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WBA Honors Ellen Jakovic With Woman Lawyer of the Year Award

May 24, 2024

By John Murph

The Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia (WBA) honored Ellen M. Jakovic, D.C. Bar immediate past president, with the 2024 Woman Lawyer of the Year Award at the WBA’s annual dinner on May 22. Held at the National Building Museum, the event featured keynote remarks by Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Jakovic WBAIn her acceptance speech, Jakovic called the award the “capstone” of her career. She noted how her involvement in the District’s legal community began with the WBA. “As a young associate, struggling to navigate the demands of a Big Law practice and a family with two small children, I turned to the WBA’s working parents’ forum for help,” Jakovic said. “I am forever grateful for the support and the mentoring I received and [for] the community that welcomed [me] during that challenging time in my life.”

Jakovic also hailed the honor as a “full circle” event in her professional career, before quoting the late Madeleine Albright, who was the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state. “[Albright] famously said that there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women,” Jakovic said. “I don’t claim to have the secretary’s insight into the afterlife, [but] I know that there is a special place right here in our legal community for women who support other women. And that’s the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia and the Women’s Bar Association Foundation.”

The WBA commended Jakovic for her legal career that spans nearly 40 years. Currently, she’s of counsel in Kirkland & Ellis LLP’s antitrust practice group. Until 2021 she was a partner, heading the firm’s Hard-Scott-Robino Antitrust Improvements Act filing practice. Before joining Kirkland & Ellis in 2008, Jakovic worked at White & Case LLP for 13 years as an associate, and then as counsel. She started her career as an associate at Miller & Chevalier Chartered before moving to Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge.

During her tenure as D.C. Bar president from 2022 to 2023, Jakovic led the Bar in launching the Early Career Lawyers Community. She also spoke about issues impacting women in the legal profession, celebrating during her term the 50th anniversary of Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or education program that receives federal funding. Her January/February 2023 Washington Lawyer column, “Getting and Keeping Women in the Game,” won an Honorable Mention from the National Conference of Bar Presidents for the 2023 President’s Page Award.

Jakovic also leveraged her D.C. Bar presidency to advocate for access to justice, especially when she provided written and oral testimonies before the D.C. Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety when Washington, D.C.’s Access to Justice Initiative was facing a 60 percent cut in funding.

Before becoming D.C. Bar president, Jakovic served as president of the WBA; she has also served on numerous boards, including the American Bar Foundation, the Council for Court Excellence, and the DC Bar Foundation.

KlobucharEarlier that evening, Senator Klobuchar delivered the keynote address, reflecting on how the National Women’s Bar Association was important for her after she graduated from the University of Chicago Law School and worked for 13 years in corporate law at Dorsey & Whitney LLP and at Gray Plant Mooty in Minneapolis.  

“Women were just coming up in the law when I first started,” Klobuchar said. “[I recall] watching these women become partners and the struggles that many of us faced. I remember the ones who had kids and what that was like, so for those of you who are younger — as hard as life seems — you have to respect those who came before you because it was not an easy time. I’m just so proud of all of you and the men that stand with you for being here today.”

Klobuchar recounted her entry into politics when she became the first woman to serve as Hennepin County attorney in 1998, representing nearly one-fourth of the Minnesota population, and then as U.S. senator.

“When I ran [for U.S. Senate], it was at a point where two women had run and lost,” Klobuchar said. “So, I would be asked numerous times if a woman could win. I remember always saying, ‘Well, a woman won in Texas. So, I think a woman can win.’ I finally said that I’m not running as a woman; I’m running on my merits, I’m running on what I’ve gotten done in my life, in the private sector, and as the county attorney. And that seemed to work.”

Despite the struggles of being a senator, Klobuchar said that collaborating with the women senators, who work hard and support one another, has been a true joy. She noted that in the history of the United States, there have been approximately 2,000 senators, and only 60 have been women.

“[But] more and more people are running who are going to change the face of the Senate,” Klobuchar said. “And that makes me happy, just like you’ve seen in the legal profession across the country.” She encouraged attendees to continue “to go forward and carry the torch.”

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