When Jane Kirkeide first began practicing insurance law, she was the lone female attorney in the room. Now, more than 20 years later, there are a few women in the room with her, but not many.
“Insurance litigation tends to be very dominated by men. There are so few women north of Milwaukee who do this work,” said Kirkeide, who began working at Sager & Colwin Law Offices SC, Fond du Lac, earlier this year after working in-house at large insurance firms. “It really became my passion to help other women attorneys. We’re all in this together.”
Kirkeide created the Litigating Ladies, an informal networking group for attorneys to meet and talk about their practices and the obstacles they face.
“I really want to help women move ahead and encourage them to do the hard stuff, such as looking at civil litigation as a career,” she said. “It’s a stressful area to be in and dominated by men, but women can do well in it.”
Still, she said, she knows how challenging that can be.
“When I just started out, I had to work twice as hard to get half the recognition of my male colleagues,” Kirkeide said.
Nicole Weir and Crystal Uebelher, who are both claims attorneys at Secura Insurance Holdings Inc., Appleton, said Kirkeide is very supportive of other female attorneys. When Weir went from being a litigator to an in-house attorney, for example, Kirkeide was there to guide her.
“I had some internal doubts,” Weir said, “but she really helped me see how my skills matched very well with what I would be doing. It made the transition easier.”
Uebelher said Kirkeide is always willing to listen to others and their concerns.
“We’ve all dealt with insurance reps who we have had nothing in common with, but she was just the opposite,” Uebelher said. “She’s very friendly and open and always made you feel comfortable.”
Even though her practice keeps her busy, Kirkeide still finds time to do pro bono work, as well. She’s done work for the Fox Valley AIDS Project as well as a local animal shelter and Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs in Appleton.
“I think it’s very important to help people who are marginalized from society,” Kirkeide said. “With the women from Harbor House, many of them were so dependent on their husbands, it was important to help them find strength and resources to go out on their own.”