Women’s Initiative (WAVE)


A central component of Wilson Elser’s diversity and inclusion initiative, WAVE (Women Attorneys Valued & Empowered) exemplifies the firm’s progressive approach to advancing the professional and personal well-being of its women attorneys. Its mission, embraced by the entire organization, is simple and straightforward:

“To attract, develop and retain women attorneys by enhancing and strengthening their skills and by providing career-advancing opportunities in client service, business development and leadership.” 

As of April, 2016, Wilson Elser
ranks ninth nationally in the “Top 10 Best Biglaw Firms for Female Attorneys.” According to Law360,
“BigLaw continues to struggle
with gender equality, but 10
powerhouse firms outpace their peers, with women comprising nearly 40 percent of their ranks.”

Guided by a Steering Committee of experienced women partners, WAVE is facilitated by 12 rotating members throughout Wilson Elser’s office network, representing more than 300 women attorneys. WAVE recommends, implements and monitors efforts related to supporting this important constituency while attracting and developing future leaders – inclusive of associates, of counsel and partners. 

National Programs
WAVE implements and oversees related programming at the national and local/regional levels. Programs, while varied, are mutually reinforcing and combine to serve the single purpose of advancing WAVE’s mission. Examples in 2016 include:

  • WAVE Makers highlights and celebrates on a monthly basis the many
    professional achievements of our women attorneys.

  • Pathway to Success” provides a forum for Wilson Elser committee members and others to share information with women attorneys on compensation and advancement within the firm.

  • Leadership Development includes a speaker series with subject matter experts discussing challenges women face in the workplace.

  • Mentoring matches women associates with senior attorneys who can provide valuable information and insights on strengthening client service and enhancing their practices

Women attorneys at Wilson Elser are represented at disproportionately high percentages relative to many other law firms of similar size and stature. Most notably, we have more female than male
associates. In addition, substantial percentages of our partners and of counsel are women. WAVE is committed to further bolstering these numbers and empowering the women behind them.

Local Programs and Outreach
Taking advantage of grassroots enthusiasm, many Wilson Elser offices are developing and implementing related initiatives on a local level. Building on our national programs, local activities include panels, guest speakers, networking opportunities and community service. In addition, several of our women attorneys hold senior positions in local bar associations and charitable organizations.


Steering Committee Members

Carolyn O’Connor - Chairperson
Regional Managing Partner | New Jersey

Jacqueline Hattar
Partner | White Plains

Margaret Luberda
Chief Human Resources Officer | White Plains

Kathleen McDonough
Partner | Chicago

Yoora Pak
Partner | Washington, D.C. Metro

Angela Russell
Regional Managing Partner | Baltimore

Lori Semlies
Partner | White Plains

Kathleen D. Wilkinson
Partner | Philadelphia

Subcommittee Office Representatives
Heather Austin
Of Counsel | Philadelphia

Whitney Barnecut
Associate | San Diego

Karen Bashor
Of Counsel | Las Vegas

Nicole Cuglietto
Associate | Stamford

Anet Drapalski
Associate | Los Angeles

Allison Edwards
Partner | Houston

Lamis Eli
Associate | Chicago

Emily Fernandez
Associate | White Plains

Hamutal Ginsburg
Associate | New York

Cathleen Heintz
Of Counsel | Denver

Allison Holubis
Associate | White Plains

Jillian Keith
Partner | Dallas

Matt Kiel
Associate | Los Angeles

Christine Knipper
Partner | Boston

Victoria Luna
Of Counsel | Orlando

Kristina Oropeza
Of Counsel | Dallas

Joanna Piorek
Partner | New Jersey

Judy Selmeci
Partner | New York

Golriz Shoai-Naini
Associate | Washington, DC

Jana Simmons
Of Counsel | Michigan

Patricia Stone
Associate | Milwaukee

Jill Willhoft
Of Counsel | New Orleans