor law and general civil litigation. Her family law practice includes litigation, complex custody issues and valuation issues.

Oklahoma City University School of Law recently named Director Nikki Edwards the Distinguished Practitioner in Residence for the upcoming Fall semester.

“The role of Distinguished Practitioner in Residence is an exciting opportunity to interact with the students in a meaningful, interactive way, as opposed to a lecture format,” Edwards said. “I’m most looking forward to being able to play a small role in the exciting futures of our future lawyers.”

Edwards will be the third person and first female to hold the position, Jim Roth, OCU School of Law Dean and Phillips Murrah Director said.

“We at OCU School of Law are thrilled to host Nikki Edwards as our Distinguished Practitioner in Residence for the upcoming Academic Year ‘20-‘21 where she will lead our lucky students through a Litigation Practicum covering all issues from A to Z,” Roth said. “As our first female lawyer in this role, it’s an extra special way to highlight not only her wonderful skills, but to bring attention to the under-representation of women in litigation practices.

“We have tremendous faith that Nikki will educate and inspire men and women to become great practitioners for their clients and the profession.”

Highlighting the Firm’s focus on gender equity in law firm leadership, Edwards hopes her role can bring more visibility to women in the legal field.

“I am honored to be the first female to serve as Distinguished Practitioner In Residence,” Edwards said. “Today more than 50 percent of law students are women, yet a very small percentage of trial lawyers are female.

“I would love my students to realize that women can be strong, effective, trial lawyers, and the courtroom is not only a place for men. A big part of my life’s work is supporting other women as a mentor, friend and colleague. As a shareholder of Phillips Murrah P.C., our firm has a much larger percentage of female shareholders than the state and national average, which is something I am very proud of. I think the future should and will have more female litigators, and that is why being chosen by Dean Roth and OCU Law for this position is such a high honor.”

Enrollment for the course is now open. Learn more at OCU School of Law’s website.

“I hope students learn to love the practice of law and not just the substantive case law found in various subjects,” she said. “A significant takeaway will be that as lawyers in litigation we have the ability to really change lives and that the students realize how important our representation is to our clients, the public and the judiciary.

“Importantly, litigation and trial work can be extremely exhilarating and exciting, but also very frightening for new lawyers, so I hope each student feels a basic comfort level with the process at the conclusion of the class.”

Click here to learn more about Nikki’s practice.

Hendrick partners with North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce

Janet Hendrick

Janet Hendrick is an experienced employment litigator who tackles each of her client’s problems with a tailored, results-oriented approach.

Director Janet A. Hendrick joins the North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce, supporting the organization for 2019-2020 as a Bronze Partner and taking on a hands-on role.

“I met the President of the Chamber, Tony Vedda, at the Dallas Business Equality Conference a few years ago, where I was asked to speak about evolving rights for LGBT employees in the U.S.,” she said. “We stayed in touch and he later asked me to be a member of the Chamber’s Governance Committee, the role of which is to assist in selection of the Chamber’s Board of Directors.

“I spoke again this year at the Business Equality Conference, which is sponsored by progressive Dallas-based companies like Toyota, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines.”

Janet is an experienced employment litigator who regularly appears in state and federal court to defend employers of all sizes against discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and related claims. She is a frequent speaker and author on topics including gender diversity in the legal profession, workplace accommodations and leave management, evolving workplace protections of LGBT employees, and the rapidly expanding gig economy.

The North Texas Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Chamber of Commerce has been the premier business organization for the LGBT community in north Texas since 2005, working to improve the region’s economic vitality and support the positive attributes of a diverse workplace, supply chain and community.

To learn more about the North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce and its mission, click here.

#MeToo reaches merger transactions with Weinstein Clause

In this article, Oklahoma City Attorney Erica K. Halley discusses the “#MeToo” movement and the Weinstein Clause as they relate to requirements in buying and selling companies.

Erica K. Halley

Erica K. Halley represents individuals and businesses in a broad range of transactional matters.

What is the #MeToo movement and how did it start?

