Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Spotlight: Hope G. Nightingale, Partner
My legal career began in 1976 as a Paralegal at one of Chicago’s well-known firms. I had no intention of going to law school—I simply needed a job as my then-husband was a med student. I took the LSATs on a dare. I prepared with a $5 study book, as at that time I could not afford a prep course. My husband was unhappy about my new career goal so I moved on, alone. When I graduated from the University of Chicago, I was the first lawyer in my family.
I was the first former paralegal to be re-hired at that firm as an associate, and I was elected partner seven years later. It was a different world then. In the ‘80s, female attorneys wore skirts, stockings and heels. I practiced law for a decade before I wore pants to work (… and my legs have not been seen since!) We all had our own secretaries, and computers were not yet used in legal offices. Although there were several highly-regarded female partners there, I cannot recall any of them ever offering to mentor or to counsel any of the younger women.
I was trained to be a litigator. Trials were hard to find in the ’80s and ‘90s, especially for women. Also, as a hearing impaired person (being completely deaf in one ear since childhood), I was discouraged from seeking trial work. In 1994, I moved to Burditt & Radzius and was one of the firm’s few female partners. I began to handle insurance coverage issues under Dan Litchfield’s guidance. From 1996-1998, I was elected to serve as the firm’s President.
I was one of the founding partners of Litchfield Cavo LLP when it was formed in December 1998. I was the only female partner at first, but Carrie Durkin, Eileen Kavanagh and other women joined as partners before too long. I have occupied the same office since December 1998 (and fully expect it will require a massive dumpster when I leave). I feel lucky to have worked with some of the best minds in the business, including both our insurer clients and our colleagues at Litchfield Cavo. I have had the good fortune to work with Jean Wierzbinski as my assistant for over 25 years—since before we all left Burditt! We are co-dependent of each other and good friends. Together, we filled the role of “Office Mom” for the Chicago office and beyond, as the Firm expanded from a single office with 12 attorneys (plus Rick Cavo in Hartford) to the Firm of more than 250 attorneys it is today.
I have counseled and mentored numerous young women as they forged their own paths in the field of law. In my view, female attorneys often face greater challenges such as struggling with competing demands of clients, colleagues and family (both children and parents). I am awed by the creativity and resilience shown by the women attorneys at Litchfield Cavo during the COVID-19 pandemic. I believe we have succeeded in providing a flexible foundation for their personal and professional development.
I hope I am never accused of pulling up the ladder behind me.
– Hope G. Nightingale, Partner