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Now That Abortion Rights Have Been Decimated, Biglaw Leader Offers Heartfelt Message Of Support For Lawyers

Abortion LegislationNow that the Supreme Court has laid waste to nearly 50 years of precedent by overturning Roe v. Wade with its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, attorneys have been left wondering what comes next. For many, it’s a truly depressing day to be a lawyer in America. How can we possibly reconcile the destruction of the fundamental right to choose against the fractured political framework that seeks to deny our reproductive freedom? When your bodily autonomy is under attack, it’s incredibly distracting, to say the very least.

While some firms have released statements reminding associates that they should try to be collegial during these divisive times, others are making their priorities known, and the contrast is stark.

Julie Jones, the chair of Ropes & Gray, released the following statement just minutes after the Supreme Court released its opinion in Dobbs. We will let the statement speak for itself. Please let it serve as a lesson on what Biglaw leaders across the country can do guide their attorneys in times like these.

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, ending 50 years of federal constitutional protection of abortion rights.  The Dobbs ruling has created extraordinarily strong feelings in many of us.  As a lawyer, I reflect on Supreme Court jurisprudence, the principle of stare decisis and the future of privacy rights and other civil right protections in the United States.   As a woman, I have a profound feeling of vulnerability caused by the elimination of a long-standing right of women – a right that affects their bodies and their agency.  As a person with privilege, I recognize and worry about the decision’s disproportionate impact on women with limited resources.   As an American, I fear the divisive nature of this topic will further fracture an already angry and divided citizenry. As a leader of Ropes & Gray, I am concerned about the effect of this decision on our community.  We have strong, principled and differing beliefs on abortion rights within the firm; even in our very respectful community, internal dialogue about the Dobbs decision and its consequences could be imbued with bitterness. This very writing, which I undertook because of the gravity of the moment, carries the likelihood of offense to portions of our community who, for a variety of reasons, favored the reversal of Roe v. Wade.  

While I don’t have answers about the future direction of the Court’s decisions or how to heal a divided citizenry, I do know that at moments where so many colleagues are hurting and need support, the Ropes & Gray community stands tall for each other.  To that end, we will be holding two community gatherings over the next few days.   The Women’s Forum will host a meeting for all interested colleagues – to offer the comfort of community and a forum for conversation in small breakout groups.  In a second gathering, Doug Hallward-Driemeier will lead an overview of federal and state law on reproductive rights post-Dobbs.    

Ropes & Gray has long dedicated itself to the protection of civil rights and individual liberties – whether those rights are grounded in federal, state or local law.  We will remain steadfast in that mission in the weeks and months to come.  Anticipating today’s decision, many of you have reached out to the head of our pro bono program, Roz Nasdor, and our U.S. pro bono committee chairs, Jenny Rikoski and Chris Conniff, to ask how you can channel your concern into action.   There will be many opportunities for those interested to contribute on a pro bono basis to the protection of health care rights for women, a cause which Ropes & Gray will continue to champion.   

Thank you for being a strong, caring and supportive group of individuals that I know will model the best of colleagueship and humanity on such an important issue.


Staci ZaretskyStaci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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