J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Implicit Bias, Mentoring, Joyful Lawyering: A Snapshot of the April 2016 WIL Regional Conference

What do implicit bias, mentoring, and joyful lawyering all have in common? These were several session topics at the recent Women in Law Regional Conference held on Saturday, April 30, 2016 at Utah Valley University. With 87 registrants representing seasoned practicing attorneys, new attorneys, current law students, non-practicing attorneys, and several male supporters, the conference was an enormous success.

The day began with a welcome breakfast and opening session featuring a presentation from Angelina Tsu. She explored how implicit bias affects women. Sara Dansie Jones gave a very interesting presentation on how to leverage your network. Coverage of both of these sessions is included in separate articles in this newsletter.
Lisa Watts Baskin, Chair of Real Women Run, delivered an energetic Lisa presentation called “Power Up, Sisters!” where she encouraged women to run for public office and to support other women in doing the same. While pointing out the significant gender gap between women and men holding public offices, Watts Baskin’s message was one of optimism as she highlighted the far-reaching benefits of women holding public offices. She recounted compelling stories of how women leaders have saved and enriched their communities—whether on a national or more local level. For example, Watts Baskin shared how women legislators played a key role in resolving the government shutdown, as well as examples of a woman who was instrumental in saving distressed neighborhoods in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and a story of how a class of LDS Young Women in Utah saved a local park from destruction.

Among the many strengths that women bring to community leadership are their abilities to negotiate differing viewpoints, problem solve, and provide a unique perspective in resolving issues of particular significance to women and families. According to Watts Baskins, most women who hold public office first became involved in community leadership as a result of issue-specific causes, and ran for office only after multiple people encouraged them to do so. Thus, she encouraged women to step up to leadership roles in their community, and for women AND men to encourage other women to do the same.

Gayla Sorenson, Dean of Admissions at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, delivered a presentation called “In Defense of Our First Freedom,” where she highlighted current challenges to religious freedom and how we can defend our “first freedom.” Sorenson also educated attendees on key issues in religious freedom, and sharing updates from recent case law.

Gayla Sorenson taught practical ways to become involved in defending religious freedom. Among other things, individuals can become involved by reading books, websites, and cases on religious freedom; attending religious freedom seminars; using pro bono time to assist in religious freedom cases; and proactively participating in local bar organizations. She admonished attendees to respect religious freedom rights for everyone—not just the majority—and to encourage our children and others in our sphere of influence to do the same. Sorenson can’t tell us how or when we’ll be asked to do something to defend religious freedom—but at some point we will be in the right place at the right time, so we should act now to become prepared.  
Barbara Melendez’s message was an inspirational cry to encourage more mentoring among women in the legal profession. We can overcome the constraints of time, fear, and competitiveness by recognizing that mentoring wears different faces at different seasons of our career; from off-the-cuff comments and observations to a formal mentor-mentee relationship to reverse mentoring (think technology tips from the younger generation). Mentoring relationships allow for easy sharing—such as checklists, outlines, letters, books. And don’t forget, mentors benefit from the relationship by fostering altruism, increasing their credibility and knowledge, gaining a better understanding of issues people are facing, expanding their own network, and cross-referencing information to name a few benefits. Melendez pointed out, “We stagnate unless we continue learning and sharing what we know,” and mentoring is the perfect antidote.

Karen The day concluded with a lunch and speaker Karen Clemes who focused on strategies to being a joyful lawyer. Keeping in mind that one person’s happy place is not necessarily another’s, Clemes encouraged attendees to tune into their inner voice regarding career choice and what they need to be balanced. Because happiness correlates with being good at what you do, find and capitalize on your strengths. Follow your heart in choosing your career path. When you get it wrong, don’t be afraid to change course. As you do so, look for opportunities to create micro-moments of happiness and appreciate that they are part of your day. These can buoy you up during the other tasks that are not as fulfilling. We feel more joy when we have meaningful relationships, incorporate meditation and exercise to revitalize our bodies and spirits, define our boundaries (no 6am work flights!), keep a sense of humor, and realize “these are good days, enjoy!”

Many thanks to an outstanding WIL board that organized the event. All who attended truly had their wells filled.
By: Danielle Dallas and Megan Nelson, Media Committee

Posted: May 27, 2016