women and minority attorneys

Taft is committed to creating an inclusive culture of individuals from diverse backgrounds. We are proud of our ongoing efforts in this area and of our growing diversity, and we invite you to contact any of our women and minority attorneys to discuss what it is like to practice at Taft.

Below are informal profiles for some of our women and minority attorneys. To see a full list, click on “View by Last Name” or “View by Practice Area.”

View by Last Name View by Practice Area

Photo of Pamela S. Krivda Pamela S. Krivda

Pam began her professional career in the Employee and Labor Relations Department of The Columbus Dispatch, one of Ohio’s major daily newspapers. During the years in which Pam was engaged in different aspects of the human resources function, she developed a lasting commitment to management rights and the study of ways in which to improve the efficacy of the employment relationship for the employer. This commitment to management rights led directly to her attending law school for the express purpose of practicing law in the area of management-side labor and employment law. She counts herself very lucky to have her dream job, practicing law, negotiating collective bargaining agreements, and designing and presenting management training classes in this area. It has presented her with fascinating opportunities to study aspects of human behavior and the psychology of personality which have proven invaluable in assisting in the employment relationship. Over the years, Pam has also volunteered with several professional and charitable organizations, generally in the area of managing employees or volunteers.

Photo of Melissa D. Kurzhals Melissa D. Kurzhals

As a first-generation American who spent a number of memorable childhood summer evenings attempting to “improve” her father’s sweetly stubborn and (oftentimes intentionally) unique English, Melissa appreciates the value of different perspectives. Of all the classes taken to earn her bachelor degrees in anthropology and biology, the ones in cultural anthropology stood out as favorites. Upon graduation from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Law, Melissa joined Taft as an associate in 2000, and practices in hte Employee Benefits Practice Area. When not working at the firm, Melissa enjoys volunteering with a variety of community organizations and working on both local and global sustainable agriculture initiatives. She also participates in local and national cycling advocacy and competitive organizations—and can often be spotted commuting to and from work through Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine neighborhood on foot or bicycle.

Photo of Margaret Avril Lawson Margaret Avril Lawson

Margaret joined Taft in 1982. In her current role as Chair of the firm's Intellectual Property Practice Group, she enjoys the opportunity to foster the development of diverse and talented lawyers. During high school, college and law school, Margaret taught underprivileged and developmentally disabled children to swim and spent recreational time with juvenile offenders in residential facilities—experiences that have been an important part of her education. She marvels at the volunteer and charitable organization leadership opportunities open to lawyers at Taft. Practicing law has enabled her to bring business experience and legal knowledge to volunteer work with organizations that include the International Dyslexia Association, United Way Community Childcare Resource Allocation, Leadership Cincinnati and Black Career Women, the Executive Service Corps of Cincinnati, as well as her sons' schools.

Photo of Sarah Clay Leyshock Sarah Clay Leyshock

Sarah is a Labor & Employment Attorney in the Cincinnati office of Taft. She grew up in Ypsilanti, Mich., but grew roots in Northern Kentucky after obtaining her B.A. from Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky. During law school at Northern Kentucky University, Salmon P. Chase College of Law, Sarah was a three-time award-winning advocate on the Chase Trial Advocacy Team. At Taft, Sarah’s practice is focused on representing employers in litigation and pre-litigation matters related to discrimination, retaliation and other employment laws. Sarah lives in the Gateway neighborhood of historic Newport, Ky., with her husband, son and daughter. She is active in the community, including serving two terms on the board of directors and volunteering for the Welcome House of Northern Kentucky in Covington.

Photo of Michele L. Clauss Michele L. Clauss

Michele is of counsel based in the Chicago office in the area of transactional real estate. From 2009-2012, Michele served as vice president and counsel for James H. Lowry & Associates, a small minority business development consulting firm and long time client of the law firm. During this period, in addition to legal work, she assisted Mr. Lowry in all areas of his MBE practice, working directly with minority suppliers and corporate diversity managers and assisting with government contracts and studies. She is a former member University of Chicago Black Law Student Association, where she was social chair her last year.  Michele’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is illustrated by her pro bono work –successfully defended a client of the firm in a racial discrimination matter before the Human Rights Commission, volunteered for Illinois Legal Aid Online to create a series of educational videos, and advised foreign individuals for protection against fraudulent schemes targeting immigrants.

Photo of Jessica Mager Jessica Mager

Jessica’s practice is focused in the family law area. She routinely represents clients in all aspects of domestic relations litigation, including complex divorce with an emphasis in child custody matters, establishment and enforcement of child and spousal support, establishment of paternity and general civil litigation. Jessica has been recognized by her peers for excellence as a Rising Star in the family law practice by Ohio Super Lawyers. In addition to Ohio, she is also licensed to practice in Federal Court in the Southern District of California.

Jessica is very active within the Columbus Bar Association, serving on the Admissions and Family Law Committees, participating in the Barrister Leadership Program and acting as the Recruitment/Publicity Subcommittee Chairwoman for the Pro Bono Task Force. She is a member of the Women Lawyers of Franklin County and is a volunteer for both the American Red Cross and the Delaware County Humane Society.

Photo of Katharine S. Mascarenhas Katharine S. Mascarenhas

Kate is a partner in Taft's Business and Finance group. She focuses her practice on debt financing transactions. Originally from Connecticut, she earned her undergraduate degree in history from Yale and her law degree from the University of Houston Law Center before spending the first seven years of her career at a large firm in Chicago. In addition to her transactional practice, at her previous firm Kate often served as guardian ad litem in the Cook County Probate Division and was on the junior board of Ladder Up, a Chicago-area nonprofit that assists low-income people with tax preparation and personal financial education. In her free time, Kate enjoys spending time with her family, cooking with her husband, exercising and doing yard work.

Photo of Julia B. Meister Julia B. Meister

A native of northern Kentucky, Julia is a partner in the Litigation, Private Client and Health & Life Sciences groups. She heads the Cincinnati Estates, Trusts and Fiduciary Litigation practice. Julia was a summer associate at the firm and also worked at the firm as a member of the staff during college to finance her education. She served as a member of the administration at the Notre Dame Law School — where she earned her law degree — heading student affairs matters for law students, and she received an award of appreciation for her support to the Black Law Students' Association. Julia has also served on the Ohio Supreme Court's Summit on Aging Planning Committee.

Julia is an avid supporter of the local and regional arts community and currently serves as vice president, executive committee member and trustee of the Cincinnati Opera Association. In addition, she volunteers for Girls on the Run of Cincinnati, Inc. and is past president of the board of Cincinnati Area Senior Services. Julia is on the board of trustees for the Legal Aid Society of Cincinnati; she received the Cincinnati Bar Association's Warrington Award for Community Service and the Woman Making a Difference Award from Notre Dame Academy.