A Career of Advancing Women in The Law

Source: The National Law Journal

Martha "Marty" Fay Africa opened doors for women in top in-house, law firm and nonprofit jobs.

Marty AfricaThe legal profession lost one of its brightest stars in January, and she wasn't a lawyer. As The National Law Journal this week focuses on Outstand­ing Women Lawyers, it is fitting to remember Martha "Marty" Fay Africa as one of the women who have made a major impact on the legal profession.

She was indeed "a giant in the legal placement field," as a story of her passing in NLJ affiliate The Recorder described her. She placed general counsel at such institutions as the University of California, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Bank of the West, among many others, and helped to create what has become the world's largest legal recruiting firm.

Marty's influence extended far beyond her three decades as a ­nationally renowned recruiter. She profoundly affected the legal profession in this country through her tireless efforts to improve opportunities for women and people of color in that profession.

Her efforts to help level the playing field started during the late 1970s — a time when women in law schools were, if not rare, certainly not anything close to about half the class, as they are now. Coming from an early career in the sciences into the position of director of law placement at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, Marty counseled and encouraged countless young women trying to find their path in a profession that didn't know quite what to do with them.

Many of those women ­eventually became general counsel, partners in law firms and other influential contributors to the legal world. They include Hilary Krane, placed as general counsel at Levi Strauss & Co. and who now is general counsel at Nike Inc., and Joyce Schenewerk, assistant general counsel at First Republic Bank. These women likely remember the gentle — or not so gentle — push that Marty gave them early on, and many credit her with putting them on the path to success.


In 1984, already possessing a substantial reputation in the San Francisco Bay Area legal community, Marty joined Bob Major to form the core of what is today Major, Lindsey & Africa, a global legal search and consulting firm. Marty conducted searches at all levels, from general counsel to executive director for major corporations, not-for-profit organizations and universities. She had an insatiable appetite for her work, which she viewed as improving the lives of individuals and organizations. She loved the challenge of each new client and each new search.

Like the Berkeley law students from earlier days, Marty's candidates and ­clients, particularly women and ­minority lawyers, became friends and ­devoted fans. She generously and joyously passed along her experience and insight, mentoring numerous more junior legal-search consultants, many of whom are women who remain committed to carrying on her work.

Long before "diversity and inclusion" became buzzwords in corporate America, Marty was tireless in her trail-blazing efforts to improve the profession by championing the merits of a diverse legal workforce. She delighted in educating clients on the perhaps "out of the box," but nonetheless outstanding candidate. Placement by placement, she made a difference — particularly in the world of in-house lawyers.

At the same time, her influence expanded to the national stage through her work with a host of organizations, including the American Bar Association. Most notably, she was the founder of and inspiration behind the Women Rainmakers, an ABA law practice committee that for the past 20-plus years has been devoted to training women lawyers in the arts of networking and practice building. In 2004, when asked what she would like her legacy to be, Marty answered, "That women lawyers associated with Women Rainmakers pass on that learning to others."

Marty also served on numerous ABA committees relating to advancement of women and as liaison to the ABA Commission on Women from the ABA Law Practice Management Section, as well as on a number of nonprofit boards. She helped launch the Bar Association of San Francisco's "Goals and Timetables for Minority Retention and Advancement," passed in 1989 and adopted by more than 100 of San Francisco's legal employers, as well as a scholarship program for minority law students during the late 1990s.

If her efforts to change the profession for the better could be summed in a phrase, it would be this: She made sure people who didn't have a voice got a voice. To her last days, she was a prolific writer, editor and speaker on a wide range of topics relating to law practice and its management.

Marty possessed a unique style, great warmth, a booming laugh, a keen wit and great insight. She simply loved her work and was endlessly fascinated by the organizations and people that she encountered in each search and in each cause that she adopted as her own. She put her own stamp on everything she touched and become one of the most beloved and sought-after figures in the legal search profession. Not a lawyer, but a true giant of the legal profession, Marty will be greatly missed.

See the full-feature article on The National Law Journal, May 4, 2015.

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Miriam FrankMiriam Frank is a Partner in the San Diego office of Major, Lindsey & Africa and the Global Head of Client Services. She also supports the members of the West Region In-House Practice Team, providing leadership and back-up on searches, ensuring outstanding client service and facilitating ongoing professional development of team members. A Midwest native, she graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from New York City's Barnard College and received her master's and law (cum laude) degrees from the University of Michigan.


Jon LindseyJon Lindsey is the New York founding partner of Major, Lindsey & Africa, voted the "Best Legal Recruiter" by the readers of The National Law Journal, "best legal search firm in the United States" in Worldlaw Business magazine’s survey of the AmLaw 100, and "in a league apart" from other legal recruiters by The American Lawyer. Over the past two decades Jon has placed scores of partners and practice groups at many of the world’s top law firms and assisted firms in merger and branch office acquisitions. As the former Global Co-Chair of MLA’s Partner Practice Group, Jon helped to set strategy and coordinate the partner practice for the firm’s 21 domestic and international offices. He is the co-author of "Managing People In Today’s Law Firm" (Quorum Books, 1995) and the 2014 MLA "Lateral Partner Satisfaction Survey."


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