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VOL. 127 | NO. 135 | Thursday, July 12, 2012

Steinberg Honored For Supporting Women in Law

By Andy Meek

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Jill Steinberg, a shareholder in the Memphis office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, has received the firm’s 2012 Susan E. Rich Award for excellence in promoting and supporting the advancement of women in the legal profession.


Baker Donelson established the award in honor of Rich, a shareholder in the firm’s Chattanooga office who was the firm’s first woman shareholder, the first woman to be appointed an office managing shareholder and the first women tapped to join the firm’s board of directors.

Baker Donelson gives an award in Rich’s honor each year to someone who exemplifies strong commitment to strengthening the role of women attorneys at the firm. And this year’s recipient definitely fits that bill.

Steinberg was instrumental in founding the Baker Donelson’s Women’s Initiative and served as the first leader of the firm’s Women’s Initiative Steering Committee. No less than Baker Donelson chairman and CEO Ben Adams describes Steinberg as “one of the strongest advocates for the advancement of women in the firm.”

That advancement is something the firm has an abiding interest in – and has picked up recognition for. Every year since 2008, for example, Multicultural Law magazine has ranked Baker Donelson among the “Top 100 Law Firms for Women.”

“The women’s initiative got started because it was a time when the firm was growing, and we felt like we needed to provide some more support for the professional growth of women in the firm,” said Steinberg, who’s been with Baker Donelson for 27 years. “Other big law firms in the country were starting these women’s programs, and we began to study the best features of some of those. Also, a lot of companies were encouraging diversity in the teams they hired.”

Currently around 20 percent of Baker Donelson’s shareholders are women, and women occupy leadership roles across the firm. They serve on the board of directors, as office managing shareholders, as practice group chairs and as heads of committees.

Steinberg concentrates her practice in litigation and has significant experience in medical malpractice, nursing home liability, products liability, premises liability, automobile liability, toxic tort and professional liability. Her experience also includes insurance defense, workers’ compensation, general business litigation and ERISA litigation.

She’s tried more than 25 jury trials and has appeared before the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Tennessee Supreme Court and Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. She is certified as a Civil Trial Specialist by the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization and the National Board of Trial Advocacy.

She got her law degree from the University of Tennessee in 1985.

“I was looking for a good law firm in the South,” Steinberg said about the search that brought her to Baker Donelson. “I grew up in Chattanooga, and I wanted to be in a bigger city than Knoxville or Chattanooga. Baker Donelson just seemed to be very progressive and had a really good practice.”

She has an extensive resume and is involved in a wide array of community work and other projects outside the office. Her professional memberships have included the National Association of Women Lawyers, the Association for Women Attorneys, Tennessee Defense Lawyers Association and the American Health Lawyers Association, among many others.

She’s been listed as among the top 50 attorneys in Memphis since 2006 and top 100 attorneys in Tennessee since 2007 by Mid-South Super Lawyers, among other distinctions.

She’s been a coordinator of defense for more than 100 medical malpractice lawsuits for a large hospital system. She’s served as regional counsel for a nursing home chain in about 50 cases defending medical negligence claims.

One bit of advice she has for female attorneys is that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to the profession.

“There are plenty of opportunities out there,” she said. “There’s some people who want to be on the partnership track and work really hard, and there’s others who are more interested in working hard for a few years and then cutting back some. There’s a diversity of opportunity out there.

“One of the main goals I have for the Women’s Initiative is to be there for younger female lawyers, to have a larger group of women there for them. Now, there are lots of women for our younger lawyers to try to emulate.”

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