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The annual deadline to nominate someone for the prestigious Sarah Herring Sorin Award is Tuesday, November 15.

Given by the Arizona Women Lawyers Association, the award recognizes an AWLA member who has demonstrated support and encouragement for the advancement of women in the legal profession. And because the AWLA has been around for decades and has more than 500 members, it’s quite possible you know a member.

I’m guessing you know a lawyer–leader who will be an ideal pick. (The 2016 recipient was Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall.)

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 November 15, 2016 to AWLA at awla.execadmin@gmail.com.

The Award will be presented at the 2017 Mary Ann Richey Scholarship Breakfast at the State Bar of Arizona Convention at the Westin La Paloma in Tucson, on Friday, June 16, 2017.

The nomination form lists previous recipients of the award, and is available to download in Word here.

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

A button shared by the Arizona Women Lawyers Association

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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

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.

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.

Great news from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University:

Justice Berch to receive top AWLA award for encouraging, mentoring women in law

By Janie Magruder

Hon. Rebecca White Berch

Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch will receive the 2012 Sarah Herring Sorin Award from the Arizona Women Lawyers Association (AWLA) for her superior contributions to women in the field of law. Justice Berch, who graduated from the College of Law at Arizona State University in 1979, will accept the award on Friday, June 22, during the State Bar of Arizona’s annual convention at the Arizona Biltmore.

The award is named for Sorin, Arizona’s first woman lawyer who, in the early 1900s, became the 25th woman to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Sorin was admitted to the Arizona bar in 1902, and practiced throughout the Arizona Territory, developing a specialty in mining law and practicing with her father, William Herring.

The award is given by the AWLA Board of Directors to a member who demonstrates support for and encouragement of the advancement of women in the legal profession.

“Rebecca is a living mentor who reaches out to help those coming up through the ranks behind her,” said Paige Martin, a partner in the Scottsdale office of Kutak Rock LLP, who submitted her nomination. “She is not a pedestal-sitter. She’s a person who takes all of this very seriously.”

In assembling the nomination, Martin spoke to people who work directly with the Chief Justice, and Martin also had a great deal of personal, first-hand experience with Justice Berch’s support for women in the law.

“The award has several components, including professional achievement and personal involvement with women in the law, and Rebecca certainly is outstanding in both of those,” said Martin, a past AWLA president and member of its advisory board. “She also is a great supporter of AWLA and its goals. She comes to our events, she brings people with her, and she encourages her clerks and others to join. Moreover, Rebecca’s physical presence at AWLA events demonstrates her recognition of the importance of an organization such as ours. Our mission is to promote and encourage the success of women lawyers, and she is a living embodiment of how to accomplish that goal.”

AWLA advocates for and shares information with its members on maternity policies, part-time work flexibility options and salary disparities, among other issues, fosters connections among women lawyers, and monitors and celebrates the successes of its members and women lawyers.

Justice Berch said she is honored by the nomination and the award, especially to be included in the company of its past recipients. They include Justice Ruth V. McGregor (ret.), Judge Mary M. Schroeder, Helen Perry Grimwood, Doris F. Mindell, Roxana C. Bacon, Grace McIlvain, Barbara A. Atwood, Laura A. Cardinal, Amy Schwartz, Georgia A. Staton, Judge Janis Ann Sterling (ret.), Amelia Craig Cramer and Martin.

Advocating for women in the law is a natural for Justice Berch. She first joined AWLA after her law-school graduation, and later, when she taught and directed the legal writing program at ASU, she was the faculty advisor for the Women Law Students’ Association.

Those were dichotomous times, the era of the “Fab Five,” when the five top elected offices in Arizona were held by women, and yet a prominent local country club still banned women from its men’s grill, and the Augusta Country Club, sponsor of the Masters Golf Tournament, would not have women as members.

“AWLA, then and now, helps lawyers make friends and find mentors. Participation may also alert you about career opportunities. And, by the way, men are welcome to join, too, and we hope they find the same advantages,” Justice Berch said.

The organization helped her with mock interviews and critiques before she submitted her judgeship application, which resulted in a boost to her poise, confidence and knowledge, she said.

“In today’s tough job market, membership in organizations such as AWLA has never been more important for law students and new lawyers,” she added.

“Starting in practice is more difficult than new lawyers anticipate it will be, and they can feel quite alone sometimes, so it’s helpful to have a friend outside your firm who you can call, and who will act as a sounding board,” Justice Berch said. “And don’t we want these new lawyers to have the best possible bridge into the practice of law?”

Born and raised in Phoenix, Justice Berch is a “Triple Devil,” having also earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from ASU. She has spent most of her career serving Arizona and its citizens. She was in private practice from 1979-1986, then directed the law school’s legal writing program from 1986-1995. During that time, she co-authored Introduction to Legal Method and Process, a law-school textbook that is used around the country and is in its fifth printing.

Justice Berch served as Solicitor General for the State of Arizona from 1991-1994, and was Special Counsel and First Assistant Attorney General from 1995-1998. She was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals in 1998, then appointed to the Arizona Supreme Court in 2002. In 2009, Justice Berch began a five-year term as Chief Justice.

She speaks to hundreds of groups annually, from school assemblies to service organizations, and serves on several national boards, including the National Conference of Chief Justices’ Board of Directors, the National Conference of Bar Examiners’ Board of Trustees, and the Green Bag Board of Editors.

Janie Magruder is the Director of Print Communications and Media Relations at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.