In October 2017, The New York Times published an article detailing decades of sexual misconduct by film producer Harvey Weinstein. The scandal ultimately left Weinstein disgraced, his film studio bankrupt and victims of sexual harassment and assault emboldened. The #MeToo movement ensued, wherein victims tweeted (or otherwise went public with) their experiences, which highlighted the prevalence of such misconduct in the workplace. As a result, the chickens have come home to roost for many predators in power. This means, among many other things, companies must adapt and prepare for the potential PR and legal nightmare that necessarily follows misconduct allegations against employees, particularly those having influence over compensation, promotions/demotions and workplace culture. One way we see the #MeToo movement in the doldrums of corporate paperwork is through what is becoming known as the “Weinstein Clause” in merger and acquisition agreements.

What is a Weinstein Clause?

When a company is sold or merged, the selling company is typically required to make a litany of representations to the buyer concerning the status of the selling company. A Weinstein Clause is a representation made by the selling company where the seller promises that none of the selling company’s employees is the subject of allegations of sexual misconduct. In its broadest form, a seller represents that no allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct have been made to the company against any individual in his or her capacity as an employee of the company or any of its affiliates. Usually, if a seller makes a false representation, the buyer can sue the seller for all damages resulting from the breach.

How do sellers negotiate Weinstein Clauses in M&A transactions?

Just like any representation in an M&A (merger and acquisition) transaction, sellers will try to limit the scope of the representation by adding knowledge qualifiers (ex: to the seller’s knowledge, there are no sexual harassment or misconduct allegations), defining or reducing the look-back period (ex: the seller represents that there have been no allegations in the past five years) and minimizing the number or type of employees subject to such allegations (ex: the seller represents that there have been no allegations against executive level employees). In addition, the lawyers on both sides will probably spend time negotiating the definitions of “sexual harassment” and/or “sexual misconduct,” as such terms are open to interpretation and, therefore, ambiguity. After the representation itself is determined, if the seller is aware of any such allegations, the seller will try to negotiate an exception to the representation and describe the allegations on a schedule attached to the agreement. In this case, the seller is essentially saying, “except for that one time, which buyer is going to overlook, there have been no allegations of sexual harassment/misconduct.”

Why should people care?

The Weinstein Clause itself will probably not have a noticeable impact on the viability or essential terms of M&A transactions. And most people will probably never lose sleep over how broadly or narrowly any Weinstein Clause is negotiated. However, everyone is affected by companies (some more directly than others), and most companies are led by individuals who have power and influence over other employees. The emergence of the Weinstein Clause is indicative of a broader social change. The Weinstein Clause provides evidence that sexual harassment and misconduct by such individuals is not tolerated, safe and respectful company cultures matter, and victims of sexual harassment and misconduct ought to be protected.

 

Published: 5/7/19; by Paula Burkes
Original article: https://newsok.com/article/5630647/metoo-movement-reaches-merger-transactions

Gender equality and the rise of women in the boardroom

It should come as no shock that, although women make up just over half of the U.S. population, they are underrepresented in corporate executive management, as well as in the boardrooms of public companies in the U.S. This is often due to stereotypes that characterize female leaders as abrasive, aggressive and emotional. This disparate societal perception rewards certain characteristics in men while condemning them in women, which damages women striving for leadership roles.

A 2016 Catalyst report found that in the U.S., women made up only 21.2% of the S&P 500 board seats.

A recent push for diversity on corporate boards of directors may change the gender lines of corporate culture. For example, California is the first state to statutorily require female representation on boards of directors.

In 2018, roughly 25% of California-based companies had no female directors on their board. In October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law requiring all public companies having principal executive offices in the state to have at least one woman on the board by the end of 2019. By the end of 2021, any California public company with five directors must have a minimum of two female directors, and those with six or more directors must include at least three women. The law imposes a $100,000 fine for a first-time violation and a $300,000 fine for subsequent violations.

California follows several European countries, including Germany, France, Norway, and Sweden, which have implemented quotas and fines to increase female representation in the boardroom. Additionally, shareholder advisory firms such as Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass, Lewis & Co. are now using gender diversity as a factor for shareholder vote recommendations.

While a government-mandated requirement may not be the ultimate solution, it could accelerate the achievement of gender equality.

