Hear Wilkinson outline her plans for 2013 in this podcast.
Kathleen D. Wilkinson, Chancellor of the 13,000-member Philadelphia Bar Association, readily recognizes the importance of civility and professionalism in the practice of law. These attributes, along with an unrelenting work ethic, have contributed to her success in the profession as well as a long and growing list of personal achievements.
As Chancellor of the oldest association of lawyers in the United States, Kathleen believes that evoking professionalism in one's daily work is an inherent responsibility for all attorneys.
"Philadelphia lawyers are the caretakers of our profession," says Wilkinson. "As keepers of the legacy of Andrew Hamilton, we, as Philadelphia lawyers, proudly represent the legal profession to the world."
Kathleen is the 86th Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association and only the sixth woman to serve in this capacity in the Association's 211-year history. Her term began on January 1, 2013. In an address on December 4 at the Hyatt at The Bellevue, Kathleen discussed her plans--including her commitment to making the Association more inclusive--and reinforced her personal philosophy that one can be soft-spoken, courteous and respectful while remaining a highly effective advocate.
Kathleen will also highlight "where we have been, and where we are going" as a bar association. Her vision for the future includes the creation of new initiatives focusing on generational transition and leadership opportunities for women, attorneys of diverse backgrounds and young lawyers new to the profession.
Born in Irvington, N.J., Kathleen lived in South Plainfield through eighth grade and then moved to nearby Union with her parents and sister. Her father, Michael Yesenko, was a history teacher and social studies supervisor at Union High School for 40 years, and today serves as the township's historian, fulfilling an avocation Kathleen has long shared with her father. Her mother, Marie, who passed away three years ago, was a homemaker who helped inspire Wilkinson's life-long work ethic.
Kathleen completed her undergraduate studies in political science and education at Kean College in two-and-a-half years.
She attended Villanova University School of Law where, on her very first day on campus, she met Tom Wilkinson, her future husband of 27 years. A member of the Commercial Litigation Department at Cozen O'Connor, he currently serves as President of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. While the Wilkinsons did not plan on overlapping terms as leaders of the state's two largest bar associations, they share a common passion for advancing the interests of the legal profession.
Kathleen joined the Philadelphia office of Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP in 1984, where she steadily excelled to become one of the early women equity partners in a law firm that employs 800 lawyers around the country.
A litigator with more than 30 years of experience, Kathleen built her practice and earned her reputation defending complex cases involving construction, insurance, professional liability, medical devices and pharmaceuticals, and a variety of other products. She has also served as a judge pro tem and discovery master, earning the respect of the bench and bar.
Among her leadership roles at the Bar Association, Kathleen has served as Co-chair of the Women in the Profession Committee and Chair of the State Civil Litigation Section. She was elected as a member of the Board of Governors, then Assistant Secretary and later Secretary of the Association. Kathleen was elected Vice Chancellor in 2010, serving in that role in 2011, and served as Chancellor-Elect in 2012.
Kathleen serves on numerous pro bono and civic boards, and is a founding member of Villanova Law's J. Willard O'Brien American Inn of Court and served as the Inn's first woman president. In 2008, she received the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Anne X. Alpern Award – the highest award given to a Pennsylvania woman attorney. She also ranks as one of the Top 50 Women on the 2013 Pennsylvania Super Lawyers list.
Kathleen and Tom Wilkinson have three children: Lindsey, a first-year student at Villanova Law; Lauren, a junior at Franklin & Marshall College; and Michael, an eighth grader at Episcopal Academy.
Residents of Haverford, Pa., the Wilkinsons can also be found enjoying their beloved Cape May, NJ, where they are active in several community organizations.