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Leader of Nashville's first all-women law firm on getting her start

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (HAGGARD) — For Women’s History Month, WMOT is talking with powerful women in Middle Tennessee.

Margaret Behm started Nashville’s first law firm made up of only women almost 40 years ago. She’s a member of the Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame. Her firm was originally called Shipley & Behm.

In 1980, not many women were practicing law, and when they were, Behm says they were not doing trial work or business litigation.

“I knew that no women had their own law firm. I mean, the landscape at the time that I came was that women just generally did family law and wills,” Behm says.

Behm’s goal when she started the firm was to move into litigating business transactions and to expand her practice. She says male lawyers worried about whether women could handle business transactions, and whether a jury would find a woman credible

“I did have this inner desire to demonstrate that women could run a business,” Behm says. “I don’t know that I wanted to open up the first women’s law firm, but I wanted to open up a law firm to show that women could do it. We didn’t necessarily get a lot of encouragement until we found the only woman commercial banker in town.”

Now Dodson Parker Behm & Capparella, the firm has grown and transformed over the years. It now has male partners, though more than half of its staff is always made up of women. They do mostly commercial and business law. Behm says the legal field is better for women that it used to be, but women still have to work harder than men to be taken seriously.