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Kelly Dermody

Posted By CMCP, Monday, July 30, 2012
Updated: Thursday, February 26, 2015
Untitled Document
Kelly Dermody, President | The Bar Association of San Francisco
by David Tsai, Perkins Coie LLP

In celebration of Pride Month, we feature this year’s President of the Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF), Kelly Dermody. Kelly is a partner at one of the nation’s top plaintiffs’ firms, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP. She has served as lead counsel for plaintiffs in labor and employment and consumer fraud actions, many of which she has obtained settlements of hundreds of millions. Most notably, Kelly was the lead counsel in a series of cases involving uninsured patients that resulted in over $1 billion of refunds and debt relief.

Kelly has been very active with BASF for the past decade, having served as the co-chair of BASF’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Equality Committee and BASF’s Lawyers’ Campaign for Marriage Fairness. She has also served on the Council of the ABA Labor and Employment Law Section and on the boards of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and the Pride Law Fund. Kelly has co-chaired the Independence of the Judiciary Committee of the National Association of Women Judges and served as the Northern District of California Lawyer Representative to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference. Kelly is also an active member of Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF), the nation’s oldest and largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) bar association based in San Francisco. In 2008, she received BALIF’s Community Service Award in recognition for her work in helping the LGBT community. She recently was also featured in a BALIF It Gets Better Video (Click to View).

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It is not surprising that Kelly has also been recognized nationally for her practice and for her work with the community. She is the recipient of the 2011 Legal Momentum Women of Achievement Award, the 2010 National Association of Women Judges Florence K. Murray Award (for influencing women to pursue legal careers, opening doors for women attorneys, and advancing opportunities for women within the legal profession), the 2008 Centro Legal de la Raza Community Justice Award, and the 2007 California Lawyer Attorney of the Year (CLAY) Award. She has been recognized as a Northern California Super Lawyer and a Top California Women Litigator and a Top 20 California Lawyer Under Age 40 by the Daily Journal

We are proud to feature CMCP member Kelly Dermody.

What does diversity mean to you?

It means meaningful representation reflecting the demographics of the broader community.

What are your three major accomplishments as an attorney?

  1. Involvement as lead counsel in a series of cases on behalf of uninsured patients who were price gouged by California hospitals that resulted in over $1 billion of refunds and debt relief and significant pricing reductions going forward.
  2. Specializing in discrimination class actions that focus not only on money damages, but on creating lasting change to advance opportunities for women and minorities.
  3. Having the privilege of serving as a leader of the Bar Association of San Francisco and for several civil rights non-profits.

What do you feel was one of your biggest setbacks? What did you learn from that experience?

Being a litigator means that there are many battles that you may lose. Even if you do everything "right,” sometimes the law changes or bad luck happens. I try to use my setbacks as motivation to overcome the obstacle in front of me. I’ve learned that a positive outlook and an ability to bounce back create opportunities for success again downstream.

What makes you happy outside of work?

I’m pretty content in my regular everyday life, spending time with my partner Billie Mizell, seeing my friends.

What was your childhood like?

I grew up in Ithaca, NY (upstate), and my mom was an elementary school teacher and my dad was a college professor. They placed a high value on education and hard work. I was the youngest of 4 kids, and my siblings were 8, 10, and 12 years older than me. They took me everywhere with them, and they were incredibly kind to me growing up.

Who are the three people you look up to the most?

Among historical figures, I’d say Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, and Bobby Kennedy (RFK). In terms of contemporaries I admire, it would be NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, CA Attorney General Kamala Harris, and the federal judge I clerked for in Nashville, Hon. John T. Nixon.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

That is so far away, it is hard to even guess. I wouldn’t be surprised if I were still practicing at my firm, still doing bar activities.

What is your favorite read? Why?

For daily reading, I enjoy the New York Times because I appreciate well written, well researched news reporting. But I think my favorite book of all time is To Kill A Mockingbird.

Do you have any pets?

Yes. A golden retriever (Jaakko) and a cat (Atticus).

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