A Chapter of the Women's Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY)

Interview of the Month

An Interview with Hon. Jodi J. Kimmel

Susan L. Pollet, Chair of the Archive and Historian Committee

Interview of Jodi J. Kimmel

By:  Susan L. Pollet, Archive and Historian Chair

Q:  When and why did you become involved with the WWBA?

A: I became involved in the WWBA in 2019, because I was starting to think about running to be Bedford’s first female judge.  For the first time in my legal career, I felt singled out as a woman.  My law school class was predominantly female; my first jobs had strong female mentors - I never felt the need to seek out support of other female lawyers beyond my co-workers and law school friends.

Q:  In what ways have you been active in the WWBA?

A: My initial involvement in the WWBA was with the book club which Lisa Denig does a fantastic job of leading.  During the pandemic we came together virtually to offer each other companionship and insight into the books we read.  This year I became the chair of the Judiciary Committee, and I am really enjoying this new role.

Q:  Why do you think there is still a need for a women’s bar association?

A: As I mulled over my answer to this question, I put it to my 16-year-old daughter to see what she would say.  Her response was: “as long as there are places where there has never been a female judge or they have their first female judge, there is a need for women lawyers to band together and support each other.”

      I agree with this assessment! I also asked fellow women lawyers to see why they feel there is still a need for a women’s bar association, since all of our needs are different.  The prevailing sentiment was that there is a need for a women’s bar association so long as gender bias and social stereotypes continue to serve as impediments to women.  One friend directed me to Elizabeth Peck’s 2008 article entitled “Why Do We Need Women’s Bar Associations?”. This friend felt that little has changed in the 15 years since this article was written. Peck states: “women’s experiences are different than men’s. Women - gay, straight, young, old, married, single, black, white, or brown – see the world a bit differently from men. We care about slightly different things.  We lead and communicate and argue and network and compete and collaborate with one another differently.  Even when we are sitting right next to men in the classroom or the courtroom, we may process and perceive matters differently. Because of these differences, it makes sense, then, for women to come together professionally to create an organization that meets these different needs.”  Many glass ceilings have been broken, yet many remain intact.

Q:  Please tell us about your legal career.

A: I attended Cardozo Law School because I had been an Art History major and wanted to study Art Law.  When I finally was able to take the Art Law class in my second year, I realized that we could be talking about widgets or Rembrandts - there was very little art in Art Law.  I then reconsidered which area of law I wanted to focus on.  I was always inspired by my dad who loved to go to work every day, he loved what he did.  I wanted to find that same passion for myself. I interned at a domestic violence center and found that passion.  I had always been interested in the judiciary as well, so my first job out of law school combined these two interests: I clerked for a Family Court Judge in New Jersey.  It was there that I came across an aspect of domestic violence that is too often overlooked: that which occurs within a marriage.  From the court I went to work for celebrity divorce lawyer Raoul Felder. There I met my now husband and we started our own firm with a focus on Family Law in 2004.  In 2021, I was elected as a Bedford Town Justice.

Q:  Which community activities are you involved in?

A: I am involved in different aspects of my community: I am involved with my daughters’ school as class parent liaison (now that they’re both in high school my role has gotten smaller but no less important to me); I am a driver for Bedford’s Meals on Wheels program; I am involved with my synagogue as a past-president; I am a member of several local groups including the Bedford Hills Woman’s Club and the Katonah Museum of Art.

Q:  How have you balanced your legal career with your personal life?

A: I have worked with my husband for all of the nearly 21 years that I’ve known him!  Having our own firm afforded me the luxury of working from home whenever I wanted so I could attend field trips or be at school with our children or walking our dogs.  That being said, our daughters learned from a very young age that they have to be respectful of my home office space and let me work when I’m home.  I still have the sign my older daughter made for me 10 years ago hanging on my door that says “Welcome to Jodi’s Office”.

Q:  What do you wish to accomplish in the future?

A: While I absolutely love being a Town Justice in Bedford, it is a part-time position and I enjoy being a judge so much that I would like to do it on a full-time basis.  My goal for the next few years would be to become a NYS Supreme Court Justice, ideally in the matrimonial part so I can continue to follow my passion.

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