WILMINGTON – As a first-generation Korean American woman, who was raised by a single mother and became the first member of her family to earn a law degree, Cathie Pyune McEldowney intends to bring a new perspective to one of Delaware’s largest law firms.
[caption id="attachment_221970" align="alignright" width="400"] Cathie Pyune McEldowney has been named the new president and managing shareholder of national firm Maron Marvel. | PHOTO COURTESY OF MARON MARVEL[/caption]
Maron Marvel Bradley Anderson & Tardy has appointed McEldowney its new managing shareholder, president, and Executive Committee chair, the 26-year-old, Wilmington-based firm announced Wednesday. She will be the first woman to lead the firm that now has more than 100 lawyers nationwide in a dozen offices spanning from Houston to New York City.Paul Bradley, who previously served as Maron Marvel's managing shareholder for over 15 years, is now the firm's general counsel, a new position for the firm. Meanwhile, president and chair of the firm's Executive Committee were previously held by the firm's founder Jim Maron, who retired last year.McEldowney joins a growing number of female managing partners in Delaware’s legal scene, where about 20% of the Top 50 largest firms are led locally by women, including Richards, Layton & Finger President Doneene Damon, who leads the largest firm overall.Women, and especially Asian American women, continue to be underrepresented in the upper echelons of the legal industry though. According to the NALP 2021 Diversity Report, less than 5% of all attorneys practicing law in the United States are Asian Pacific American women, with even a smaller percentage in leadership roles.“I've always been about empowering people's authenticity,” she told Delaware Business Times in discussing the historic nature of her appointment. “I want to see more people that look like me in our profession and be given the opportunity to take on leadership positions in law firms.”Increasing diversity in Delaware’s lawyers and judges was the subject of arecent report led by the Delaware Supreme Court. McEldowney said Maron Marvel’s Diversity Committee is focusing on an initiative to work with local educational institutions on creating scholarship opportunities and internships to get people to think about a legal career and focus on underrepresented groups.“When I first went to the office in Wilmington, and I wasn't familiar with Wilmington, the first question I asked was, ‘Where are all the minorities?’” said McEldowney, who grew up in California and first worked in Philadelphia. “The one thing I immediately noticed walking in the business district areas was that it was very homogeneous, and so I felt a little out of place initially.”“As I learned more and more about the tight legal community in Delaware, I really learned to come to respect it, but I think there's still a lot of work that we can be doing to diversify the profession and the bar,” she added.Diversifying the firm isn’t just a social objective, but a smart business one as well, especially as large clients seek firms that are making it a priority. Maron Marvel was selected last year among a small handful of firms nationwide to continue representing global oil titan BP, and diversity was reportedly among the factors that the $96 billion company considered.“I'm proud to say that Maron Marvel won BP’s diversity and inclusion award across all of their law firms last year, so that was a really important milestone,” McEldowney said.While never really dreaming about one day running a law firm, McEldowney said her experience in arriving at Maron Marvel really changed how she thought about her future.“In 2003 when I joined Jim Maron here, it was him, two other founding partners and me. He had a vision to be the best mass tort defense firm in the country, and I was inspired by him to help him achieve that,” she said. “It was a different kind of risk management. Every other firm was doing boots-on-the-ground work in defending cases, but at Maron Marvel, we are managing mass tort risk at 30,000 feet.”The firm continues to be best-known for its work in mass tort risk management, or defending against lawsuits with numerous alleged victims due to accidents, pollution or other incidents. Its expansions into the South and the Midwest have also opened up opportunities in general liability, environmental and commercial litigation as well, McEldowney said.“We recently brought on seven new members who have clients that allow us to expand our core practice areas. So, we're definitely excited to do that,” she added.In Wilmington, Maron Marvel has about two dozen practicing attorneys – ranking it in the Top 20 largest firms, according to DBT research – working on toxic tort cases and corporate litigation before the Court of Chancery.“There's always room for expansion in Delaware since that's where we started,” McEldowney said.Aside from Delaware, Maron Marvel’s largest presence is in Jackson, Miss., where a federal court is a hotbed of litigation for toxic torts, often involving oil, asbestos or other insurance claims. One area that the growing firm hasn’t landed to yet is the West Coast, but McEldowney said it was a personal goal to one day return to her birth state to open a California office.
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