Full Time Practice

Monday, April 14, 2014

Orange County Religion and the Law Symposium

(Written by Desiree Nordstrom.)

The Tenth Annual Orange County Religion & the Law Symposium was held March 20, 2014 at Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law in Orange, California.  This year’s Symposium was titled, “Rights of Conscience vs. Same-Sex Rights: Religious Liberty in the Post-Prop. 8 Environment.”

This event was sponsored by the J. Reuben Clark Law Society (Orange County Chapter), along with a number of co-sponsoring organizations, including Chapman Law School, the Christian Legal Society (both Orange County and Los Angeles Chapters), the Federalist Society (Orange County Lawyers Chapter), Jewish Federation & Family Services of Orange County, the Orange County Jewish Bar Association, Pepperdine University School of Law, the St. Thomas More Society of Orange County, Trinity Law School, Western State College of Law and Whittier Law School.

The program for the Symposium was a debate format in which the speakers, Prof. John C. Eastman and Prof. Lawrence E. Rosenthal, had a friendly and entertaining exchange.  Both speakers were highly qualified and engaging.  Prof. Eastman is the current Chair of the National Organization for Marriage and a Professor teaching constitutional law at Chapman Law School.   Prof. Rosenthal is also a Law Professor at Chapman Law School where he teaches civil rights and constitutional law.  Significantly, both speakers previously served as Law Clerks to Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Prof. Eastman and Prof. Rosenthal discussed numerous cases that have recently arisen when the definition of marriage has collided with the free exercise of religion.  These cases have involved, for example, a photographer who refused to photograph a same-sex wedding on religious grounds, a florist and a baker who similarly refused to provide their services for same-sex weddings, and a physician who refused to perform certain in vitro fertilization services for a same-sex couple.  The Professors not only debated about what is the current state of the law on these subjects, but also about where they believed the law was and should be heading.       

Jeff Shields, an Orange County attorney who served as the Moderator for the program said, “The importance of addressing these topics cannot be overemphasized, as the conflicts between same-sex rights and free exercise of religion rights will surely only continue to grow and loom larger in the future.”

There were approximately 150 in attendance at the Symposium from a wide variety of backgrounds, including judges, attorneys, professors, religious and community leaders, students and more. The Symposium was a great forum to have a dialogue about important legal and religious topics.

One of those in attendance was Brent North, current Chair of the OC Chapter of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society, who observed that “[i]n a world where finger pointing and fear mongering pass for deliberation, it was good to see these important issues discussed respectfully from both sides of the aisle.  The right to define marriage and the right to the free exercise of religion do not have to be mutually exclusive rights.  The panel did a great job of exploring the borderlands where these rights meet.”

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Enlightenment and Confirmation

(Written by Nan Barker, International WIL Committee chair.)

Members of the International WIL Committee have been participating in a leadership program for the past few months. One aspect of that program has been the requirement to read the book Life in the Law--Service and Integrity.  Life in the Law is a compilation of talks given at Law Society or BYU events. This month's assignment was to read the first 52 pages--the section called "Be Ethical".

I began reading. I tend to be one of those people who follows the rules and does what she's asked to do. I had never read any of the book before. I felt like I was reading it now to complete an assignment, which was true.

I was remarkably impressed, within the first few pages, to discover that I was enjoying myself and learning.  Let me share a little bit about what I experienced.

The second talk, given by Cree-L Kofford, entitled "A Restatement of Contracts", included these enlightening and confirming words:

Cree-L Kofford
The law, like the Lord, knows we are individuals unique among all individuals, and the law can provide for those individual differences….The law does not offer a "one size fits all" opportunity. Rather, it seeks to meet our abilities, our interests, our desires, and our circumstances, for only then are we able to contribute to its continued vibrancy… 

All choices are more a function of (1) what you are, (2) what your circumstances are, and, therefore, (3) what your desires are than of your (a) grade point average, (b) class standing, or (c ) what someone else thinks you can our ought to do.

The simple fact is that you have the ability to design your own practice. All that is needed if you are to be successful is that your design is true to who and what you are and…what your circumstances require.

As I was reading this talk I kept finding myself saying "Yes, yes, that's exactly right!" I guess doing your homework really does matter and really can help you.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Weight of Your Word

(Written by Desiree Nordstrom, a WIL Committee member.)

I have given much thought to the weight that a person’s word holds. In times past, a person’s word and hand shake were all that was needed to enter into an agreement. It seems now most agreements are memorialized in writing. And I am sure as attorneys, we advocate for our clients to do just that. But some relationships are close enough that asking the other party to put it in writing seems improper. If my neighbor says she will water my garden while I am out of state for 5 days, I won’t ask her to sign a contract agreeing to it. I have my neighbor’s word. It is those promises that I have thought a lot about recently. I believe there are steps that we can take in an effort to be a woman or man of our word.

