Making room for women

USC Gould School of Law • June 22, 2021
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Emily Yukich (JD 1999) takes initiative to diversify professional organization 

By Diane Krieger

Emily Yukich (JD 1999)

Emily Yukich (JD 1999) will never forget that sinking feeling as she stared into a hotel ballroom packed with men. 

“It took such physical effort to step across the threshold,” she recalls. “All I wanted to do was turn around and leave.” 

The men were all members of the Los Angeles Venture Association, a forum where entrepreneurs, executives, investors, bankers and financial advisors meet and learn from each other.  

At the time, Yukich was a newly minted corporate attorney attending at the request of a senior partner. Put off by the gender disparity, "everyone acting like they knew everybody and everything,” Yukich nevertheless mingled, and found the panel discussion very useful. 

She returned for more LAVA events, encountering a large gathering of men, plus one or two women. 

“But it was never the same women,” she recalls, “and I knew why: because like me, they never wanted to come back.”  

In 2011, with LAVA leadership buy-in, Yukich founded Women in LAVA, one of a dozen special-interest communities within the organization. Participation among women has ballooned since then across LAVA. 

“It’s a much, much more vibrant and diverse group now, and I do take some credit for that,” she says. 

From education to law

Born and raised in Ohio, a graduate of Kenyon College, Yukich had intended to be an English professor. She entered a PhD program at University of Pennsylvania but lost interest in academia after three semesters. So she left to become a founder of a Montessori preschool and, later, the executive director  of a non-profit early childhood education center in Boston. Dealing with teacher contracts sparked a latent interest in labor law, and at age 36, Yukich enrolled at USC Gould School of Law and embarked on her second career.

She worked her way up to a partnership at Folger Levin & Kahn LLP before moving to Holme Roberts & Owen LLP, where she got her first tour-of-duty as a managing partner. Since 2012, she has been at Fox Rothschild LLP, where she’s currently managing partner for the Los Angeles office and a member of the Philadelphia-based firm’s executive committee. Yukich’s practice focuses on early- and growth-stage companies, and she serves as general counsel to several corporate clients. In 2019, she was named California Trailblazer by The Recorder, and the Los Angeles Business Journal listed her among the “Most Influential Women Lawyers.” 

As she rose in her profession, Yukich also managed to raise two daughters—the first born just three weeks after she took the California bar exam. Sarah, now 21, graduates from Brandeis University this spring. Her younger sister, Hannah, a high school senior, will enter Duke University in the fall.

Behind the scenes, keeping their Cheviot Hills home running smoothly, was Yukich’s husband, Donald Pechet MBA ’99. A USC Marshall alum, he sidelined a career in real estate development to be a stay-at-home dad.

Which left time for Yukich, when she wasn’t billing hours, to enjoy her kids, play tennis, hike and read voraciously. Before the pandemic forced her to go remote, Yukich used to walk the short mile-and-a-half distance from Cheviot Hills to Fox Rothschild’s Century City office.  

“Honestly, the only reason I’m able to do it all,” Yukich says, “is because I have a husband who doesn't do it all—who takes care of the kids, cooks dinner, gets the dry cleaning.”

Leading more women into LAVA

LAVA’s membership is about a third women, and Yukich herself is part of the leadership—past president, current vice president and Women in LAVA co-chair. Nor is she the only woman at executive meetings. Four women serve on the 12-member LAVA board.

“I’ve stopped attending events where the organizers can’t come up with a single female speaker,” she says. “I won’t go! And sometimes I let the organizers know why. In this day and age, it’s just not credible to say, ‘oh, we couldn’t find any female speakers.’”

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