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Honoring Our Women

Women's Initiative Newsletter

In 2011, the Baker Donelson Women's Initiative created the Susan E. Rich Women's Initiative Award, to be presented annually to a person in the Firm who has demonstrated an unflagging commitment to the advancement of women at Baker Donelson, as well as to women's issues generally. We are pleased to announce that the recipient of this year's Susan E. Rich Women's Initiative Award is Carla Peacher-Ryan.

Carla joined the Firm in 1984 after earning her J.D. at the University of Memphis.  Following law school, she spent a year clerking for the Honorable Charles E. Nearn at the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

While not the first woman attorney hired at Baker Donelson, she was the first one to become pregnant while working at the Firm, and was given the assignment of designing the Firm's maternity leave policy for attorneys. Carla also set the example of how to successfully combine motherhood with the high-pressure practice of corporate law, making her a continuing role model for the female attorneys who have followed.

Carla has been at the forefront of helping recruit the best and the brightest attorneys, especially women. She realized early on the importance of flexibility in women's work lives, and convinced management that establishing flexible work arrangements was key to attracting the top female talent. Baker Donelson Shareholder Anne Mathes and alumnus Desi Franklin (now senior vice president and assistant general counsel for First Horizon National Corporation) are just a few of the attorneys who have benefited from Carla's efforts in this area. She was an early proponent of what was later formalized into the Firm's Women's Initiative, and has supported similar efforts with some of our major clients, recognizing the important role women have played in maintaining the client relationships.

Giving of herself to causes she believes in has always been a top priority for Carla. Among these was serving on the Community Legal Center board of directors, one year as president; on the advisory board of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change, for which she was awarded a Certificate of Recognition for pro bono work representing the Fayette County Civil Rights Museum; and on the Tennessee Bar Association's Access to Justice Committee. She is also very active in the community-oriented work of her church, First Congregational, recently serving as head of the Finance Committee.

Carla has a reputation for mentoring young attorneys, both male and female, and maintains an open door policy, which is appreciated and frequently taken advantage of by both "old" and "new" attorneys seeking advice or just a willing listener. Baker Donelson Shareholder Mary Ann Jackson said of her, "Carla has been and continues to be a sounding board and mentor to many of us – men and women alike.  She is a voice of reason and compassion."

She has also, on more than one occasion, played successful matchmaker for her fellow attorneys, leading her to laughingly call herself Baker Donelson's "Yenta."

Professionally, Carla has been listed in Best Lawyers in America since 2007. She was named the Memphis Real Estate "Lawyer of the Year" in 2012 and the Memphis Securitization and Structured Finance Law "Lawyer of the Year" in 2013 by Best Lawyers.

Carla is the proud wife of Holmes and mother of Molly, 24, and Anna, 16.

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