J. Reuben Clark Law Society
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Women in Law

Susannah Thomas

Chair Elect:
Jennifer H. Wilson

Immediate Past Chair:
Angel R. Zimmerman

Operations Committee Liaison:
Gayla L. Moss Sorenson

Candace Kay Andersen

Randilyn Nordstrom Hawkins

Kathryn Latour

Rana Renee Lehr-Lehnardt

Desiree J. Nordstrom

Alisa Dawn Wilkes

Executive Secretary:
Mary H. Hoagland


Welcome to Women in Law!

We are so glad you are interested in finding out more about the JRCLS Women in Law Committee. One question we are often asked is why a Women in Law (WIL) group is a necessary part of the JRCLS. Here are some answers to that question:

  1. To encourage women lawyer’s participation in local and international JRCLS activities;
  2. To help all chapters organize Women in Law sections within their chapters;
  3. To affirm, acknowledge and expand the strength and contributions that women lawyers bring to the law, their communities and their families;
  4. To facilitate communication, support, fairness and equal opportunities for women lawyers who support the ideals of the JRCLS; and
  5. For women lawyers with similar ideals to get connected and enjoy each other’s company.

Here are some ways in which we try to accomplish the above goals:

  •  Women in Law Blog: We have a Women in Law blog. You can find it at jrclswomen.blogspot.com. Women and men   from around the world view the website which addresses issues that are of interest to  women lawyers. These issues  include concerns associated with: full time practice, part time practice,  those women on hiatus from practice,   practicing with children at home, students, using your law  degree in your community and family, singles and posts     that introduce us to Women in Law members  throughout the world and posts that tell us about Women in Law  events.

  • International Level: On an international level, we hold annual events: the Pre-Law Conference, which helps female undergraduate students decide whether to attend law school; at the JRCLS Annual Conference, Women in Law sponsors a breakfast with presenters and Q & A and a class with a panel discussion; at the JRCLS Annual Leadership Conference, Women in Law also sponsors a breakfast and training sessions; most recently we have started holding Regional Women in Law Conferences. Many women lawyers are unable to attend the above-mentioned conferences due to the costs associated with travel and registration. Our Regional Conferences are just that: regional so that women can drive for a few hours, attend the conference for a minimal cost and then return home that same day.

  •  Local Level: On a local level we encourage JRCLS chapter chairs to not only have women on their  boards, but also to have their own Women in Law sections where events can be held for women     on  a smaller scale that is able to better meet the needs and interests in a particular area. We try to  support those local Women in Law sections and their representatives. Engaging and encouraging  women lawyers, whether practicing or not, to become involved in local chapters strengthens the  chapters as well as the individual women.

  • Many paths to Take.  We recognize women lawyers have many paths they can take: practicing full time, practicing part time, not practicing for awhile, staying at home, working in non-legal fields, etc. We want each of these women to know their choices are appreciated. What is right for one person may not be right for another. We rejoice in these differences. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who has since passed away, once said:
    [Some think we should all] look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people
    the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos
    of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty
    of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and
    richness to the whole.

Below are tabs you can click to get specific direction and ideas about how to start your own Women in Law section, a list of current members of the Women in Law Committee and their contact information, a list of current Women in Law section representatives, a list of event ideas, discussion topics, a tab for issues particular to students and one that shares the history of Women in Law.  We are glad you are here. Please join us.

How to Start a WIL Section

The Women in Law Committee of the International JRCLS Board encourages women members of each chapter to form a Women in Law (WIL) section within their chapter. If you are a chapter leader, please review the information below carefully to assist you in beginning a WIL section or in building and extending an existing WIL section.  If you are a JRCLS member and are interested in forming a WIL section or in becoming involved with an existing section, please contact your Chapter Chair. Once your WIL section is formed, please have your Chapter Chair provide the International Women in Law Committee information about the formation of your section and the leadership of your WIL section so that we can post it on our webpage to assist you with membership and with exchange of information with other WIL section leaders.
Please feel free to communicate directly with the International JRCLS WIL Committee by contacting the Chair, Vice Chair, or any other member of the Committee listed on the “Committee Members” page above. To get updates on recent WIL events, specific ideas on how to build and extend WIL, and event ideas and topics, please review the WIL leadership training slides provided at the JRCLS October 2, 2015 leadership conference and the WIL leadership training slides provided at the JRCLS October 2, 2014 leadership conference.