Such a change in gender representation is likely to benefit companies, as gender and culture diversity results in diverse perspectives, which is likely to improve a company’s performance. It will also create less gender discrimination in recruitment, promotion, and retention.

While Oklahoma continuously ranks in the bottom of states for women when it comes to the income gap, workplace environment, education, and health, Oklahoma ranks 20th with respect to the executive positions gap, according to a recent 2018 WalletHub study. While there is much room for improvement, there may be hope for Oklahoma in achieving executive gender equality.


Gavel to Gavel appears in The Journal Record. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on April 18, 2019.

Phillips Murrah featured in Oklahoman article about female leadership

In the April 14 issue of Oklahoma City’s metro daily newspaper, The Oklahoman, Phillips Murrah was prominently featured in an article titled, “OKC law offices seek to continue boost in female leadership.” The article highlights a transformation in the gender makeup of law firms, where women, who have historically been underrepresented in ownership and leadership of law firms, are making leadership gains.

Phillips Murrah gender equity article in OklahomanThe story states: “The women are shareholders, or equity partners in the firm, meaning they are part owner in the business and have a say in how its resources are used. In the United States, women make up just 19 percent of shareholder positions at major law firms. In Oklahoma offices, the average is slightly higher (at) 22 percent…”

Bucking this historic tradition since long before it was a cultural hot-topic, Phillips Murrah is far out in front, as the article points out: “At Phillips Murrah P.C., more than four in 10 partners are women.”

The article, by reporter Dale Denwalt, was featured as a part of The Oklahoman’s “Outlook” series, which is published as a special section each Sunday in April, and which addresses the topic of diversity and inclusion.

Read the article excerpt below that features Phillips Murrah:

A firm commitment: OKC law offices seek to continue boost in female leadership

Three of Oklahoma’s biggest law firms have more women in leadership positions than the state and national average, a sign that gender equality in the Sooner State is growing stronger, some say.

The women are shareholders, or equity partners in the firm, meaning they are part owner in the business and have a say in how its resources are used.

In the United States, women make up just 19 percent of shareholder positions at major law firms. In Oklahoma offices, the average is slightly higher 22 percent, according to the National Association of Women Lawyers and the local firms’ own reporting.

A long way

At Phillips Murrah P.C., more than four in 10 partners are women.

Nicholle Edwards, one of those shareholders, said clients want decision-makers to look more like they do.

“I think that’s good for everyone. It’s diversity of viewpoint,” Edwards said. “It’s a different perspective than the older white male, which has been historically seen as the shareholder or equity position.”

Half a century ago, it was hard for women to advance in the legal field, much less earn a living as a lawyer. Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the nation’s first female high court justice, had to work for free as a young attorney in California.

Edwards said there is a perception that women don’t make it into law firm leadership because they might pause their careers to have a family.

“I think that’s the perception, and that’s 180 degrees opposite of our firm culture. Our firm culture is very pro-women, pro-diversity, pro-gender equality and pro-family,” she said. “We cultivate and promote capable women without any notion that they have to work harder or faster or more than their counterpart who is a male. One way we can do that is by having alternative practices that would include working from home if they have a sick child.”

You can read the entire story here: https://newsok.com/article/5627756/a-firm-commitmentbrokc-law-offices-seek-to-continue-boost-in-female-leadership

 

OCU Law names Ybarra 2019 Outstanding Young Alumna

Monica Ybarra Web

Monica Y. Ybarra is a litigation attorney whose practice focuses on representing individuals and companies in wide range of commercial litigation matters. She also practices in the area of family law, including litigation, custody issues and valuation issues.

Monica Y. Ybarra, Family Law attorney and Oklahoma City University School of Law Class of 2014 alumna, will be honored as Outstanding Young Alumna at the OCU Law Awards Dinner.

“These awards were created in the late 1990s to honor individuals, alumni and non-alumni, in the legal community who have exemplified themselves as champions of the legal profession, established themselves as a community advocate, and supported the endeavors of OCU Law,” said Ally Rodriguez, Director of Alumni Relations at OCU Law. “To be a recipient of an award demonstrates their commitment to excellence in their career and we hope this shines a light on their good works.”

The 2019 OCU Law Awards Dinner will be hosted at 6 PM on April 6 at OCU School of Law.

