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Posted January 26th, 2015 in Top Stories

Motherhood Meets Partner Status – Three Nilan Johnson Lewis Attorneys Become New Shareholders Within Twelve Months of Maternity Leave

Parental Leave Not a Factor in Shareholder Promotion for Women Lawyers at Minneapolis Law Firm

MINNEAPOLIS (January 26, 2015) – Nilan Johnson Lewis’s three new shareholders have more than just their new title in common—all three took parental leave in 2014. Careen Martin, Veena Iyer, and Sejal Winkelman, who were voted to shareholder status effective January 1, join the small group of women lawyers at mid-to-large-sized firms who have made it past the “mommy track.”

“Voting them in was an obvious choice,” said Stephen Warch, president of Nilan Johnson Lewis. “They are excellent lawyers with substantive talent and practices. Parental leave is such a short period in one’s overall career—the fact that they were on leave this year simply didn’t factor into the decision.”

The appointment of these lawyers brings the percentage of women shareholders at Nilan Johnson Lewis to 45 percent, two and a half times the national average, based on findings from the 2014 National Association of Women Lawyers Annual Survey.

According to a recent article on, most women lawyers “still pay a high price for taking time off the fast track.” Referencing the 2014 “50 Best Law Firms for Women” survey, conducted by Working Mother and Flex-Time Lawyers, the Forbes author discovered that although firms who responded to the survey indicated those who worked reduced hours were eligible for promotion to partner, “… as a practical matter, such promotions are rare: In the 2014 survey, based on data from the previous year, none of those promoted to partner were working reduced-hour schedules at the time.”

Despite recent headlines involving issues of parental leave in the legal profession, this isn’t the first time Nilan Johnson Lewis has promoted attorneys who have taken leave within a year of being voted in as shareholder. At least four other attorneys have been elected shareholder within 12 months of having children.

Just as important has been the commitment of the firm’s team-driven culture to support employees during times of family change and to make sure their career advancements aren’t unnecessarily impaired. “My colleagues were very supportive, and they helped me to make a smooth transition back into the office,” said Iyer, whose second child was born in 2014.

Even clients have been willing to be flexible with schedules. “My clients were very understanding, and were happy to schedule calls around my son’s naptime,” said Martin, who also had her second child in 2014. “My clients have welcomed me back from leave, and insisted on seeing newborn pictures.”

Careen Martin practices health care law at Nilan Johnson Lewis, where she works with a wide range of health care clients, including payers, providers, and hospitals. Careen focuses on advising clients on HIPAA, data privacy and breaches, licensure, accreditation, risk management and policy development, Stark Law, anti-kickback statutes, and government investigations. A graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School, and former Assistant Attorney General, Careen has served Nilan Johnson Lewis for nearly four years.

Veena Iyer came to Nilan Johnson Lewis in 2011 after graduating from Harvard Law School in 2005. Veena practices labor & employment law in areas such as employment litigation, class and collective action defense, and criminal background checks.

Sejal Winkelman was named shareholder after her three-year tenure with Nilan Johnson Lewis. Graduating from the University of St. Thomas School of Law, Sejal now practices labor & employment law, with a focus on employment litigation and preventative counseling on employment policies and procedures.

About Nilan Johnson Lewis

Founded in 1996, Nilan Johnson Lewis ( has built a practice grounded in excellence and value. Through its Total Partnership approach to client relationships, Nilan Johnson Lewis delivers exceptional results for its clients’ businesses. The firm focuses on five areas of law: labor and employment, product liability/mass tort litigation, health care, commercial litigation, and business transactions/real estate.

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Media: Contact Jeff Trauring at (651) 789-1268 or 

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