Below is a suggestion of six steps to follow:

 6 Points to Starting a JRCLS women in law Section
   1. Begin with a diverse executive committee
            a. Try to have members represent different types of practices and those not currently practicing;
            b. Try to have members represent different personal situations (married, single, etc.);
            c. Have a member of your committee be on sustaining chapter’s board;
   2. Set goals and objectives;
   3. Create a list of potential members
            a. Ask sustaining chapter for its list and also any other women they know of who might be interested in WIL;
            b. Get list from BYU of women who have some connection to BYU and also have  legal training;
            c. Have executive members assigned to contact or follow up with each member on list;
            d. Send introductory e-mail explaining WIL, your goals and inviting them to attend an event;
   4. Limit the number of events: for example, have two a year: a formal and an informal event;
   5. Hang in there; and,
   6. Help people feel welcome, wanted and safe.   

The JRCLS Membership Directory is searchable by gender and by location. In order to form a WIL section in your Chapter, you will probably want to start by searching for women on the JRCLS database in your area. As many women's issues are universal, you might also consider including women who are not members of the JRCLS to participate in your WIL section activities.

Ideally, each WIL section within a Chapter should be headed by one to three section leaders, who can work together to plan events.  Networking events are also important. Additionally each WIL section should discuss with the Chapter Board the idea of to co-sponsoring an annual program for the entire Chapter membership that either highlights a woman speaker or focuses on a topic of importance for women in law.

Feel free to contact any member of the JRCLS International Board's WIL Committee and let us know how we can be of assistance in either getting a WIL section within your Chapter started or in supporting your existing WIL section.

WIL Section Reps

A Women in Law Representative can be as simple as having one woman on the local chapter board who is there to represent women in that chapter.  She might have a WIL Section, which is a group of women who are asked to serve specifically to plan WIL events.  The WIL rep may also invite women from time to time to help with specific events. In this situation a WIL section is not formally created.  Do whatever is best for your chapter.  Talk with your chapter chair and decide together what would best meet  the needs in your area.


Event Ideas

A Women in Law event may be as simple as two women lawyers having lunch together.  It may also be more formal with a panel of speakers and CLE credit available.  The only limitation is your creativity.  Recently WIL sections have: hosted a female judges event, held a luncheon with panelsists discsiing how training in the law empowers women, took CLE on the road, literally (the Kansas City section rented a bus, founda couple of CLE presenters and traveled to a nearby city to have dinner and shop while listening to and receiving CLE credit), hosting youn women groups at law schools, etc. For ideas check out the WIL blog (jrclswomen.blogpspot.com).

Some events, with specific details are listed below. 

Phoenix AZ Chapter

a. Arizona WIL Lost Boys Service Project: On Saturday October 18,2008, the Arizona women in law Chapter provided a training seminar to members of the Arizona Lost Boys Center. Nineteen women volunteered their services either in the legal arena or in providing refreshments.

Arizona WIL taught the following classes: Criminal Law, Immigration, Contracts, Family Law and the Arizona Court system. They also addressed overviews of the U.S. Constitution, responsibilities and rights of citizenship and job opportunities in the law. There were approximately twenty-five Lost Boy attendees.

Before WIL began its presentation, a Lost Boy retold us the history of the Lost Boys. We then watched a “60 Minutes” presentation about the Lost Boys. After the WIL presentation we all had the opportunity to talk with one another, answer questions and hear personal stories of trials and accomplishments.

b. Habitat for Humanity Service Project. On October 10, 2009 the JRCLS Phoenix Chapter’s Women in Law Section had a day of service. Habitat for Humanity needed help painting a recently built duplex. Women in Law was there to help. About 15 women drove many miles and spent several hours painting. An added benefit was having the soon to be new homeowners working side by side with us.

In addition to getting paint on legs, arms and windows, we accomplished the painting task. We not only felt a sense of accomplishment in completing the painting project, we also felt strengthened ties to one another and to Women in Law. It was wonderful to work side by side in a non-legal setting. We got to know each other better while serving others.

