J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Report of the 2017 JRCLS Leadership Conference, September 27-29

Photo by Bradley Slade

Newsletter would like to thank Brent Belnap for providing the photographs for this article and for the leadership conference. For more of his photographs of the conference, visit:

Over 160 attendees of the September 2017 JRCLS Leadership Conference were

Ginny Isaacson received award
of gratitude for her service as
International Law Society Chair
blessed with not only inspiring messages but one of the most beautiful autumns ever in Provo and Aspen Grove, Utah. The conference was eventful as International Law Society Chair Ginny Isaacson passed the baton of leadership to Stephen L. West. Bill Atkin, Associate General Counsel of the LDS Church, also stepped down from the Law Society Board after acting as liaison with the Church’s Office of General Counsel for nearly 20 years. David Channer, newly appointed as Associate General Counsel of the LDS Church, took his place.

The conference kicked off at the J. Reuben Clark law school on Wednesday night with a Women in Law presentation by Michelle Reed, who spoke on “Perfect Balance: Overcoming Obstacles Through the Light of Education.” Reed was encouraging and realistic, incorporating pictures of "a day in the life of Michelle." One of the pictures was her coming out of a conference call that she had taken at the house to find that her children had decided to "entertain" themselves in a way that would take hours to clean up. Her quotes from church leaders on the importance of women educating themselves and contributing to their communities helped reassure attendees that their desires were and are righteous. The speed networking event afterwards maintained the momentum from Reed’s remarks, where law students received the opportunity to ask questions of the heart to many seasoned attorneys, and those contemplating law school were able to speak to women currently in the trenches of law school. The spirit of the event carried many attendees through the whole leadership weekend and encouraged them to continue to share their experiences with others on life in the law.  

Thursday morning, law students and attendees of the leadership conference gathered at the law school to network. The students and attorneys divided up by region in order to build relationships, and to ask and answer questions. After a luncheon at the BYU Conference Center, Bill Atkin delivered the keynote address. As a veteran of the Law Society, Brother Atkin reflected upon the Society’s developments over the last twenty years, at times offering personal and anecdotal stories. It was enjoyable to learn the genesis of some of the

Bill Atkin received award of gratitude from Steve West and Ginny Isaacson
Law Society’s now well established events and committees, such as the first broadcast of the Law Society’s fireside using the LDS Church’s satellite license agreement in 2003, and the organization of the Women in Law committee in 2007 with Annette Jarvis as chair, and surprisingly, Atkin as secretary! He also shared his love for the annual leadership conference, where he can reconnect with some of his closest friends and enjoy conference traditions such as listening to Area Legal Counsel reports and the hike to Stewart Falls. The first hike was originally planned by Joseph Bentley, who was then unable to attend due to a broken ankle. This left Atkin in charge of the hike, which, he humorously recalled, resulted in a hike “toward” rather than “to” Stewart Falls as they never really found the falls! Atkin also shared the origin of the Law Society’s Pro Bono program which was approved by the Office of General Counsel. The program was introduced at a past leadership conference to Law Society members, and by sending a letter to LDS Stake Presidents offering the services of the Law Society’s attorneys. As Atkin shared these experiences, attendees felt appreciation for his devotion to the Society and the resulting blessings to themselves and others in need.

Recipients of Outstanding Chapter awards
Later in the afternoon, Russell Wood, provided attendees with a CLE presentation on “A New Paradigm for Making Lawyer Negotiations Less Stressful and More Productive” (covered in separate article). Chair of the Chapter Relations Council Terry Higham also presented the Outstanding Chapter and Quality Chapter awards, a list of which can be found here.

Recipients of Quality Chapter awards
The first of Thursday’s afternoon panel discussions focused on “Best Practices for Chapters.” Kent Cammack, regional vice chair for the JRCLS America Central Region, moderated comments from Danielle Dallas (Utah Central Chapter), Scott Brown (Greater Phoenix), Phil Andersen (California San Francisco), Samuel Morales (Mexico Mexico City), and the audience.

L-R Phil Anderson, Scott Brown
and Danielle Dallas
Danielle Dallas, Utah Central Chapter Chair, discussed the challenges with revitalizing a chapter with a very large membership (1,200+) and geographic area. Current initiatives for that chapter include partnering with the local law school student chapter for joint activities including a broadcast of the Annual JRCLS Fireside in January, working with the local BYU Management Society Chapter on knowledge exchange events, and incorporating Women in Law opportunities such as informal monthly networking lunches. According to Dallas, “It’s about getting people to chapter events that they feel will bring them value. Once people begin participating again they will remember the value of the Law Society in their personal and professional life and will want to continue the association.” Greg Clark, Area Legal Counsel for the Caribbean, also offered a valuable insight that there is a remarkable correlation between a thriving [revitalized] chapter and pro bono service.

