Tucson, Ariz., in 1909 (Wikipedia)

Tucson, Ariz., in 1909 (Wikipedia) (click to enlarge)

Imagine a legal system in which your property rights could not be assured, and where your land holdings could be stripped of you based on your marital status.

That scenario is not beyond imagining. As you might surmise, that situation was faced by approximately half of the U.S. population at one time (and continues for many more globally today).

In the June issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, we were privileged to feature a story that occurred right in Tucson not so very long ago.

It was titled Anna’s Story, and here is how author and attorney Marjorie Cunningham opened the real-life tale:

“Buying, selling and trading land has been a part of Arizona’s booms and busts since colonial times. One shrewd and successful land speculator during the 1800s was a French woman named Anna Charauleau. Ms. Charauleau also exhibited the strong will and relentless nature needed to pursue the protection of her legal rights. Those qualities became important in Arizona legal history, as she was a party to several landmark cases decided by Arizona’s Supreme Court in the 1870s and 1880s in which women’s property rights were at issue.”

Read the whole article here.

And be sure to read carefully the excerpts from the Supreme Court opinion regarding the land matters. Here is how a wise justice analyzed things:

“Before her marriage, the law presumes [a woman] competent to buy and sell and convey property, and supposes she acts in such matters as intelligently as if she were the opposite sex; but during the existence of the marriage relation somehow this condition of ignorance and stupidity is supposed to settle down upon her, to benumb her faculties, to cast a cloud upon her intelligence, to be lifted only by the death of her spouse or other severance of the marriage. … ”

“We are certain that the presumption contended for by the counsel, that a woman of mature years, and an American wife, ceases from the day of her marriage to know what she is doing in the execution of a conveyance until advised … should no longer obtain in a court of justice.”

Thank you to our author for sharing such a compelling piece of Arizona history.

Are there other historic stories that are evocative to you? Contact me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

VDay logoThe May issue of Arizona Attorney will include an insightful Last Word column by a lawyer who wanted to talk about a dreadful topic: the continued high levels of violence against women and girls in Arizona, particularly on the Indian reservations. Attorney Don Bayles explores the challenges inherent in seeking legal justice when courts and court officers are hundreds of miles away. He praises the work done by those in the system, but he says the Rule of Law will mean little until those many obstacles are eliminated.

As I worked with Don on his column, I also was thinking about an upcoming event that takes on such violence in a creative way. And I am privileged to be a part of it.

On this Saturday, April 6, I will be one of a small group of performers who will deliver monologues in honor of VDay, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. As part of VDay 2013, the Arizona chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum is sponsoring a performance of “A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant & A Prayer” on April 6, 2013, at 2:00 and 7:00 p.m.

This collection of monologues will be performed by NAPAWF members and allies (like me) and will occur at Space 55, 636 E. Pierce St., Phoenix 85004 (map below). Tickets are $15, and all proceeds will go to Arizona South Asians for Safe Families.

Tickets are available online here. For more information, click here.

You can Like the event on Facebook too.

VDay 1 billion rising logo v2All of the monologues are compelling and were written not by the performers but by other great (and sometimes famous) writers. Among the pieces is one written by Eve Ensler of The Vagina Monologues fame.

The piece I will deliver, I’m pleased to say, was written by one of my favorite writers—journalist Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times. The piece is about his experience interviewing a young girl who was imprisoned as a prostitute in Cambodia.

The variety of content is amazing. I can pretty much guarantee it will make you laugh as often as it induces sadness. And the hope is, it also will induce an impulse toward change. (I’m proud to add that my whole family—my wife and our two daughters—is involved. And our older daughter Willa is directing!)

Please consider buying a ticket, stopping by, and inviting others.

Here is a map:

MMRP VDay event poster

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?

Tomorrow, law firm Fennemore Craig, among others, will be honored for its commitment to improving the numbers of women lawyers in its leadership positions.

Pictured: Five of the Fennemore Craig women equity partners (and their office locations), L to R: Amanda Cowley (Las Vegas), Sarah Strunk (Phoenix), Laurel Davis (Las Vegas), Ann Morgan (Reno), Jodi Goodheart (Las Vegas), Sue Chetlin (Phoenix)

In the October Arizona Attorney, we are running a small item about the Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF) awards. We noted that nine firms with Arizona offices reached the Gold Standard. However, in the state only Fennemore Craig excelled in the award’s six criteria.

Congratulations to Fennemore and all the firms that will be honored tomorrow in New York City. Here is more news from the firm on the achievement.

Women in Law Empowerment Forum recognizes firm’s commitment to women

PHOENIX  The Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF) will honor Fennemore Craig for integrating women into leadership positions at its Gold Standard Awards Luncheon September 12 at the Yale Club in New York City. Twenty-six percent of the equity partners are women across Fennemore Craig’s six offices in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada.

According to Elizabeth Anne Tursi, national chair of WILEF, Fennemore Craig is one of three of nationwide certification winners that met or exceeded all six criteria set by WILEF. There were a total of 50 firms that received the Gold Standard Certification.

Half of the committee members responsible for managing Fennemore Craig are female partners, bypassing the 20 percent award criteria established by WILEF. Additionally over a quarter of the firm’s equity partners and department heads are women.

Firms of 100 or more lawyers in the United States are invited to apply for the Gold Standard certification. Law firms must meet three of the six specific criteria to become eligible for the award. Applicants are required to demonstrate that women account for at least 20 percent of the firm’s equity partnership and show that they hold positions of power and serve on committees.

Sarah Strunk

“At Fennemore Craig, we work actively to develop, recruit, and retain a diverse group of attorneys,” said Sarah Strunk, director and management committee member at Fennemore Craig.  She adds, “The firm devotes substantial time and resources to developing talent and leadership in all of its attorneys and is committed to maintaining gender equity in the ranks of its attorneys. We are honored to receive the 2012 WILEF Gold Standard Certification.” Strunk will accept the award for the firm in New York on September 12.

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