When Jane Dalton became a summer associate at Duane Morris in 1970, she was seven months pregnant and there were no other women lawyers in the firm.
For many other women attorneys of her generation, the story might not have ended with Dalton spending the next 42 years at the firm.
But Duane Morris was different, said Dalton, who became the first female partner at the firm, which now has more than 200 attorneys in Pennsylvania.
When Dalton was interviewing for summer associate positions as a University of Pennsylvania Law School student, she was asked if she was using birth control and if she was planning on having children. "The nice thing was Duane Morris didn't ask any questions" like that, Dalton said.
And when Dalton started the summer expecting a child, "I came in feeling like Hester Prynne," but David Sykes, the head of the firm's hiring program at the time, was expecting a child himself with his wife and he helped persuade the rest of the firm, Dalton said.
Dalton sat down with The Legal Intelligencer to recount her experience as one of the women attorneys who has been a trailblazer in the Philadelphia legal community on the occasion of receiving the Philadelphia Bar Association's Sandra Day O'Connor Award. The award, named after the first female U.S. Supreme Court justice, is given to a female attorney who is accomplished in her practice, advocates for the equal treatment of women in the profession and mentors other women in the profession.
When Dalton joined the firm, she worked with Henry Reath, who Dalton said was a mentor to her.
For Reath, it "didn't matter whether you were a man, woman, green, blue or purple. What mattered was getting the work done," Dalton said.
"My mentors were all men for the most part. They were the ones who were here," Dalton said.
Phyllis Beck, a former Pennsylvania Superior Court judge who was the second woman to work at Duane Morris, recalled that when the firm had meetings at the Union League, the league had a rule that women were not permitted to enter the front door and they had to enter through a side entrance. Judge Marjorie Rendell of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and Judge Gene E.K. Pratter of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania were the third and fourth women to join the firm.