The AWLA honors attorney Lynda Shely, October 2015.

The AWLA honors attorney Lynda Shely, October 2015.

A legal leader was honored earlier this month at a great event hosted by the Arizona Women Lawyers Association.

Lynda Shely is well known and widely respected as an attorney, ethics expert, and educator. Among other roles, she has served as the State Bar of Arizona’s Ethics Counsel—and has written numerous times for Arizona Attorney Magazine. As such, she was an ideal choice for the AWLA’s 2015 Ruth V. McGregor Award—the first that the award has been given.

On the evening of October 8, an over-capacity crowd jammed the parlor, dining rooms and hallways of the University Club in midtown Phoenix. They were all there to signal their appreciation of Shely and their agreement with the selection committee’s choice.

In accepting the award, Shely opened her brief remarks by saying, “I’m proud to be a lawyer.”

“I wish the public could see how hard lawyers work,” she continued. She has ample evidence of that, she said, among it the many ethics questions emailed to her in the wee hours of the morning.

As someone who is sought out for her ethics advice, Shely said she knows that when she hears from a fellow attorney, that person is probably not having a great day.

She reminded the audience that they should strive to treat others with kindness, “even those who may be the most obnoxious people.” After all, Shely said, we have no way of knowing what challenges they are facing in their work and personal lives.

Congratulations to Lynda Shely, a worthy recipient in so many ways.

Lynda Shely and her husband Robert, University Club, Phoenix.

Lynda Shely and her husband Robert, University Club, Phoenix.

Sarah Herring Sorin, namesake of an esteemed award given by the Arizona Women Lawyers Association.

Sarah Herring Sorin, namesake of an esteemed award given by the Arizona Women Lawyers Association.

Today, I invite you to think about legal leaders, and maybe even to nominate one for a prestigious award—by September 30.

The Arizona Women Lawyers Association (disclosure: I’m a member) is seeking nominations for its Sarah Herring Sorin award.  Every year, AWLA recognizes one of its own members who has demonstrated support and encouragement for the advancement of women in the legal profession. Because the AWLA has been around for decades and has more than 500 members, it’s quite possible you know a member.

As the AWLA says: “The recipient may not be a current regular member of the AWLA State Board of Directors but may be a former member of the Board. Please submit your nomination on or before September 30, 2015 to AWLA at awla.execadmin@gmail.com

Click here for the Nomination form.

Click here for a PDF version.

And you can read some of my past coverage of the annual association breakfast where past Sorin honorees were recognized, here, here, and here.

And here is more information about the award, including a list of past recipients.

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

A button shared by the Arizona Women Lawyers Association

grit-get-some-quote-1Update 8/17/15, 9:45 am: State Bar colleagues inform me that they have reached capacity for this event and are no longer accepting reservations. But I would like to hear feedback after the event from this who attend. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org. And I look forward to seeing you there.

This Thursday, there’s an event occurring that I’m happy to share (and attend). It’s titled “Finding Your True Grit: A Discussion on the Secrets of Success for Women Lawyers.”

Here is how the organizers describe it:

“How does your mindset impact your success in the workplace? Studies have shown that highly successful women lawyers have ‘grit’—the perseverance and passion for long term goals—and that an individual can learn to develop more grit. In this interactive session you will learn from distinguished and accomplished women lawyers what grit is and how to implement a grit approach in your career.”

This is a free event, but registration is requested by Wednesday, August 19.

Here is the detail about the discussion and dialogue among experts and audience members:

When: Thursday, August 20; program 1:00 – 4:00 pm; reception 4:00 – 5:00 pm

Where: National Bank of Arizona, 6001 N. 24th Street, Building 2, Phoenix 85016

Register here.

True Grit movie gif 1

Faculty:

  • Julie Arvo MacKenzie, Arizona Health Facilities Authority
  • Shawdy Banihashemi, Jaburg Wilk
  • Sonia Martinez, Law Office of Sonia Martinez
  • Lisa Maxie-Mullins, Office of the Attorney General
  • Hon. Patricia Orozco, Arizona Court of Appeals Div. One
  • Rosemarie Pena-Lynch, Office of the Legal Advocate
  • Alexia Peterson, DeConcini McDonald Yetwin & Lacy PC
  • Roberta Tepper, State Bar of Arizona
  • Moderator: Elena Nethers, State Bar of Arizona

True Grit movie gif 2

This program is presented by the State Bar of Arizona Committee on Minorities and Women in the Law and Young Lawyers Division and the Arizona Women Lawyers Association. This program is based on the Grit Project, created by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession.

It is sponsored by the Arizona Women Lawyers Association and the Native American Bar Association of Arizona; and co-sponsored by the Arizona Women Lawyers Association, the State Bar’s Committee on Minorities and Women in the Law and Young Lawyers Division and National Bank of Arizona.

Questions: Elena Nethers, Diversity and Outreach Advisor, State Bar of Arizona, (602) 340-7393.

Hon. Don Kessler receives the 2015 Sarah Herring Sorin Award from Barbara Burke, center, and 2015 AWLA President Lisa Bossard Funk, June 26, 2015, Arizona Biltmore, Phoenix.

Hon. Don Kessler receives the 2015 Sarah Herring Sorin Award from Barbara Burke, center, and 2015 AWLA President Lisa Bossard Funk, June 26, 2015, Arizona Biltmore, Phoenix.