“Working with Monica, both as a Phillips Murrah team member and now in our mutual roles for our alma mater OCU School of Law, is a real gift,” said Jim Roth, Phillips Murrah Director and OCU Law Dean. “Monica wonderfully embodies the exceptional brain and heart you want in a colleague, a leader and a friend.”

This year’s awards are especially important as they signify the first major event of the OCU Law Alumni Association after being re-established in the fall of 2018 under the direction of Dean Jim Roth, she said.

“As a classmate of Monica’s and a member of the OCU Law Class of 2014, it is an honor to be able to work with her as the Chair of the OCU Law Alumni Association,” Rodriguez said. “Monica brings an excitement to her work and motivates those around her.

“As the 2019 recipient of the Outstanding Young Alumna Award, Monica has exemplified significant achievements in the practice of law since graduation, and is a wonderful representation of the hard work and servant leadership mentality that OCU Law instills.”

Ybarra joined the university’s Alumni Association in September 2018 to oversee development and progress of the organization and was elected Chair by the Board of Directors soon after.

“Dean Roth’s vision to reestablish the OCU Law Alumni Association was one of his top priorities upon assuming his role as the new Dean,” Ybarra said. “He brought together a group of interested alums to serve on the Board of Directors and they elected me as Chair at our inaugural meeting.

“So, I’ve hit the ground running in that role since day one.”

This first year has been focused on getting the word out about the Alumni Association, building partnerships with community businesses for the rewards program, setting goals and bringing the Association’s vision into focus, she said.

“OCU Law has produced some very dynamic leaders and so many of our alums are doing great things all over the world, so it is incredibly humbling to receive this award,” Ybarra said. “I am overwhelmed with gratitude to be recognized in this way.

“I hope that my role and involvement with OCU Law will continue to evolve to meet the needs of the law school. I enjoy helping with local and national recruiting, and certainly enjoy contributing to the law school experience of OCU Law students in any way that I can.”

To learn more about OCU Law and the Alumni Association, click here.

Director named Alpha Phi sorority’s Woman of the Year

Kathryn Terry Web

The emphasis of Kathryn D. Terry’s litigation practice is in the areas of insurance coverage, labor and employment law and civil rights defense. She also represents corporations in complex litigation matters.

After 30 years of service to her sorority, one Alpha Phi alumna is being recognized by her peers.

Director Kathryn D. Terry will be honored at the Greater Oklahoma City Alumnae Panhellenic Association’s Women of the Year luncheon on April 3.

The annual fundraising event recognizes one extraordinary, local alumna member from each of the eighteen alumnae member sororities in Oklahoma City, said Kathleen Stevenson, President of the Greater Oklahoma City Alumnae Panhellenic Association.

“Each alumnae sorority group selects their own Woman of Year based on their own criteria, but I am sure you would agree that each is an accomplished woman whose contributions to her sorority and/or the community make her stand out,” Stevenson said. “Last year, we had over 400 attendees gathered at our luncheon at the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club to recognize these women, and we look forward to honoring Kathy along with seventeen other outstanding Panhellenic women.”

Terry’s history with the sorority dates back to 1989 when she first pledged. She is currently President of the House Corporation Board which manages sorority house operations—including managing all staff, food service, maintenance and improvements—to support active members.

“I love working with smart, talented women in Alpha Phi and here in Oklahoma City,” Terry said. “I have made close friendships with successful women all over the country and right here in Oklahoma that I never would have known.

“Also, working with collegiate women to support them in their growth and new opportunities during the college years is terrifically rewarding, and well, fun!”

Terry’s legal practice has allowed her the opportunity to provide training to other house boards and house directors for Alpha Phis across the country on issues related to both employment law and insurance coverage, further fueling her commitment to the organization.

“I’ve always been proud to be an Alpha Phi,” she said. “Being recognized by my sisters and the women of the Greater Oklahoma City Alumnae Panhellenic Association is touching, and I am honored to be recognized among such terrific women who also give their time and talents, not only to their sororities after college, but to the Oklahoma City community in all of our endeavors.”

