October 13, 2014
Three Tulane Law School graduates — Akin Gump Straus Hauer & Feld partner Kerry Berchem, U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Wells Roby and Greenberg Traurig shareholder Natasha Wilson — have been named “Women Worth Watching” by Profiles in Diversity Journal .
The national publication, which has been celebrating women in leadership roles for 13 years, chose awardees “for their passion and potential and for the impact their work has on their workplace and our world.”
Berchem (L ’91) heads Akin Gump’s corporate practice and is a member of the firm’s management committee, working in the New York office.
In her magazine profile, she writes about returning from maternity leave at a time when the transactional work she had been doing was in short supply, so she asked to assist a senior partner in the financial restructuring department. She subsequently developed a specialty working with companies and boards after bankruptcy restructuring.
Her advice: “Take the wheel when you have a constructive idea” or see an opportunity. “The road behind you leads to the road in front of you,” she says. “Be the driver, not a passenger.”
Judge Karen Wells Roby
Roby (L ’87) has served 15 years as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana. She co-chairs the ABA Litigation Section’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee, is an associate professor in the law school’s Trial Advocacy program and coaches the Black Law Students-Frederick Douglass Moot Court team.
She recounts the importance of finding a role model in Bernette J. Johnson, the first African American female attorney Roby had met (and now the Louisiana Supreme Court’s chief justice).
“Mentoring is the most basic method of motivating and encouraging a young person to believe she can achieve what may seem to be a distant and almost impossible goal,” Roby says. “I attribute my personal success to a combination of factors — my mentor, my belief that God will bless the work of my hands as I mentor to other young people and my lack of fear about walking through doors that were previously closed.”
Wilson (L ’03), a former television journalist, works in Atlanta and focuses on representing management on labor and employment law issues. She
also has handled environmental and toxic tort defense and general business
Wilson says she “recognized early on that, in order to be successful, I had to push myself outside my comfort zone.”
She says the younger women she mentors often fear being perceived as cocky, but women must make themselves heard, valued and respected in order to succeed. “The core issue we have as women is to first convince ourselves that we are worthy before we can make others believe it, too,” she says.