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

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