An hour after the Supreme Court released its historic opinion legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states, the AWLA made historic news of their own, honoring a man for the first time with its Sarah Herring Sorin Award.

On Friday, June 26, the highest award of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association went to Judge Donn Kessler of the Arizona Court of Appeals.

The Biltmore Resort room was packed with a capacity crowd of members and others. Attorney Barbara Burke introduced the honoree, known for his support (and employment) of largely female clerks. He also has chaired or co-chaired the AWLA’s monthly luncheon for years, and has been tireless in mentoring judicial candidates.

Well respected as a mentor, Judge Kessler is “one who lifts up women and men attorneys,” said Burke.

Barbara conveyed kind words about Donn expressed by others: “When Donn is in your life, you are so lucky.” And “He is awesome, a leader and mentor.”

Judge Kessler sounded a theme of mindfulness in his acceptance remarks. A longtime advocate of meditation and balance in life and law practice, he said, “Mindfulness has made me grateful for things.”

For example, to loud applause, he said, “I am grateful for the United States Supreme Court this morning.”

But more needs to be done for marginalized individuals, he urged.

“A half century after 50 percent of law school classes were composed of women, now only 17 percent of law firm equity partners are women.”

Generous to a fault, Judge Kessler praised his many clerks, past and present, who have drafted the first versions of his opinions. While other appellate judges shifted uncomfortably in their seats, Kessler said that many drafts he’s received have been essentially ready for publication the moment they were written by the clerks.

“So I always try to add ‘the Kessler paragraph or sentence,’” he said. That way, when he later engages in dialogue with his fellow panel judges, they can focus on that portion. “‘We can take that out,’ they say,” likely unaware that it’s the judge-drafted portion. The self-effacing Kessler told his story to warm laughs—and some uneasy grimaces.

Judge Kessler said he will probably retire in two years, and hopes young lawyers and clerks always understand that he is a supporter and a sounding board. Urging a successful life and practice, he said, “I want you to run with it.”

Finally, he reminded the audience that appellate judge is the second-best job he’s ever had. For the best position, he recalled his work as a deputy attorney general in Hawaii, where he learned important lessons.

The Hawaiian-shirted Kessler described making his oral argument before a judge. As he went “toe to toe” on an important issue, “the judge was just not buying my argument.” Finally, a colleague tugged on his jacket and muttered, “Move on to your next argument!”

He did, and the judge exclaimed, “You win on that one!”

Your next argument, or your next chapter—and helping others with theirs—may be a recipe for a mindful life, Judge Kessler suggested.

In what has become an annual tradition, on Wednesday, the Arizona Women Lawyers Association hosted a debate of the candidates for Arizona Attorney General. Held at the University Club in Phoenix, it featured a packed-to-the-gills room, candidates committed to their goals, and organizers who were committed to: (1) a value-packed event and (2) getting people out on time.

Organizers succeeded on both counts. The candidates? Well, attendees may each have had their own favorites.

AWLA Arizona Women Lawyers Association logoThe format was composed of 10-minute candidate statements, followed by 10-minute rebuttals, and finally audience question. The candidates are Republican Mark Brnovich and Democrat Felecia Rotellini.

Rather than give a blow-by-blow, let me share a few of the candidates’ main points.

Mark Brnovich speaks at the debate of Arizona Attorney General candidates at a forum sponsored by the Arizona Women Lawyers Association, Sept. 24, 2014.

Mark Brnovich speaks at the debate of Arizona Attorney General candidates at a forum sponsored by the Arizona Women Lawyers Association, Sept. 24, 2014.

Brnovich:

“We as a society cannot tolerate when our most vulnerable are unprotected.”

“I am fully ready to push back against the Obama administration and its job-killing carbon regulations, which have a devastating impact on the economy and jobs.”

“He is such a fiscal conservative, he won’t even buy vowels for his last name.” (quoting Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery)

Felecia Rotellini speaks at the debate of Arizona Attorney General candidates at a forum sponsored by the Arizona Women Lawyers Association, Sept. 24, 2014.

Felecia Rotellini speaks at the debate of Arizona Attorney General candidates at a forum sponsored by the Arizona Women Lawyers Association, Sept. 24, 2014.

Rotellini:

“I want to return the Attorney General’s Office to its core mission; it should be an independent watchdog for the people. I worked to be sure mortgage fraud was made a criminal act.”

“I will take politics out of the office. When you’re in the trenches, you’re colorblind. There’s no red; there’s no blue.”

“It is important that the Attorney General not be an ideologue, and that the elected official appreciates the awesome power of the office.”

On rebuttal, the candidates became considerably more impassioned. In response to Rotellini comments, Brnovich told the audience that he is not an ideologue or an extremist.

Rotellini countered by discussing her opponent’s positions on pro-choice issues, SB1062, the Corrections Corporation of America, and Medicaid restoration, among other topics. She also mentioned the $700,000 in “dark money,” which she claims came from the Koch Brothers, which was spent in the primary in a successful effort to defeat incumbent Tom Horne.

Audience questions covered sex trafficking, same-sex marriage laws, lawsuits regarding federal mandates, and what changes each would make in the ranks of career prosecutors in the Attorney General’s Office.

Both candidates urged attendees to view all their positions on their respective websites:

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?

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