The Greater Oklahoma City Alumnae Panhellenic Association is a 501(c)(3) comprised of alumnae sorority members from the metro area dedicated to encouraging higher education for young women and promoting the ideals of scholarship, leadership and service which Panhellenic women have embodied for over one hundred years. All net proceeds from the luncheon support scholarships for graduating seniors from area high schools planning on attending Oklahoma colleges or universities, Stevenson said.

“In 2018, we were able to award fourteen $1,500 scholarships to outstanding high school senior women from the greater Oklahoma City area,” she said. “Over the past 21 years, we have awarded over $310,000 in scholarships.

“As college costs are continually rising, there are more young women in need of help to be able attend college.”

For more information about the Greater Oklahoma City Alumnae Panhellenic Association and scholarship opportunities, please visit the website here.

Phillips Murrah celebrates International Women’s Day

Phillips Murrah Women Empowered

Today, March 8, 2019, is International Women’s Day. Phillips Murrah would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the achievements and importance of women leaders in the workplace. The theme of this year’s IWD is gender balance, and Phillips Murrah is doing our part to help realize this important societal goal.

We are proud to have sponsored the OKC International Women’s Day Celebration last night, hosted by Oklahoma Women’s Coalition, held at Ponyboy. This event was the second annual celebration of International Women’s Day in Oklahoma City.

“57 attendees joined to network and learn more from women’s organizations, such as Oklahoma Women’s Coalition, YWCA, ReMerge of Oklahoma County, Sally’s List, the Metisse Group and more,” said Caroline Cotton, co-creator of the International Women’s Day OKC celebration.

Group photo from International Women's Day celebration.

From left: Caroline Cotton, Lacey Lett, Dawn Rahme, Melissa Gardner, Sam Newton and James Linhardt.

“For me, the importance stems from remembering that the pursuit of equality is an infinite process,” said Phillips Murrah attorney Sam Newton, who initiated the sponsorship. “As time passes, we tend to generalize our own lack of prejudice and declare the issue resolved. Yet, the reality isn’t that simple. Acknowledging the fact that inequality exists moves us forward. IWD serves that goal but is also a day to pause and remember the impact women, both well-known and not, have had on the world today.”

Phillips Murrah is proud to be leaders in the area of promoting women into positions of leadership and equity within our Firm. Our comparatively high percentage of women shareholders and executive leaders is a manifestation of our corporate culture, which celebrates talent, skill, character and collegiality.

All attorneys at Phillips Murrah are expected to meet high standards of professional ability and interpersonal intelligence. Additionally, our workplace expectation is that each attorney is able to thrive in his or her practice, unencumbered by underlying considerations about individual characteristics unrelated to the practice of law.

Liz Charles, Executive Director of Oklahoma Women's Coalition

Liz Charles, Executive Director of Oklahoma Women’s Coalition

Phillips Murrah’s high percentage number of women partners and leaders isn’t motivated by societal pressure. Rather, it has occurred in an authentic way due to our inclusive corporate culture, and can be seen as an accomplishment for everyone at the Firm.

“We didn’t have a structured push to reach any kind of percentage, we just foster a culture that genuinely gives women the opportunity and support to succeed,” said Phillips Murrah Director Melissa Gardner. “I believe that’s the most sustainable kind of change and the coolest part of our equality.”

Phillips Murrah is also a proud Sustaining Partner of the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL). We are pleased to be able to support NAWL’s mission, which is to provide leadership, a collective voice and essential resources to advance women in the legal profession, and to advocate for the equality of women under the law.

We are proud of the many strengths and advantages that women leaders bring to our Firm and to society in general, and we are happy to help celebrate this each day – and especially on International Women’s Day!

Phillips Murrah helps empower women as 2019 NAWL Sustaining Sponsor

National Association of Women Lawyers logoContinuing its dedication to diversity and inclusion, Phillips Murrah is proud to announce its inclusion as a 2019 National Association of Women Lawyers Sustaining Sponsor. Founded in 1899, NAWL’s goal is to empower women in the legal profession while cultivating a diverse membership dedicated to equality, mutual support and collective success. The organization’s mission is “to provide leadership, a collective voice, and essential resources to advance women in the legal profession and advocate for the equality of women under the law.”