Orange County, CA Chapter
a. The first meeting was held at Mimi’s Café in Lake Forest on 2/27/2006. This was a breakfast meeting, with approximately ten people attending. The meeting was primarily a get-acquainted and organizing meeting, where we handed out JRCLS membership forms and lists of events, reviewed why we were meeting, asked each attendee to introduce herself—where she lived, her relationship to the law. We then had a discussion on future topics, format, locations. A handout on the goals and purposes of the group was handed out and discussed.

b. The second event organized by the Orange County Women’s Outreach Committee (women in law not yet organized on the national or international level) was one of the chapter’s regularly scheduled chapter lunches, held on 3/16/06 at the chapter’s regular meeting place—the conference room of Knobbe, Martens in Irvine. We invited Cheryl Preston, BYU law professor, to speak on “Fashioning Women in Law,” based on a video she had prepared regarding perceptions of women in fashion advertising and the different messages sent by and about women, versus men. This was the first time in its history that a woman had addressed the OC chapter of the JRCLS.

c. The third meeting was our second breakfast for the OC women lawyers, also held at Mimi’s Café in Lake Forest, on June 5, 2006. This meeting was a panel discussion entitled, “Full-time, Part-time, No time: Law and the Family.” Chapter chair Jeff Shields attended this meeting and indicated he was surprised and enlightened by the women’s perspectives. Panelists were Catherine Evans (part-time lawyer), Dawn Mosley (“dormant” lawyer), Donna Bashaw (full-time lawyer), and Julie Smith (“dormant” lawyer).

d. On May 30, 2007, we held a lunch meeting at the Macaroni Grill in Costa Mesa. Approximately ten attended. At this meeting we again had introductions and sharing around the table of issues that the women suggested. Chapter chair Jeff Robinson attended this meeting.

Los Angeles, CA Chapter

a. Nov. 4, 2008, inaugural event. Lunch with panelists discussing “Seeking Balance as Women Lawyers.” Panelists were Judge Claudia Laycock, Gwyn McNeal, and Barbara Melendez.

b. April 13, 2010, JRCLS luncheon presentation featuring Lisa Yerkovich, Evelyn Furse, and Melanie Vartabedian, speaking on “Women Lawyers of Utah's Initiative on the Advancement and Retention of Women in Law Firms.” Panelists Lisa Yerkovich (Shareholder with Ray, Quinney, & Nebeker), Evelyn Furse (Senior City Attorney with Salt Lake City, Corporation), and Melanie Vartabedian (Associate with Ballard, Spahr, Andrews, & Ingersoll, LLP) discussed the results of the Initiative on the Advancement and Retention of Women in Law Firms.

c. In the fall of 2008, the Women’s Outreach committee sponsored a joint lunch meeting (a regular chapter lunch meeting for all members, male and female) featuring OC Presiding Judge, Nancy Stock (not a member of the JRCLS), who spoke on balancing law and home life.

d. Partly because of increased awareness prompted by the WIL section, two of the recent annual dinner speakers have been women. In 2006, the first woman dinner speaker in the 10-year history of the chapter was Cheiko Okazaki, and in 2008, the annual dinner speaker was Susan Easton Black.

e. In June 10, 2010, the WIL sponsored a lunch panel presentation, inviting the male members of the chapter as well. The topic was: “Lawyers as Entrepreneurs—starting and running your own law firm.” The panelists were three women—Donna Bashaw, who started and manages a successful elder law firm; Elizabeth Smith, who, with her husband E. Gary Smith, started an Orange County law firm in 1988 which she still manages today; and Stacey Jue, who left private law-firm practice to become corporate counsel for Fed Ex. Approximately 20 men and 5 women attended.

Salt Lake City Chapter

a. WIL panel and dinner, 10/21/2010, 7 pm, featuring Lisa Cannon, CEO of StarBuzz, Marilyn Jager, Partenr, Morris, Polich, & Purdy, Susasn Kamei, Assoc. Dean, USC; and Ladell Muhlestein, Sr. Counsel, Manning & Marder.

b. Other events sponsored by the LA chapter which could be used as models for topics for WIL events: (1) “Personal Values in Decision Making & Communications” speaker—Dee Alsop, CEO of Heart and Mind Strategies; (2) “Ethics and Leadership—a Jewish Perspective” speaker a local rabbi and professor; (3) “Challenges facing US Attorneys in the areas of Drug Trafficking, Human Trafficking, Violence against Women and Children and National Security,” speaker— Brett Tolman, former US Atty, Utah.

