Arizona civil verdicts 2013 gavel

Are you curious to hear the stories behind the top Arizona civil verdicts of the past year? At Arizona Attorney Magazine, we covered the topic in our June cover story written, as always, by attorney Kelly MacHenry. But as they say, there’s always more to the story.

This Wednesday, August 27, you can hear Kelly explain what lay behind those significant jury verdicts; she’ll also cover punitive awards, defense verdicts and trends. I have seen her presentation over the years, and it offers helpful insight into what the jurors (and the lawyers) were thinking.

The event will be at The University Club, 39 E. Monte Vista Road, Phoenix, AZ 85004. The Arizona Women Lawyers Association event is $25 for members and $35 for nonmembers.

More information and registration are here.

Here is what an engaged organization looks like:

A crowded University Club for an annual Arizona Women Lawyers event, in Phoenix, Oct. 24, 2013.

A crowded University Club for an annual Arizona Women Lawyers event, in Phoenix, Oct. 24, 2013.

Not such a great picture, eh? Well, that’s what I get for attending a function put on by an active group of lawyers.

Last Thursday, I stood in a packed-to-the-gills University Club in Phoenix. There, the Arizona Women Lawyers Association gathered to mingle and to honor a great judge, Roxanne Song Ong.

Judge Roxanne Song Ong spoke briefly, describing her path toward her current position as Presiding Judge of the Phoenix Municipal Court, “the State’s largest limited jurisdiction court and among the top ten busiest municipal courts in the United States,” as the court’s website says.

The judge spoke of her challenges as a young lawyer who was also a young mother. On that path, she would work part-time as a prosecutor, meeting her office’s needs by increasing her work-week from one day, to two, and so forth, until she found herself a full-time employee. On many of those days, she would rush home to breast-feed a young child. The trek repeated itself as she moved from being a part-time pro tem judge to becoming a full-time jurist.

The popularity of the AWLA annual event is conveyed somewhat by my bad crowd photos. Here’s another. The diminutive Judge Song Ong is way up there, in the back of the photo.

Judge Roxanne Song Ong speaks at the AWLA event, Oct. 24, 2013.

Judge Roxanne Song Ong speaks at the AWLA event, Oct. 24, 2013.

Even more evocative than the number of attendees, though, is the engagement I witnessed. Here’s an example.

I spoke with many folks at the event, and by the time the prepared remarks began, I found myself toward the back of the room, standing near a group of six or so young women lawyers (that was a coincidence, I assure you).

judge roxanne song ong headshot

Hon. Roxanne Song Ong

As Judge Song Ong spoke about her life’s path, I was able to see the reaction among those young women. The judge’s description of her challenges in balancing life’s needs was met by multiple nods by the women. Time and again, they smiled at her remarks. Most telling, they caught each others’ eye, smiled broadly and nodded.

Having spoken with a few of the women at the evening reception, I know that they don’t all have growing families or spouses. They are not (yet) toiling as judges pro tem or presiding judges. And yet the judge’s remarks resonated with them. In her story, they could spy parts of their own path.

As I left the University Club that evening, I walked to the parking lot with a young lawyer who had been among that group. I was not so surprised to hear that she was headed back to the office for more work. That is not very uncommon in law. I’m confident that Judge Somg Ong’s remarks cheered her, just for a bit.

I wrote last Friday about the multiple values of diversity, among them an actual increase in quality in the legal profession. That quality was transmitted by Judge Song Ong, and appreciated in the young lawyers who seek guidance in a challenging profession. Well done.

Arizona Women Lawyers Association logo pin

Have you gotten your AWLA pin yet?

The Arizona Attorney Facebook page sports a new button on June 21, 2013.

During Convention, the Arizona Attorney Facebook page sported a new button in recognition of the AWLA Breakfast.

Amidst the bustle of an annual conference, it’s always a pleasure to find a quiet but impressive respite.

That is the dual role played annually by the breakfast of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association, this year held on Friday, June 21.

The breakfast is a scholarship fundraiser, but it’s also an opportunity to honor a recipient for the Sarah Herring Sorin Award, AWLA’s top recognition.

This year’s honoree was Dee-Dee Samet, Tucson lawyer and member of the State Bar of Arizona Board of Governors.

Dee-Dee Samet receives the Sarah Herring Sorin Award, June 21, 2013.

Dee-Dee Samet receives the Sarah Herring Sorin Award, June 21, 2013.

Dee-Dee was introduced by friend and attorney Jean Gage, who pointed out that the recipient was “president of almost every board she’s a part of.”

Gage praised Samet and offered the large audience a “double-dose of Dee-Dee.” She reminded listeners that Samet is “a tenacious fighter for the underdog” as well as a tireless fundraiser.

“She is the only person I know who can be in two places at the same time.”

Attendees at AWLA Breakfast, June 21, 2013.

Attendees at AWLA Breakfast, June 21, 2013.

Audience members smiled when Gage said, “If the measure of wealth is friends, Dee-Dee is fabulously wealthy.”

Samet has always been willing to offer a hand or advice, Gage said. She encourages women to apply for the Board of Governors, get on the bench or to change their career path to another legal practice area. And in so doing, she conveys to mentees a confidence Samet herself possesses: “Dee-Dee does not stay at the back of any line.”

When Samet rose to accept her award, she promised to “keep it short and sweet, like me.”

That she did, as she encouraged all lawyers to help others: “That’s how you make your life worthwhile.”

The persistent advocate reminded the audience to be persistent but enjoy life.

“As opponents, we fight hard, then look for some shoes, and then drink some wine.”

Finally, Dee-Dee remained indefatigable, encouraging her colleagues to participate in the Convention’s silent auction.

“Don’t forget to contribute,” she exclaimed that morning, and always.