NAWL’s initiatives and activities include:

  • National and regional programming focused on giving women lawyers the legal and business skills to succeed in the legal profession.
  • Increasing the percentage of women equity partners in law firms with talented high-potential women who are on the equity partner track.
  • Amicus support in the Supreme Court of the United States and in other federal courts on issues of concern to women.
  • Liaison relationships and partnerships with other professional organizations.
  • Publications of interest to women in law and opportunities for NAWL members to publish scholarly articles.

NAWL’s events and resources help bring awareness to gender-based topics and challenges within the legal profession, such as diversity scholarships, workplace equality in areas of compensation and influence, and guidance and networking opportunities for women in a variety of practice areas.

For more information, visit the NAWL website at https://www.nawl.org.

 

Religious Accommodation in the Workplace: What Employers Should Know

Disability is the most common and well-known basis for workplace accommodation. Although less common, requests for religious accommodations for an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs or practices, required by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, are on the rise. Here is an overview of what employers should know about religious accommodations in the workplace.

Janet Hendrick Profile portrait
Janet A. Hendrick

Under Title VII, “religion” is not limited to traditional, organized religions. Sincerely held religious beliefs are also included, even if not part of a formal church or sect, and even if held by a small number of people. One court found that a belief system known as Onionhead, the motto of which is “peel it-feel it-heal it,” is a religion, looking to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s definition, which includes “moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong.” In contrast, another court ruled that the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, members of which are known as Pastafarians, is not.

Upon request or notice, an employer must engage in an interactive process with the employee and accommodate the employee’s religious beliefs or practices unless it would pose an undue hardship on the employer. The burden is on the employee to prove notice was provided to the employer. Mere knowledge by the employer does not generally trigger a religious accommodation obligation.

To establish an undue hardship, an employer must provide specific and credible evidence of the expense or hardship the exception would cause. Hypothetical hardships without support will not suffice. A “slippery slope” argument – that accommodating one employee will encourage others to request a policy exception – rarely succeeds.

Although it is an easier standard to meet than the undue hardship exception to a disability accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, there is no bright-line rule and each case will be different. Examples of burdens that are more than minimal are jeopardizing safety or health, more than a minimal cost, and violating a seniority system.

The two most common religious accommodations in the workplace are schedule changes and exceptions to dress and grooming codes. Examples are an employee who is unable to work Saturdays because his religion prohibits working on his Sabbath, a female Muslim employee whose religion requires her to wear a hijab, or a male employee who is prohibited by his religion from shaving his beard.

Janet A. Hendrick is an employment attorney who works in Phillips Murrah’s Dallas office.


By Phillips Murrah Director Janet A. Hendrick

Gavel to Gavel appears in The Journal Record. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on December 13, 2018.

Director presents for OU Women and Gender Studies class

Nicholle Jones Edwards

Nicholle Jones Edwards’ practice focuses on family law, labor law and general civil litigation. Her family law practice includes litigation, complex custody issues and valuation issues.

Nicholle Jones Edwards, Director and member of the Family Law Practice Group, presented to the Women and Gender Studies class at the University of Oklahoma on Oct. 23.

The class is comprised of mostly seniors and students looking to attend law school. Her presentation focused on custody and the impact of gender on custody disputes.

Edwards advised that Oklahoma law has enacted statutory measures to prevent gender bias in these matters, lending the example that in divorce cases, mothers’ rights are no greater than fathers’ rights under the law.

However, the issue in same-sex divorces as with any other divorce will focus on the best interest of the child, she said.

Edwards previously served on the Advisory Board for the Women and Gender Studies program and continues to lend support.

To learn more about OU’s Women and Gender Studies class, click here.

Phillips Murrah Director Janet Hendrick mentioned in Power Players: Women Leading in Law

Phillips Murrah Director and employment attorney Janet A. Hendrick was mentioned in the October edition of Power Players: Women Leading in Law newsletter, published by University of Texas at Austin School of Law‘s Center for Women in Law.

Phillips Murrah Women Empowered

Click to view at full size

The mention was regarding Janet’s move to Phillips Murrah’s Dallas office.

Janet is deeply committed to the advancement of women in the legal profession. She has been an active member of the National Association of Women Lawyers and the Dallas Women Lawyers Association, and is a thought leader and sought-after speaker on gender diversity in the legal profession.

