The University of New Mexico’s Office of University Counsel (OUC) has received a first of its kind honor for its work as women and for women in the legal field. The New Mexico Women’s Bar Association selected UNM OUC for its inaugural Supporting Women in Law award.
“The Office of University Counsel received this award because of its inclusive culture, its strong mentoring of new women lawyers, and encouraging all women attorneys to reach their full potential. The OUC reflects the vision of our organization: success and fulfilment for every woman in the legal profession,” said Barbara Koenig, president of the New Mexico Women’s Bar Association.
OUC provides legal advice and service to UNM and represents the University in its legal matters. For the first time in its history, the office is led by a woman, Elsa Kircher Cole, and a majority of the attorneys (eight of the total 10) in the office are women, including the Senior Deputy University Counsel.
“Our office not only hires women lawyers, it provides them with an opportunity to shine,” Cole said. “Our female attorneys work high profile cases and brief senior leadership and the Regents on a regular basis.”
UNM has many policies devoted to the enhancement of personal wellness and professional development for all of its employees, including tuition remission for UNM classes, flexible time, and telecommuting at the supervisor’s discretion.
Michele Huff, Senior Associate University Counsel, who nominated the office for the award, said she has personally taken advantage of all these benefits during her eight years at the OUC.
"The University Counsel encourages all members to serve our legal community, and has specifically supported my work on the Women’s Bar Association and mentoring young women lawyers,” Huff said. In addition, several OUC attorneys have taken 12-weeks of maternity leave, and then received approval for additional time to bond with their babies by working part-time from home.
“We, at UNM, know the key role that the OUC plays in dealing with the complex social and legal issues of our day,” Acting President Chaouki Abdallah said. “But it is heartening to see that value recognized outside the university and in highlighting the work of the women lawyers in particular.”
The 2017 Supporting Women in the Law Award will be presented to The University of New Mexico Office of University Counsel Thursday, May 4, during the Henrietta Pettijohn Event beginning at 6 p.m. at the Hotel Albuquerque, 800 Rio Grande Blvd. NW, Albuquerque. Tickets are still available online.