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Creating Your Own Advancement: The Women Attorneys who Co-authored the Guide to The Toxic Substances Act

March 06, 2023 (6 min read)

International Women’s Day 2023

In observance of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, LexisNexis is showcasing its authors and editors who have set the bar for excellence and leadership among women in legal professions.

Miriam Gold and Jean Warshaw are co-authors of the Guide to the Toxic Substances Control Act from LexisNexis, and have more than 40 years combined experience as in-house counsel in the chemical industry.

In addition to writing a stellar guide, they have designed procedures to integrate the Toxic Substances Control Act (TCSA) into manufacturing processes, negotiated with the Environmental Protection Agency to minimize or eliminate penalties, designed audits, and generally seen TSCA from every angle.

LexisNexis:  Having women co-authors on a legal publication isn’t a very common occurrence. Tell us a bit about how you began working together and how Guide to the Toxic Substances Control Act came about?

Jean Warshaw: As two lawyers working in-house at a chemical company, we saw an opportunity and jumped headlong into it.  I think it’s important to create your own advancement when you have developed expertise that extends beyond the job you are in.  Writing is a great way to share knowledge and experience and burnish your own credentials in a way no one else can do for you. 

Miriam Gold:  In my dual role as a Vice President of Regulatory Affairs as well as legal counsel, I initiated the process of integrating TSCA compliance into the business systems of the company.  While working on this project, Jean and I both came to the conclusion that this was the best way to ensure compliance with the applicable regulatory framework for any business.  We started writing about our work in industry and bar association publications, and eventually ended up authoring the TSCA treatise.  Finding opportunities to add value to clients, being creative with work, and sharing expertise by writing and speaking are excellent ways to distinguish yourself in the profession.

LexisNexis: The 2023 International Women's Day theme is #EmbraceEquity. As women in positions of leadership, what does “embracing equity” mean to you?

Gold: To me, this means giving everyone an opportunity to reach his or her potential.  It is not just about women, because when everyone has a fair shot, everyone, including women, benefit. For example, if a man has the chance to take off work or to work less than full time to take care of his children, the mother of the children benefits too.  Women also benefit when an accommodation is perceived as available to everyone, not just a woman thing.

Warshaw: Embracing equity is critically important in staffing a law practice for so many reasons. In the last 26 years I have hired a very diverse group of undergraduates who may not have otherwise gotten such a close look into a law practice so early in their education.  This diversity extends beyond gender equity to religion, race, and economic backgrounds.  I have found that the pool of enthusiastic people is enormous when barriers are removed.  Each person has been outstanding and has contributed different vantage points to my practice. I am proud that each person I have worked with has applied the skills they learned in my office to become successful lawyers, administrators, and -- notably -- chefs.

LexisNexis:  In what ways are you working to promote gender equity in your professional life? 

Warshaw: When I started my first job as only the fifth woman lawyer ever to be hired in a 100-year old firm of about 70 lawyers, gender was a central theme.  Advocating for women at that firm included opening discussions about holding meetings and events at clubs that admitted men only. I hope that I have had much more of an impact by mentoring young lawyers both formally and informally, and guiding the undergraduates who have worked for me.

Gold: I have always tried to hire the best person for the job and then to work with that person to accommodate his or her needs.  In the early days, this really applied mostly to women, who were more willing to ask for accommodations to be able tend to their families, such as children or elderly parents.  Now, men might ask as well, though it is still more likely to be a woman who wants an abbreviated schedule.  I also try to give opportunities for new lawyers, both men and women, to work on projects that will bring them into contact with more senior business leaders, to open doors.

LexisNexis:  In your opinion, how can thought leaders and influencers within the legal industry bring about a more equitable society?

Warshaw: All lawyers benefit from discussions about equity, inclusion, and diversity.  We can become so busy these issues are not at the forefront of a legal practice. True thought leaders recognize that failing to nurture talented individuals because they may not have been selected by central casting leads to a great waste of talent and stymied careers.   

I have a ​solo practice and at the same time work with Axiom, an innovative flexible legal talent provider with a twenty-three-year history of restructuring the practice of law and how lawyers are deployed in corporate departments.  Axiom's model helps legal talent break barriers by offering a diverse group of lawyers who are vetted for their experience and courted by corporate law departments as important contributors.  I applaud this model because it helps lawyers overcome sexism, racism, and ageism more than other traditional models of legal practice.

Gold: Thought leaders need to be able to bring up the issue of gender equity whenever they can.  It need not be in a program on equity, and it is better in some ways if it is not.  Don’t silo the concept.  Integrate equity into the business and the law. We don’t need long speeches; we just need acknowledgement that women are doing some amazing work.  Be specific about what she accomplished in an appropriate setting. Senior managers need to be seen as giving women good opportunities on cases and deals—not just asking others to do so.  Visibility – not just saying it but doing it. Walking the talk.

LexisNexis:  What advice would you give women aspiring to do great things in the legal field?

Warshaw: I would tell any young woman lawyer to do her best substantively and work tirelessly for what she believes in.  But that is not enough and she will have to create her own opportunities by exploiting what she loves doing.  I also advise young women to actively search for people who can serve as mentors for career development and opportunities. 

Gold: Assess what in the law you are good at and what you enjoy doing.  What skills do you have and which ones don’t you have.  You don’t have to be excellent at everything, but you do have to know what you can and cannot do well.  Maybe you pick an area of the law that plays to your strengths.  Look to work with people who have strengths you don’t have.  Find a mentor.  Make sure you are comfortable with the person and that the person really wants to be a mentor. A mentor can be male or female or gender fluid.  It just needs to be someone with varied experiences who wants to share expertise and has the time to do so.  Write  -- there are many different venues in which to get published.   Make presentations at work and to industry groups.  You can be academic; you can be practical; or any combination.  Different audiences need different approaches. And, yes – network.  You need to establish yourself as a competent person who is easy to work with and will take on projects without complaining.  Help others.  There is karma in the world!

Gold and Warshaw’s publications, Guide to the Toxic Substances Control Act,  is available online at the LexisNexis Bookstore.

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