Linda Klein
Linda Klein (1958 - )
Class of 1980

Linda Klein’s successful career as a lawyer reflects her commitment to her clients, fellow bar members, and non-profit organizations. She began her legal career at a time when there were few women lawyers, and has worked to improve women’s positions in the legal profession. Currently serving as managing shareholder of the Georgia offices of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC, Klein’s first several years as an attorney were spent in all-male law practices. This male-dominance changed as the number of female lawyers in Georgia more than doubled during the 1980s, from 1,426 to 3,739, 21% of Georgia lawyers, in 1990. For Klein, being at a predominantly male institution was not new.

A New York native, sixteen-year old Linda Klein completed high school and then spent one year at all-women Chatham College. In the fall of 1977, Klein returned to the capital district to enroll at Union, which began admitting female students in 1970. Klein earned a B.A. in Political Science, graduating cum laude in 1980. Three years later, she graduated with a J.D. from Washington & Lee University, whose law school first enrolled a few female students in 1972, but whose undergraduate program had yet to admit women. Klein moved to Atlanta, Georgia, to begin her law career, initially in professional liability litigation where she gained trial experience. By the late 1980s, her legal expertise extended to construction law and then to business dispute resolution for construction companies, pharmaceutical corporations, and other businesses. She assists other lawyers and their clients in resolving their cases by serving as a mediator and arbitrator. Her days of being the only female lawyer in a firm were over. She did, however, achieve another “first.” In 2001, Klein became one of the first women attorneys to be a law firm managing partner, after being unanimously elected to that position by her partners at Gambrell & Stolz, LLP. In 2007, she led the merger of Gambrell & Stolz into the large regional law firm, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC., where she continued as managing shareholder of the firm's Georgia offices.

As Klein gained legal experience, she also garnered professional recognition when elected to the State Bar of Georgia’s Board of Governors, its Executive Committee, and then its Secretary. In 1997, she became the first woman President of the State Bar of Georgia and served on the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission. She was instrumental in encouraging women to apply for judicial appointments, which resulted in the governor's appointment of more women judges than all of his predecessors combined. Since 2004, Klein has been elected a Georgia Super Lawyer, one of the state’s top 100 lawyers and one of the top 50 women lawyers. She has been named one of the most influential Georgians by Georgia Trend Magazine. Klein has also been elected to leadership positions in the American Bar Association (ABA), chairing its Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section (2003-04) and the House of Delegates (2010-12). Chair of the House of Delegates is the second highest-ranking office in the ABA. Today, Klein is an unopposed candidate for ABA President-elect. In 2004, Klein received the Margaret Brent Woman Lawyer of Achievement award from the ABA.

Klein has made non-profit and public service work a cornerstone of her professional life. Early on, Klein was influenced by conversations with her grandfather, who ran a grocery store in Queens, New York, where he observed the lack of respect some families experienced from aid workers during the Depression. As a law student, Klein assisted disadvantaged Appalachian families with their income tax returns without charge. While President of the State Bar, she devised and executed a plan to benefit indigent victims of domestic violence through her state's first legislative appropriation for legal services. For her efforts, she received the Partnership Against Domestic Violence Award in 1998. Klein’s pro bono work has been recognized, as well. In 2009 she received the Edmund Muskie Pro Bono Award.

Since 1998, Klein has encouraged diversifying boards of directors and publicly owned corporations’ leadership positions through her involvement in the non-profit, OnBoard, formerly the Board of Directors Network. Her efforts to encourage racial and ethnic diversity were recognized in 2009 with the Thrower Lifetime Achievement in Diversity Award. Over the course of her legal career, the profession has progressed beyond its “first female” phase and Linda Klein played an important role in that process.

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