March DEI – Trailblazing Women in Law and NALA’s 50-Year Journey

March 2024


Women’s History Month prompts us to celebrate the remarkable women who have shaped the legal profession. From the influential legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the vital roles played by paralegals and other legal practitioners, this article honors the historical contributions of women in law. It also emphasizes the ongoing journey toward diversity, equity, and inclusion within the legal field. 

Trailblazers in Law: Women Shaping Legal History 

Historically, women encountered significant obstacles when pursuing careers in law. However, the groundbreaking achievements of trailblazers like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have paved the way for greater inclusivity. Ginsburg’s iconic statement, “women belong in all places where decisions are being made,” symbolizes the progress made in this regard. 

In addition to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the stories of other extraordinary women highlight their pivotal roles in shaping the legal profession:

  • Ada Kepley (1847-1925): A pioneering suffragist and advocate for women’s rights, Kepley earned distinction as the first woman in the United States to graduate from law school in 1870. Her dedication to legal practice was inseparable from her passionate advocacy for women’s rights and suffrage. Kepley’s journey serves as a testament to her perseverance and belief in justice, laying a crucial foundation for future generations of women in law.


  • Charlotte E. Ray (1850–1911): As the first African American woman to earn a law degree and practice law in the United States, Ray shattered racial and gender barriers in 1872. Due to pervasive discrimination, she only practiced law for a few years before becoming a teacher. However, Ray’s legacy continues to inspire individuals from marginalized communities to pursue legal careers, demonstrating the transformative power of resilience in the face of adversity.


  • Cornelia Sorabji (1866–1954): Sorabji, the first woman to practice law in India, defied societal expectations to carve a path for herself in the legal realm. Throughout her career, she passionately advocated for women and orphans, leaving an enduring impact on Indian legal history. Sorabji’s story highlights the significant contributions of women in challenging male-dominated fields and promoting justice and equality. 


NALA: A Guiding Force for Paralegals and Other Legal Practitioners 

Since its establishment in 1975, the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) has been instrumental in guiding paralegals and other legal practitioners through decades of legal evolution. As NALA approaches its 50th anniversary, it is essential to reflect on the organization’s historical role in shaping the paralegal landscape and responding to the dynamic legal ecosystem.

  • Evolution of Paralegal Recognition and Certification: In its early years, paralegals operated in informal capacities, with roles varying widely. NALA recognized the need for standardization and professionalization, advocating for the recognition of paralegals as vital legal team members. Over the years, NALA has developed a rigorous certification program to ensure high standards of competence and professionalism.
  • Adaptation to Technological Advances: NALA has been pivotal in helping paralegals and other legal practitioners adapt to technological transformations within the legal landscape. From computer-assisted research to artificial intelligence, NALA provides resources and support to navigate these changes, ensuring paralegals and other legal practitioners remain at the forefront of technological advancements.
  • Advocacy for Ethical Standards: NALA has championed ethical standards within the paralegal profession, evolving alongside changes in the legal ecosystem. By upholding the highest ethical standards, NALA ensures that paralegals and other legal practitioners contribute to maintaining principles of justice and fairness in the legal system.
  • Response to Changes in Legal Practice Areas: NALA supports paralegals and other legal practitioners in diverse practice areas, providing tools and knowledge to excel in evolving legal landscapes. Whether in established or emerging fields, NALA’s guidance is instrumental in helping paralegals and other legal practitioners navigate dynamic practice areas.
  • Support for Diversity and Inclusion: NALA promotes diversity and inclusion within the legal profession, fostering a sense of community among paralegals and other legal practitioners from all backgrounds. By advocating for equal opportunities, NALA contributes to a more inclusive and representative legal profession.



As Women’s History Month draws to a close, it is crucial to acknowledge the historical role of women in law and commit to addressing ongoing challenges. From trailblazers like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to dedicated paralegals and other legal practitioners, women continue to redefine and enrich the legal profession. By actively promoting inclusivity and equity, we contribute to a legal system that truly reflects the values of justice and fairness for all.