Sidley Austin’s Karen Popp Weighs in on Expansion of WWCDA

Karen Popp, a partner at Sidley Austin LLP in Washington, D.C., founded the Women’s White Collar Defense Association (WWCDA) 22 years ago and has watched it grow to new heights in recent years. The WWCDA, an organization that promotes the common business interests of women attorneys who specialize in white collar defense, has grown from 1,100 members in 24 chapters around the world to 2,700 members in 48 chapters in the last six years. Popp feels that there are many reasons why the WWCDA has expanded not just in the past six years, but over the course of the past two decades.

“The white collar defense practice has grown tremendously during the period that the WWCDA has grown in the last 22 years,” Popp told Corporate Crime Reporter. At the turn of the millennium, many of the big law firms did not have a white collar defense practice. A handful of firms in Washington, D.C., like her firm, Sidley Austin, did, but many of the bigger firms in New York did not. Now, all major firms have white collar defense practices, and “they are booming,” according to Popp. As these practices have grown, more and more women have entered and found success in them.

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Popp says WWCDA members represent dozens of major law firms, and that it is rare that a firm does not have an attorney who is member of WWCDA. “I can’t even think of a major firm that does not have one of our members,” she states.

While Popp believes that success in a white collar defense practice cannot be attributed to gender, she does believe it is an excellent practice for women because you have to be good on your feet, have a good sixth sense, and be able to multi-task – all characteristics that Popp believes women possess naturally.

Regardless of these qualities, Popp says that women are not being hired in this field simply because they are women. She believes that they are being hired because they have the necessary experience and can offer the same quality counsel that their male colleagues can in this historically male-dominated sector.