Step One: Be Realistic in What We Say We Will Do!
That seems so simple on its face. But I think this throws many off. I once had a friend tell me that when she makes promises, she usually over promises in an effort to be “optimistic” in her belief of what she will get done. I am all for positivity! But when another depends upon that promise, I believe that realism is often a better path than being hopefully optimistic. You see, when one over promises and under delivers, over time that person’s word loses its weight. One depending upon that promise will learn that she cannot depend upon the person that over promises. We should strive to see our situation in a realistic way. Do we have the time to complete the commitment? Do we have the ability? Do we have the desire? If we cannot answer those with an honest yes, than we should not make the commitment.

Step Two: Lists Are Our Friends
Oh yes, I am one of those people who have a running list of things to get done. Is that list ever completed? Absolutely not. I knock one thing off and add on five. But creating a list keeps things from falling through the cracks. Even though this list continually gets longer, having the list enables me to prioritize those promises that others depend on to ensure each get completed. I use many methods in my effort to stay organized. The calendar in my phone keeps me straight and keeps me on time. Also, I keep a notepad in my purse. As items that need to be added to my notepad pop into my head, I pull it out and add it on immediately. Otherwise, my mind moves on and I may forget. I have friends that keep a notebook and pen on their bed stand. They state that often their mind runs so much with a mental list that they must write it down before their mind will shut off and go to sleep. What a great idea!

Step Three: Say “No” When We Will Not Be Able To
I find myself saying yes far more than I should. I understand the feeling that if we say no to someone, we might feel we have let them down. The thing is, saying yes too much will lead to things being missed and will inevitably disappoint that person regardless. I remind myself that if I say no, those people will know that I set realistic expectations of myself. I think they will understand that during those times I say “yes,” I will mean it and I will complete it. This gives my word weight.

Step Four: View Our Commitments as Sacred
Our word is sacred. Do not devalue it by lacking the follow through needed to deliver on promises. If we say we are going to do it, than DO IT!

Has the importance of a person’s word diminished as time has passed? I believe it has. But I find it important, as women with integrity, that we must live up to the promises and lend our word the weight it deserves.

Monday, March 31, 2014

William & Mary JRCLS WIL Section Debut

(Written by Courtney Hagge, the WIL student rep at William & Mary.)

Courtney Hagge
On February 25th 2014, the newly organized WIL Section hosted its first event: an      excellent panel discussion entitled, “Balancing Career & Family.” Close to 50 students enjoyed a delicious lunch – courtesy of the W&M JRCLS Chapter and the Christian Legal Society (CLS) – while engaging in a wonderful Q&A with four successful female attorneys. Two of these panelists are currently partners in prestigious law firms; the other two are professors at William & Mary. All four women have families of their own, which they have raised while excelling at their respective careers.

Students learned about what kinds of obstacles these women have faced in the workforce, and how the challenges of balancing career obligations with family commitments can be overcome. There were several important ideas the women emphasized throughout the discussion.

One such theme was avoiding judgment. It is important to remember that each family situation is different; professionals mustn’t judge one another for different choices concerning career and family. A woman who decides to work and put her children in childcare should be just as respected as another woman who temporarily leaves her career to raise a family. This support system is important to facilitate continued acceptance of females in the professional world.

Another important theme was better incorporating men into this career/family balance. The sooner the world realizes that raising a family is not just the woman’s job, the better. While times are getting progressively better for women to break into traditionally male dominated occupations, employers are still wary of hiring women for fear of those women leaving to have children. Modern day society needs to realize that men can also take maternity leave, for raising kids requires both parents' effort. Therefore, it is important for both men and women to surround themselves with professionals that share these convictions.

Overall, students were very pleased with this event and the JRCLS/CLS co sponsorship plans to host similar panels each year. It was wonderful to participate in a discussion centered on a topic that we as budding professionals are so concerned with. We look forward to more W&M WIL Section events in the near future!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Phoenix WIL Section Mix-and-Mentor Soiree

 (Written by Tisha Huish, the Phoenix Chapter Women in Law Section Chair.)

The first WIL JRCLS Mix and Mentor Soiree was a complete success! Attorneys from all practice areas, backgrounds and faiths came together to meet with students in hopes to help build a network of friendship and open communication. Students were able to liaise with attorneys in various practice areas as well as build relationships with students from other law schools.
Upon arriving at the Marshall Gallery of Fine Art, guests were treated to an incredible spread of gourmet food and treats. Guests then migrated to designated areas of the Gallery that represented different areas of law. This way attorneys who practice those specific areas and students who were interested in those areas could easily find each other.  

We then kicked the night off with an acapella parody on law school performed by attorneys and law students. The performance made everyone laugh and left us in awe of their sheer talent! To top it all off, the performance was followed by an amazing piano duel!

The most moving part of the evening was when we awarded the first ever, WIL Scholarship, to recipients from both ASU and ASLS. The WIL scholarship committee read nearly 50 applications in hopes to find recipients who embodied the essence of determination to overcome any obstacle to realize their dream of attending law school. 

So many women were deserving, having overcome or currently fighting cancer, poverty, and domestic abuse. The committee could only choose one recipient from each law school to receive the $500 award. Ultimately, Adna Zelijkovic from ASLS and Amanda Green from ASU were unanimously chosen as the 2014 WIL Scholarship recipients!

