Although the typical law firm’s partnerships are still dominated by men, Gizzi & Reep LLP in Benicia is not a typical law firm, and neither is its newest partner. Suzanne Foley Sprague made partner at the firm this summer and if all goes according to plan the promotion will be effective Aug. 1. She joined the firm in 2011 and specializes in personal injury law, civil litigation and also does estate planning. “She’s just a brilliant lawyer and we love her, and so Scott and I took her on as our first non-founding partner,” said Stephen Gizzi, of the decision he made with Scott Reep. The firm, which has its headquarters in the Benicia Arsenal, now has three partners and five other attorneys. “In this case it’s something we chose to do. We wanted to recognize her beyond the usual going from junior to senior and pay raises and things like that. Obviously for us, because the firm is something that’s our baby that we created out of nothing, it’s not a decision we made lightly,” Gizzi added.
With Sprague as the newest partner, the firm’s new name will be Gizzi Reep Foley. Sprague is reverting to her maiden name of Foley. She reports that she’s thrilled with the promotion and to be working in a firm that treats men and women equally, and also gives them the support they need to balance family and career goals whether they are men or women. She is also grateful she can work and live in the same community. “This firm has given me opportunities. They are very supportive of women as lawyers,” she added. Prior to her work at Gizzi & Reep, Sprague worked for McNamara Law Firm in Fairfield where she specialized in civil litigation and insurance defense. “I appreciate the experience I got there, but I wanted to look at other opportunities and this one presented itself,” she said of her move to Gizzi & Reep.
According to the National Association of Women Lawyers, the efforts to advance women to partnership levels have stagnated in the past decade. Women now account for roughly 18 percent of equity partners, and, generally, earn 20 percent less than men. Sprague said that in her experience there are far more male partners than female. The nature of the profession is such that it can be difficult for women to get to that point, mainly due to roles outside the work place. “This is not the type of job you can call a substitute to fill in for you, or that you can call in sick. The firms invest a lot in their attorneys and they work on certain cases, so it’s not easy for another lawyer to jump in and handle those cases,” she said. For women who are running households, raising families and taking time off to have children, advancing in a law firm is often an insurmountable challenge, she said. The NAWL also notes that many women lawyers are also subject to discrimination and harassment.Besides her work in the Benicia law firm, Sprague also started the Lawyers in the Library program in 2011 at the
Benicia Public Library with Scott Reep. A native of Kings City in Monterey County, she obtained her law degree from University of San Francisco, and attended undergraduate school at University of California at Los Angeles.