Women on the Move
by Julie Shannon

To say that Lynne Z. Gold-Bikin has made an impact on others is an understatement. Her list of accomplishments and awards is lengthy and quite extraordinary, and she wears many hats—lawyer, professor and author to name a few. You could also call her determined and tenacious, as it wasn’t easy for her to get to this point, but all the hard work, trials and tribulations were worth it. She has practiced family law for 41 years, and is known as one of the nation’s top divorce attorneys and a trailblazer in family law at Weber Gallagher.

Gold-Bikin’s journey started in 1973 when she graduated as valedictorian from Albright College after having four kids— and then she enrolled in Villanova Law School.

“We were not expected to be in the job market—we were supposed to be home with the kids,” she says. “That’s the way it was, but instead I went to college when I was 30 and law school when I was 35. I was always a go-getter.”

She made an immediate impact during her time at Villanova. In 1974, she was one of 50 prominent women—including Gloria Steinem and Wilma Rudolph—who participated in an empowering women’s event where they each shared stories about their lives and how they’ve gotten to where they are today. Gold-Bikin was one of the few speakers who started their careers later in life, contrary to the majority of women in attendance who were much younger than her. Little did she know the impact her speech had on one particular attendee until years later.

“It was called, ‘Women Power; It’s Much Too Good to Waste,’” Gold-Bikin recalls. “I told them [the audience], ‘why don’t you go do something about what you are and who you are.’ Ten years later, I get a letter from a woman I never met. It said, ‘you don’t know me, but I was in the audience when you spoke. I was sitting there thinking my life is over and all these women started [their careers] young, but then you came on [stage] and told your story. I said, if she could do it, I can do it, and I’m graduating dental school in 1984.’ I still cry when I think about that letter.”

Her law school class was only made up of 24 percent women, and she recalled a time when the dean showed his lack of respect for women by turning off the lights in the Villanova University parking lot at night. “You don’t have to worry,” Gold-Bikin recalls him saying, “not that many people realize there are women in law school.”

After her second year in law school, she was one of 16 men and women hired to work at a local law firm. This was during the women’s liberation movement and the discrimination against women was increasing.

“Here I am with this group of 15 men and women and the first thing that happened was—the human resources department said to me, ‘you’ll have lunch over there,’ which was where the secretaries ate,” Gold-Bikin says. Instead of that, she went out to lunch every day with the men.

The discrimination didn’t stop there. There was a softball league she had not been invited to, and when she inquired about it, the men half-heartedly made her part of the team by giving her a uniform with the number 2 1/2.

“It was one thing after another,” Gold- Bikin says. “That’s what life was like for women. We couldn’t go to The Union League [in Philadelphia] upstairs, only downstairs. Women were not allowed to be members. They claimed that they could not go upstairs because, in the old days, men could see their ankles.”

Shortly after graduation she went through a divorce and at the same time, landed an interview with Jack Rounick—one of three prominent lawyers in Philadelphia at the time. She achieved one of her biggest accomplishments with Rounick in 1980 when he sent her to be part of the committee that drafted the no-fault divorce code in 1980, which allows couples to seek a divorce without grounds or an explanation. This code, she states, “changed the face of Pennsylvania.”

“Before, it wasn’t so easy to get divorced— this made it easier,” Gold-Bikin says. “At the time, we had a client who had been living with a girlfriend for four years and his wife would not give him a divorce. It said in the divorce code, if he had been cohabiting with somebody, he couldn’t marry that person as long as his wife was alive. …Pennsylvania was ready for this code; everyone else in the country had this except us and Texas.”

At the time, it was extremely rare for women to be practicing family law, but that didn’t phase Gold-Bikin; even as judges looked down on her.

“One day one of the judges said to me, ‘you know, you don’t have to be so tough,’” she recalls. “I wasn’t tougher than men but I looked tough because where men are assertive, women are known as bossy. Women were always judged differently in terms of how they behaved.”

She was the first woman to be president of the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association and she co-authored two books: The Divorce Trial Manual: From Initial Interview to Closing Argument and the Divorce Practice Handbook, which is a guide to divorce practice and covers aspects such as jurisdictional issues, trial preparation and negotiation tactics.

Her other passion, besides being a lawyer, is being a teacher. She teaches at Rosemont College in the sociology department on the impact Supreme Court decisions have on our daily lives, and she has also taught at the National Family Law Trial Institute in Houston for 27 years. This past May was a milestone for Gold- Bikin, as it marked the 1,000th attorney that’s been in the program. Having an impact on people’s lives and seeing all the changes they go through each year is what motivates her.

“I think teaching at Houston makes me a better lawyer because I learn every year,” she says. “We enhance people’s trial skills three to five years in a week. We tape every person and they watch themselves each day. At the end of the week they say, ‘I was like that when I first got here?’ What a great thing to teach and make people better at what they do.”

She also created Partners, a high school program that teaches communication skills— one of the issues that leads to divorce. “I developed a program to cut down the divorce rate that teaches kids about relationships before they make lifetime decisions.”

Her awards include being recognized as one of the 50 best business women in Pennsylvania, the KYW Achievement Awards and the Pennsylvania Honor Roll of Women Award. She also received an honorary doctorate from Albright College and the Eric Turner Memorial Award from the Family Law section of the Pennsylvania Bar in honor of her 40 years in family law.

In 2012, she helped create the Women’s Initiative at Weber Gallagher, by supporting the careers of women attorneys, teaching them how to build their business and encouraging them to reach for more— which is what she continues to teach everyone she comes in contact with, including her own children.

“One of Maya Angelou’s poems stuck with me,” she says. “Will you touch someone and make their life better? What is your place in society? When you leave the circle of life, and it’s not a better place, you’ve wasted your place in the circle.” 

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Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life Magazine, July, 2017.
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