Perspectives from the Winners of the Women’s Section Scholarships

Perspectives from the Winners of the Women’s Section Scholarships

I recently attended the Women’s Section Annual Dinner where they award The Honorable Patricia Herron and Honorable Ellen James Scholarships.  I was impressed not only by the quality and character of the scholarship recipients, but by how far the Women’s Section has come over the past 26 years that I have been a member.

In 1978, there were 55 women attorneys in Contra Costa County out of a total of approximately 600.  With women representing only 9% of the total attorneys in Contra Costa County, the Women’s Section was founded with the goal to further the advancement of women in the legal profession and the judiciary.  Towards that end, in 1994, the Women’s Section established a scholarship for deserving law students who have demonstrated academic success, ties to Contra Costa County and an interest in advancing women’s issues.  To fund this scholarship, the Women’s Section began hosting an annual wine tasting and silent auction.  The first few years we were lucky to raise enough money to fund one $500 scholarship but soon we were able to offer two for a total of $1,000.  Things began to really take off in 1996 when Judge Patricia Herron graciously offered to match our $1,000 scholarship fund.  In 1998,  Judge Ellen James also offered to donate $1,000 each year towards the scholarship fund.  With these generous donations and our ongoing fundraising efforts, the Women’s Section was able to award three scholarships ($4,000, $3,000 and $1,000) for a total of $8,000.

Kate Mignani, Chelsea Davis and Emily Lahl, winners of the Honorable Patrica Herron and Honorable Ellen James Scholarships

Fast forward 20 years later to 2017 and approximately 45% of the 1500 attorneys in the Contra Costa County Bar Association are women and two of the past scholarship recipients, Marta Vanegas and Mika Domingo, have not only gone on to practice law in Contra Costa County but they, too, have served as President of the Women’s Section.  The Women’s Section continues to award the Honorable Patricia Herron and Honorable Ellen James Scholarships to qualified law students who have shown leadership potential, achieved academic success, and helped to advance women’s issues.

We have asked the 2017 recipients,  Kate MignaniChelsea Davis and Emily Lahl,  and to share their thoughts and “pre-flections” on what how they hope to advance women’s issues in the future. (Please use the links above to read their impressions.)

On behalf of the Women’s Section, I would like to thank everyone who has donated to and supported The Honorable Patricia Herron and Honorable Ellen James Scholarships over the years and look forward to your continued support.


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  • Ben Burch December 2, 2017, 1:00 am

    I have contributed to this scholarship fund for a number of years knowing that the money was for a good cause but not understanding specifically where the money was going. It was nice to read about the particular people who are getting the scholarships and to read about their aspirations for their legal careers. Thanks for providing that extra insight into why the contributions to the fund are so important.