All who attended left uplifted, energized and happy to have made new friends. It was suggested that the soiree become an annual event and many wanted to be on the scholarship committee for 2015. We are always looking for new ways to serve the Phoenix area women in the law and love this community of friendship we are building.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Meet Melinda Hunsaker

(Provided by Desiree Nordstrom, a WIL Committee member.)

Where did you go to law school? 
I attended Western State University, College of Law in Fullerton, California from August 2003 – December 2005.

Why did you decide to go to law school? 

The study of law appealed to me since my teens, and I thought it would be a secure way to provide for a family if I ever needed to, but I was hesitant to commit to the extended years of schooling and debt.  My ultimate desire was to help people, and I initially explored other service oriented vocations, but it was my undergraduate legal courses that really engaged my mind and personality.  Fortunately, Heavenly Father opened doors and everything fell into place with perfect timing.

What did you do after law school?  My last semester of law school I took an Elder Law course, which was taught by an adjunct professor who had her own law practice and was a JRCLS member.  After I took the bar I discovered that the same professor had an open law clerk position, and I was a law clerk at her practice until I got my bar results, and was then hired by her as an attorney. 

What are you doing professionally now?

That same professor, turned employer, decided to retire and offered to sell her elder law practice to myself and another associate attorney in the office, which we bought in October 2011.  My partner and I both manage the business, but I have a part-time schedule, which I struggle constantly to keep part-time. 

What is your favorite part of your current position?  Although I love the area of law I practice in, and the co-workers and clients I work with, I have to say my favorite part of my current position is that I control my schedule and workload.  I can put my family’s needs first and still fulfill my professional roles in my own way and time.

Tell us about your family?  My husband, whom I married during law school, is a tax accountant, so I am currently a tax widow.  I have 3 boys, ages 5, 3, and 9 months, who create chaos, which is mostly happy, and always exhausting.  My oldest will start kindergarten next year and I am dreading the addition of a new variable to my scheduling.

What is your best advice for juggling work and family?

In juggling work and family, I have had to learn to recognize and accept my limits.  I had to be realistic about trying to work from home as my children got older – I was doing everything poorly and everyone was unhappy (“How did that five minute e-mail just take an hour?!”).  It was more efficient and less stressful to be gone just a little more each week to recapture quality family time at home; to accept that I was always going to be too tired to do more work after my children went to bed.  

I don’t like change and lack of consistency, but acknowledging that a schedule or plan of attack is just not working and trying something new is not defeat – it is progress.  One thing I regret not putting more effort into was developing a good network of friends and neighbors that I could establish reciprocal arrangements to help minimize the scheduling conflicts (pick up and drop off at preschool, exchanging babysitting for that hour meeting or doctor’s appointments, etc.).  I used to think of it as another burden, when it is really something I need to invest in.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Education, Girls & India---My Perspective

(Written by Jenny Wilson, a Women In Law Committee member.)

Recently my husband and I travelled to India to visit our 19 year old daughter who was working at a school in southern India among children and teens from leprosy colonies and poor villages. Our daughter had visited India as a volunteer with Rising Star Outreach in February of 2013, had fallen in love with the children she worked with and had decided to stay long term. 

Education for girls was on my mind as we journeyed to see her, both because she had decided that higher education was not for her, and because of the lofty goals that Rising Star Outreach's Peery Matriculation School has for its girls--especially in light of the evolving view of women in India.

Women in India have traditionally been considered citizens of low importance, with few rights and protections. Violence against women has been widespread and prevalent. Ultrasound technology is illegal in India for pregnant women because of the practice of gender selection through illegal abortion.

Law makers in India are responding to the increasing world awareness of the inequalities under which Indian women subsist--with legislation such as tighter sexual assault laws, new company law which mandates at least one woman serving on the board of listed companies,  and national observance of the International Day of the Girl Child. 

In northern India women seem to have broken free of some of the more restrictive traditions, but in the south the women still adhere to the old ways, such as arranged marriages for young teenagers, wearing the sari from the day they are married and being expected to perform hard physical labor. The girls attending the Peery Matriculation School hail from even more depressed circumstances; in the caste system they are at the bottom--untouchable because of the taint of leprosy in their families. Without intervention their fate is most likely a life of field work and repression.

The mission of Rising Star Outreach is to help those affected by leprosy, through medical care, micro lending (primarily to the women) and education. An educated young woman or man--especially if proficient in English and computer skills-- becomes employable, and can break the curse of the leprosy stigma. The girls, who because of their traditional status have even worse prospects than the boys, are given special attention in their schooling at the Peery School. 

Last year there were five girls who graduated from the 10th standard, and all did well enough on their state testing to matriculate to one of the very best Indian schools at the junior college level. It was a true triumph for the Peery School, and a fulfillment of the vision of Rising Star. My husband and I were buoyed by the efforts being made both at Rising Star and throughout India to raise women's situations and aspirations.

And my daughter who didn't want to continue with her education? Something seemed to click when she saw the great sacrifices the children and their families (not to mention Rising Star volunteers) make in order to make sure that the children are educated: she is now enrolled in college and working toward a degree in early childhood education. Her goal is to enhance education for girls and boys around the world.