With the addition of Janet, over 40 percent of Phillips Murrah’s Directors are women, more than twice the national average for large law firms. A significant number of women fill leadership roles at the Firm, including three of the four positions on the Executive Committee.

“I am impressed with the dynamic people at the Firm, especially the leadership,” Janet said of her motivation to join Phillips Murrah. “I’m also excited about the plans for the Dallas office and thrilled to be a part of building the future of the Firm.”

 

 

Dallas employment attorney Janet A. Hendrick tells Law360 why she joined Phillips Murrah

On Oct. 10, Law360, an in-depth legal industry publication, published an article about Phillips Murrah Director, Janet A. Hendrick, who recently joined our Firm in the Dallas office.

Janet is an employment attorney with almost two decades of experience. She is deeply committed to the advancement of women lawyers and is a thought leader and sought-after speaker on gender diversity in the legal profession.

From the article:

She told Law360 on Wednesday that she was impressed by the firm’s leadership.

Phillips Murrah opens Dallas office“When I met the folks at the firm and understood their commitment to women, and retaining talented women, and putting women in leadership roles with the firm, it was really unparalleled,” she said. “Forty percent of our directors are women, which far surpasses the national average. That’s just something that’s extremely important to me.”

The full-service platform offered by Phillips Murrah — compared with her prior firm’s employment focus — and its competitive rates have prompted positive responses and feedback from clients, she said. Another draw in coming to Phillips Murrah, she said, is the firm’s desire to grow its Texas footprint and the fact that she would have a hand in helping “build something new.”

“Absolutely, the firm is committed to growing the firm in the Dallas office, so we are in discussions with additional individuals now,” she said. “We don’t have a set number, but we plan to bring additional attorneys to fill client needs.”

Janet aggressively defends clients in state and federal courts and in arbitration on a range of matters, and provides counsel on a variety of issues that employers face, including best employment practices and compliance, audits and investigations, employee training, and cutting-edge legal issues surrounding the rapidly expanding gig economy.

Click to read our full release about Janet joining Phillips Murrah.

Phillips Murrah partners with Cristo Rey OKC

Cristo Rey Students

Phillips Murrah Marketing Director Dave Rhea and Attorney Bill Price welcome the four Cristo Rey students who will be working with the Firm during the 2018-2019 school year.

Phillips Murrah law firm is proud to sponsor the inaugural freshman class of Cristo Rey Oklahoma City Catholic High School.

Students in the school’s Corporate Work Study Program will begin working with the Firm in a variety of capacities on Aug. 13.

Four students will alternate working with the Firm each day in general clerical and administrative matters. The team of students “job share” the position for the school year with each student working one full day per week plus one Friday per month. Academic schedules are staggered so students won’t miss class due to work. As part of the school’s Corporate Work Study Program, students get valuable work experience in addition to a salary that is used to support their tuition and minimize costs for families.

“We at Phillips Murrah are excited for the opportunity to work with these bright, young minds and share with them insight into the legal field,” said Thomas G. Wolfe, Phillips Murrah President and Managing Partner. “Given that the work may be fast-paced and ever-changing, I have full confidence these students will gain unique and practical experience that will stick with them throughout their education and professional careers.”

Phillips Murrah joins a long list of Corporate Work Study Partners including: American Fidelity, Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, BancFirst, Catholic Charities, the Chickasaw Nation, Clements Foods, Express Employment Professionals, First National Bank of Oklahoma, Grace Living Centers and Humphreys Capital, Latino Community Development Agency, Lopez Foods, Loves Travel Stops & Country Stores, McBride Orthopedic Hospital, Mercy Health, Oklahoma City National Memorial, Oklahoma City Thunder, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, The Oklahoman, Slawson Exploration, Stella Nova Cafes, Synergy Datacom Supply, United Way, Variety Care and Weokie Federal Credit Union.

Cristo Rey’s Oklahoma City chapter is part of Cristo Rey Network, the only network of high schools in the country that integrate four years of rigorous college preparatory academics with four years of professional work experience.

To learn more about Cristo Rey, visit the network’s website here.