Scott Brown of the Greater Phoenix Chapter offered ideas regarding chapter maintenance. He cautioned against chapter leadership burning out themselves and their membership with too many events. “Don’t be too intense, but keep members invigorated. Our chapter has been most successful with this by involving the Women in Law and the students from the surrounding law schools; they keep the chapter thriving.” The chapter does this by hosting an Annual Fireside carried out by their Women in Law, a robust mentoring program with the local law students, quarterly CLE lunches, and weekend Religious Freedom workshops. Brown also mentioned that the Greater Phoenix Chapter uses a unique “Council of 50” initiative where 50 lawyers are asked to gift $100/year to exclusively fund scholarships.

California San Francisco Chapter Chair Phil Andersen mentioned that his area has a much smaller number of JRCLS attorneys as compared to Utah Central and Greater Phoenix. Consequently, their chapter activities occur three to four times per year and tend to be more intimate. He offered the example of the Annual Fireside for which he and his wife, Candace, who is also an attorney and member of the Law Society, host a dinner in their home along with the broadcast.

Rounding off the panel was Samuel Morales from Mexico City. Morales observed that in Mexico it is very uncommon for attorneys to offer pro bono service; the culture is to be paid for any legal work offered. At first this seemed like an obstacle, but as he and other local JRCLS leaders educated chapter members on the importance of reaching out to offer their legal services for pro bono purposes, their Mexican chapters have thrived with increased membership and retention. The services they have offered to their local communities has also created substantial goodwill between the Law Society, community members, and local organizations. An audience member from Mexico affirmed the blessing to him personally and his community by the local Law Society. He remarked that he is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints but participates because of the great work the chapter is doing, especially its pro bono efforts.

After the panel discussion the conference continued in Aspen Grove. During dinner, Judge G. Murray Snow of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona delivered a compelling keynote address. Judge Snow discussed the historical background and meaning of the only three revelations given to Joseph Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants concerning the United States Constitution, noting that the Lord revealed its divine origins during a time when the government was not protecting the freedoms the Constitution supposedly guaranteed to African Americans and LDS Saints. Judge Snow also emphasized the importance of freedom and agency in God’s plan; that without such, men cannot be held accountable for their actions to Him.

In the early hours on Friday morning, a group of brave souls hiked in the dark to Stewart Falls where they enjoyed singing hymns and watching the beautiful sunrise. During the Friday morning plenary session, incoming JRCLS Chair Steve West discussed how learning to think like a lawyer is actually a form of leadership training. West challenged the audience to become better leaders by combining their strong analytical skills developed in law school and through law practice with empathy, humility and patience—skills that help leaders see past their own ambition and provide vision and guidance. West reminded the audience that the credibility of the Law Society is directly correlated with the worthy influence of its members. West and Benson Dastrup, Assistant Dean of External Relations at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, then discussed strategic objectives of the Law Society which include:

1. Updating online platforms.
2. Improving communication and engagement with Law Society Members.
3. Strengthening Law Society Leadership.
4. Strengthening isolated members by establishing virtual chapters.
5. Strengthening international chapters.
6. Promoting religious liberty.

From L-R: Doug Lusk and Cory Chipman

ALC Jeff Nelson
Law students Braden Asper, Doug Lusk, and Cory Chipman then participated in a blind-folded demonstration to illustrate the challenges of students going through law school and entering the legal profession without knowing beforehand how the process and system works. They expressed that mentoring can help students successfully navigate the challenges of law school and make a smoother transition into the legal profession. An effective mentor can assist a student over time and build a continuing relationship. Successful mentoring strengthens the profession by preparing better trained attorneys and does not necessarily need to involve finding a job. 
After individual committee training, and a box lunch during which the Law Society’s committee’s individually met, the conference concluded with reports from Area Legal Counsel: Jeff V. Nelson(Europe), Douglas Matsumori (Pacific), and Brent C. Gardner (South America South Area).

By Angel Zimmerman, Julie Smith, Danielle Dallas, Wendy Jerdon

Posted: November 30, 2017