Meet Dinsmore’s Elvira Cortez, New President of Lawyers Club of San Diego
Dinsmore & Shohl associate Elvira Cortez was presented last Thursday as the president-elect of Lawyers Club of San Diego at the organization’s annual dinner. Learn more about her here—her background with the club, her passion for its mission and what she hopes to accomplish in her presidency.
What is your history with Lawyers Club of San Diego?
Elvira Cortez: I got involved when I moved to San Diego in 2011. I joined because this organization helps women meet other women who are successful in San Diego, so I though this is how I can be successful in this community. I started as a liaison from one of the committees to the San Diego County Bar. Then I was asked to co-chair the Diverse Women’s Committee. I did that for a year, and I was asked by several people if I would consider running for the board. So I served on the board for three years and continued to co-chair the Diverse Women’s Committee. Then I co-chaired the annual dinner and became the vice president of finance and fundraising, so I was responsible for all the money that comes into the organization.
And now you are the president-elect. How did that come about?
EC: The president is elected by the board, and the board is made up of 14 members. As a third-year, you qualify to run. I was asked to consider running for president and I was a little hesitant. It’s a big time commitment. Right now, I spend 200-300 hours per year working for the club. As president, it’s a lot more. But I thought about it and I know that I can do something impactful for the organization, so I decided to run and I was elected.
How do your values align with Lawyers Club of San Diego’s philosophy?
EC: The mission of the organization is to advance women in law and society. The reason I’m so passionate about it is because women continue to be underrepresented in the legal profession. This year marks the 150th anniversary of when the first woman passed the bar in the United States. But despite that, we’ve only had four Supreme Court justices who are women, two who have been attorney general, and it wasn’t until 1962 that the first Latina attorney was able to practice in California. When I look at those numbers and compare them to the fact that women are graduating at higher levels than men from law school, and yet we continue to be underrepresented at firms and in leadership positions, it’s concerning. Working hard enough is not enough. We need resources. And this is the only organization that I know that focuses on providing programming for women to gain the tools to be successful. I want to make sure women have those tools and the ability to network with other amazing women.
What would you like to specifically accomplish in your time as president?
EC: One of my objectives is to create a program to help women learn to develop a book of business. At the end of the day, that’s what matters in the private sector. You can master your craft and put in your hours, but if you have no book of business, then you’re vulnerable. If you do have that, you have agency as a woman in this industry. And I also want to make sure that public attorneys achieve leadership positions. That’s where the decisions are made, and that’s how we can start demanding better policies.
What experience can you bring from your time at Dinsmore to Lawyers Club?
EC: Dinsmore’s parental leave is amazing. It’s one of the best in the country. To know that the firm values the time for women to spend time with their children is essential. There are firms that don’t pay associates for parental leave. There are only a couple other firm I know of that pay anywhere near what Dinsmore pays. So that shows me two things: The women at this firm have a voice and the firm values women. That’s something we can take to Lawyers Club. Other firms need to change because they’re not up to speed with what’s changing. We have more women in the work force and everyone needs to start thinking about that.