Seattle Washington Chapter

a. Two brown-bag luncheons in downtown Seattle in 2010. Attended by 6-8 women. Informal get- acquainted and discussion of issues.

Inland Empire (CA) Chapter (Riverside/San Bernardino)

a. Inaugural WIL-sponsored and organized event, for all members of the chapter: “Who Can Find a Virtuous Litigator? The Influence of Virtue in the Courts.” Featuring a forum of distinguished local judges--Justice Douglas P. Miller, Judge Sherrill A. Ellsworth, Judge Mark A. Cope, Judge Kelly L. Hanson, Judge Michael J. Rushton, Judge Gordon R. Burkhardt, Commissioner Bradley O. Snell. Scheduled for Friday, Oct. 22, 2010, reception 6:30 p.m. (Hors d’oeuvres & Dessert), 7:00 p.m. Forum presentation 

Discussion Topics

Any topic that is of interest to the women in your area would be appropriate as long as it is consistent withthe mission statements of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society.

Some suggestions are as follows:

  • The Power and Influence That Comes from a Law Degree
  • The Joyful Lawyer
  • Negotiation/Peacemaking/Healing
  • Leadership in Religious Liberty
  • Women in Political Leadership
  • How to Start and Run a Law Practice
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Gender Bias
  • Networking and Building a Client Base
  • Tips for Conducting Your Job Search
  • Leadership and Your Law Degree
  • How to Re-enter the Practice
  • Work-Life Balance and Priorities
  • Ethics: Making the Right Choices
  • Beyond Traditional Law Practice
  • Preparing for/Obtaining an In-house Position
  • Pros and Cons of Legal Jobs in Government




Law Students:

JRCLS Student chapters:


Advice from women attorneys:


  • How Women in Law helps law students:


  • How do I join a Women in Law section:


  • How men (husbands, fathers, sons, etc.) can help the women law students in their lives:


  • How women law students can help the men in their lives:

Undergraduate Students:

Have you ever wondered what law school was like? Would you like to talk with law students?  Law professors? Practicing women attorneys to find out what it is like to practice, how they balance home life with a practice, how they use their law degree in their community?  Ask some women attorneys from your local JRCLS Chapter (your local chapter can be found by going to Chapters on the main page of this website). For an example of an event that might be held go to:  http://jrclswomen.blogspot.com/2013/09/helping-answer-question-is-law-school.html.

High School Students:

Ask the women attorneys in your local JRCLS Chapter (your local attorney chapter can be found by going to Chapters on the main page of this website) to meet with you and answer your questions, take you to tour a law school or get law students to talk with you. For an example of an event that might be held go to: http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=898760705898314992#editor/target=post;postID=73736017352359.


The women in law Committee of the International Law Society was formed in 2007, with  Annette Jarvis as chair. Bill Atkin, of the LDS Church General Counsel’s office, was official liaison for the Committee with the Law Society’s Executive Board. Members of the Committee  were Nan Barker, Phoenix; Hannah Clayson Smith, Washington D.C.; Tiffany Smith, Salt Lake  City; Elizabeth Shaw Smith, Orange County, CA; and Mary Hoagland, ass’t dean, BYU Law  School. Bill Atkin also sat in on monthly conference calls ofthe Committee for approximately  the first year.

During the first couple of years, the primary focus of the Committee was encouraging local chapters to form WIL sections and to hold events for women or of particular interest to both  women and men. WIL sections were formed and met in Washington DC and in Phoenix, AZ.  An existing WIL section had already been formed in Orange County, CA in 2005-2006.

From 2009 on, the WIL Committee was responsible for WIL sessions and breakfasts at the  Annual JRCLS Confernce.  At the JRCLS annual meeting in 2009, the first WIL panel session was held in  Boston, as well as a WIL breakfast. Annette Jarvis and Hannah Clayton Smith  were involved in organizing these events.

