SAVANNAH - Georgia is preparing to add some diversity to a profession long dominated by middle-aged white men in dark suits - and in the top ranks, no less.
Next week in Atlanta, the State Bar of Georgia will name attorney Linda Klein to serve as its first female president.
On Thursday, Kathleen Horne was sworn in as the new president of the Savannah Bar Association.
Unlike Ms. Klein, Ms. Horne won't actually make history. The Savannah Bar had its first female president in 1976, native daughter Phyllis Kravitch, who later joined the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as a judge.
But that doesn't whittle any significance from Ms. Horne's new job. The very fact that it's no longer remarkable for a woman to lead the local Bar is, in itself, remarkable.
"There are so many women practicing law now that I don't think people are surprised anymore when they call a law firm for advice and get a woman," Ms. Horne said Monday, sitting in the Chippewa Square mansion that houses the law firm Inglesby, Falligant, Horne, Courington and Nash.
"Now, when I started practicing, people still were surprised by things like that," she said. "Things have changed."
True enough. Minnie Hale Daniel had to force her way into a courtroom in 1916 as Georgia's first female lawyer because the law specifically required attorneys to be "men" of good character.
Eighty years later, the law schools are churning out bright and ambitious young women, and one-fourth of Georgia's 28,634 lawyers are female. In theory, as a few more years pass, women will rise in the ranks as senior partners, district attorneys and - as Penny Haas Freesemann did locally - judges.
"I'd say we're coming along about as quickly as we could expect," Ms. Freesemann said. "Kathy may have been a few years ahead of me in school, but we're starting to see our group of women coming along in our careers."
Gender isn't much of an issue to Ms. Horne.
"Actually, my husband (Carl Pedigo Jr.) is really breaking new ground," Ms. Horne said, laughing. "He'll be the Savannah Bar's first husband. He's also an attorney, so I can tease him about that."
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