Great Convention addition: My AWLA pin

Great Convention addition: My AWLA pin (click to enlarge)

The Arizona Attorney Facebook page sports a new button on June 21, 2013.

The Arizona Attorney Facebook page sports a new button on June 21, 2013.

Happy Friday at the State Bar of Arizona Convention.

In case you haven’t wandered over to the magazine Facebook page recently (whaaat?), take a look at our wide profile photo. Here’s how we describe it there:

“In honor of the annual breakfast (on June 21) of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association at the State Bar of Arizona Convention, we’ve changed our profile picture. The vintage button was purchased from an exhibitor at this year’s Bar Convention at the Arizona Biltmore!”

Well, THAT sure sounds like a page worth Liking, doesn’t it?

AWLA Arizona Women Lawyers Association logoAs you read this, I may be tucking into some delicious scrambled eggs and even better fellowship with fellow members of the AWLA. The annual breakfast is the occasion of the granting of the Sarah Herring Sorin Award (past recipients are a who’s who of amazing Arizona lawyers). And funds from the breakfast go toward law school scholarships.

If you missed this year’s breakfast, consider buying a ticket for next year. It’s well worth it.

gender equality scale in the legal professionRecent news articles suggest that we may have quite a ways to go in regard to gender equity in the legal profession. (Cue the women lawyers, who mutter “Really?” in mock surprise.)

The first article reports on some discouraging trends that affect women lawyers. The study was done by the National Association of Women Lawyers, and the article notes:

“The Survey once again found that women’s compensation lags men’s at all levels, although this year the gap between male and female equity partner compensation has slightly narrowed.  NAWL Foundation President Stephanie Scharf, a Partner at Scharf Banks Marmor LLC in Chicago, who founded the NAWL Annual Survey, noted that ‘the gap between male and female compensation at the equity partner level does not correlate with male/female differences in billable hours, total hours or books of business, begging the question of how firms actually set compensation for their partners.’”

The complete news story provides some striking findings from the study. And you can read the entire study here.

Adding to the findings of that October report, I came across another recent article, this one in Forbes, that puts a more specific face on the challenges women may face.

Titled “Your First Name Is Killing Your Business,” the article’s author Victoria Pynchon writes:

“If we want work or more money for the work we’re already doing, it would be better for us to adopt a male name than to earn another degree, work longer hours, or, deliver higher quality work product.”

Drawing on the comments of Bloomberg financial analyst Susan Antilla, Pynchon points out that people think better of applicants when they have a male name.

Adding to the challenges that lawyer–parents face, an article I read just this morning is titled “Parenting Gets the Best of One Biglaw Associate.” In it, the author shares an email from one large-firm associate—who is also a young, married mother—as she describes why she is opting out of biglaw practice.

As author Elie Mystal opens the article, “It shouldn’t be so damn hard—in the richest country on Earth—to have a big-time job and be a loving parent. The struggles highlighted by this woman make me sad as a new parent myself.”

(Hat tip to lawyer Graham Martin for pointing me toward the ATL article. And thank you to the terrific dialogue on the LinkedIn page of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association, which got me on this trail in the first place.)

Findings and data and experiences such as these rightly anger women lawyers and those who support their work. Does the research match your own experience? What do you think are the next major obstacles that must be overcome to achieve something closer to parity?

The annual award breakfast of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association was held Friday morning. At the event, the AWLA recognized Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch with the Sarah Herring Sorin Award, the group’s greatest honor.

A recurring theme of the event’s comments focused on why groups like AWLA are still vital and needed in 2012.

AWLA President Kim Demarchi took that question on head-on when she looked back at Arizona history. She noted that Sarah Herring Sorin was admitted to the Bar—the state’s first woman lawyer—in 1892, 22 years before Arizona became a state. And then in 1951, Mary Anne Richey—for whom the annual breakfast is named—was the only woman admitted to the Bar that year. Thirty-seven years after statehood, the only one admitted.

“What AWLA is about today,” Demarchi said, “is support for each other, service to the community and a willingness to collaborate and build coalitions.”

Longtime AWLA member (and past President) Paige Martin echoed that mission. She also reminded attendees the reason the Chief Justice was receiving the award: not for being Chief or her work on the Court of Appeals before that, “but for her day-to-day acts of being a mentor.”

Martin also read a wonderful tribute to the Chief from Justice Berch’s daughter, who could not attend due to a conflict in her work teaching at Southwestern Law School. Among her remarks: “My mom is the glue that holds our family together. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.”

L to R: Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, Kim Demarchi, Paige Martin

Chief Justice Berch then spoke movingly about mentoring, which she called “the work of everyone who cares about our profession.”

She then encouraged a new generation of women lawyers to advance to leadership positions, especially as part of the judiciary.

“I know we’re all balancing a lot, but you have to apply for those positions.”

Although more and more lawyers may be women, she said, “Look at who are the associates and who are partners. At law schools, look who are tenured faculty and who is teaching legal writing.”

The Chief demonstrated her down-to-earth advice when she urged attendees to focus on what’s important and to sometimes push other things down the to-do list.

Let your house go another day without dusting, she said. “I’ve served Grape-Nuts for dinner,” she laughed. “I am fond of popcorn and a glass of wine for dinner.”

“Get up and do the things we need to do that will have a lasting effect.”

To emphasize that drive, AWLA Vice President Janet Hutchison announced the winners of the AWLA Mary Anne Richey Scholarships: ASU Law student Ashlee Hoffmann and UA Law student Judith Davila.

Congratulations to the AWLA for another great event. More photos are available at the Arizona Attorney Facebook page.

Track down an AWLA Board member at the State Bar Convention. Any one of them will give you the little indicia of support for the Arizona Women Lawyers Association, a great organization.

Here’s a shot of my sticker. Jealous? Get one for yourself.

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