This tradition continued at the 2010 annual conference in Salt Lake City.  The WIL panel presentation was: “Beyond Private Practice: If I Don’t Want  to Work in a Law Firm, What Else Is there?” (Panelists: Lisa Watts Baskin,  Mary Hoagland, Charlotte I. Miller, Angelina Tsu, with Elizabeth Shaw Smith  as moderator). The WIL breakfast was organized and hosted by Nan Barker.

The 2011 (Dallas, TX) annual conference WIL panel presentation was: “Men  and Women Working Together in the Law” (Panelists: Alyssa Englund,  Michael Jensen, Carol Warnick, Gordon Wright, with Elizabeth Shaw Smith  as moderator). A video of this panel presentation is available on the  JRCLS.org website. Nan Barker organized the breakfast session, and  Elizabeth Smith conducted. Approximately 40 women attended the breakfast;  approximately 80-90 attended the panel presentation.

Involvement by WIL at  the annual JRCLS Leadership Conference began and has conitnued. Every year, the day before Leadership beigns WIL hosts a Pre-Law Event. That event is intended to help female undergraduate students decide whether or not law school is for them. The WIL Committee met together for its only  

face to face meeting of the year at the annual leadership conference in October at the BYU Law  School and Aspen Grove Alumni camp. At that conference, the Committee was available to  train any WIL section leaders or other women Law Society members who wanted to get a WIL  section started. Attendance was very sparce for the first few years. In 2010, the WIL Committee  held a training session for all chapter chairs, which was well attended—approximately 50  attendees. 

In 2010, Annette Jarvis stepped down as chair of the Committee, and Elizabeth Smith became chair.  The Committee consisted  of: Elizabeth Smith, chair; Nan Barker, vice-chair; Tiffany Smith, Deborah Hendrickson,  Susannah Thomas, Eileen Doyle Crane, Lori Sorenson, and Mary Hoagland.  Elixabeth began the Women in Law Blog (jrclswomen.blogspot.com). The blog gets approximately 1,000 hits a month and has readers from all ovver the world.

In 2012, Elizabeth Smith stepped down as chair and Nan Barker became chair.  Members of the Committee were: Nan Barker, chair; Deborah Hendrickson, vice-chair, Susannah Thomas, Mary Hoagland, Deisree Noerdstrom, Eileen Crane and Heather Pack.

WIL held its first ever Regional Women in Law Conference in Tempe, Arizona on November 9, 2013.  It was entitled "Paths We Take".  It was held on a Saturday from 8:00am -2:00pm. Speakers from California and Arizona will addressed the attendess. Judges, professors, practicing attorneys and non-practicing attorneys presented.  Attorneys, practicing or not, law students and those thinking about attending law school attended.

Women in Law Blog

Check out our blog: http://jrclswomen.blogspot.com/.

The WIL blog gets hundreds and hundreds of hits each month. The majority of them are from the United States.  However, we also recieve hits from many other countries such as India, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan, New Zealand, Peru, Australia, United Kingdom, Spain, etc.

Examples of some of the things you might find on the blog are:

Pregnant and in Law School

Let's Dialogue: Law Firm Stress v. Everything Else

Women Lawyers at Church

Staying Involved While Staying at Home

The Economy of God: A Non-Practicing Attorney on the Value of Her Law Degree

An Invaluable Tool

 We also introduce you to other women of faith who are attorneys.  We've highlighted women from many different parts of the world.        Some of them have been well known.  Others, just well known to their families and friends.  If you know someone you think we should  highlight, let us know!  Send us her name and contact information by commenting on a blog post.

We also let you know about upcoming JRCLS events on a local, national or international stage.  We also post articles about what happened at those events and how they affected a woman in the law.

Check out our blog on a regular basis.  Better yet, join to get new posts sent directly to your email address. There are new posts once or twice a week.  

Social Media Links

Blog: http://jrclswomen.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JRCLSIntlWIL/ 

Listserv:  jrcls-wil@lists.washlaw.edu

Professional Clothing Drive Flyer

Joint Webinars with WIB - BYU management

Women in Leadership Conference Registration