Today's Conference began for me this morning at 7:00am. Our Annual Women in Law (WIL) breakfast was held. I got there early to make sure everything was in place. Everything was in place, except the food. We found it. We moved it. We set it up. The people arrived. We ate it.
We had about 70 people attend, which included a sprinkling of men. Half the people in attendance were law students, the other half were attorneys. We also had a few guests of attorneys there. People were from all over the United States and a few other countries.
We began by having each person introduce themselves. That was nice; a favorite part of the Conference for some. Then Elizabeth Smith talked about her legal career--working full time, part time, not practicing and then back to part time--and some of the challenges she has faced. Michelle Olsen then told us about what she did: the legal equivalent of "joining the circus". She had been practicing full time for a prestigious law firm in DC. After awhile, she decided she just needed to quit. She wasn't sure what she was going to do. All she knew was that it was time for her to quit. She did, and then began her own blog, which led to a twitter following, which led to a freelance writing career for the National Law Journal. She is an expert on circuit court decisions. She joined the circus and loves it!
After the formal presentation, we opened it up for questions. We had GREAT questions and GREAT answers, not only from the panelists but also from the women in attendance. Here is a sampling of the questions: can you really work part time up front or do you have to establish yourself first; does anyone have difficulties fitting into Relief Society; what if you make more money than your husband; what should you do about your last name when you get married--do you change it or not.
One of the most interesting comments was made by one of the men in the room, Darrin Simpson. He is an educator and is married to Jennifer Simpson, a law student. He said one day he was standing in front of his kitchen window, wearing an apron and cleaning some chicken. He looked out the window and saw his wife teaching his 11 year old son how to mow the lawn. Then Darrin aksed himself, "how did this happen?" They are a great example of a family who has made it work for them.
Breakfast was followed by a plenary sesion that included a panel of 5 deans (UVA, BYU, George Mason, Georgetown and George Washington) discussing the future of legal education. They discussed the challenges of rising tuition, changing approaches to traditional legal training and other things. It was interesting and educational.
On the way to the next class, my husband, Dan, and I ran into Cole Durham. He is a law professor at BYU and, probably more importantly, one of the world's leading experts on freedom of religion in countries throughout the world. He told us how they need volunteers to help identify key players and follow the religious happenings in about 75 different countries. I mentioned that there might be many women in our group that would be interested in helping. He said he felt strongly that the women attorneys who are not currently practicing full time are a great "storehouse" or resource for the Lord. We decided to meet next month and see if we can find him some help. If any of you are interested in this, or know of someone who might be, please let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The next class I attended was an appellate advocacy class. Expert appellate attorneys were discusing cases that will soon be in front of the Supreme Court. A couple of the more intersting cases to me were ones dealing with the patenting of DNA that can be used to determine breast cancer genes and two same sex marriage cases (one of them being the Prop 8 case).
After that I returned to the hotel to change my shoes so Dan and I could walk the mile to the luncheon location. At the hotel we saw a funny, yet sad t-shirt. It said "I hack charities". Oh well.
We then attended the Rex E. Lee luncheon where awards were given. The keynote speaker was Justice Clarence Thomas, of the United States Supreme Court. There were over 800 people in attendance. I wasn't sure quite what to expect from Justice Thomas. To put it simply, he was amazing! He was humble, down to earth, funny, religious, sincere, honest and very kind and considerate. I wish you all could have heard his comments and been in attendance.
He shared with us some of the statements and sayings that have affected and helped him in his life. Here are a few of them: I can do hard things in a kind way; keep a clear eye on something transcendent; cynicism is a disease of the spirit--it is a cancer; look for the good in people and give them half a chance; do well in order to do good; there will always be negativism and criticism--don't allow it to distract or paralyze you; and, it was never between them and you--it was always between you and God.
Our table was fairly close to the podium so we thought we'd stand there for a few minutes and see if we would be able to shake his hand. We were. He came up to me, shook my hand and then looked me straight in the eye. He asked me if we knew each other. I said no, that we'd never met before. He then took my other hand, held both of them and looked me straight in the eye again. I wish I could express the feelings I felt. The best I can do is to say it was a holy experience. This was a truly good man who was looking deeply into my soul. He touched my spirit in a very special and tender way. I am grateful to have heard him and to have been so deeply touched by his presence.
Other classes followed, including the WIL sponsored clerkship panel. We had about 50 students attend. The three judges (Judges Horn, Prost and Barker) and former clerk, Aaron Mahler, each took a few minutes and discussed various aspects of selecting clerks or serving as a clerk. Then we opened it up for questions. A great discussion followed. I think those in attendance were enlightened. It was a good presentation.
The next event was an address by Doug Bush, Society chair, who noted this Conference was a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Society. He went through the past chairs and noted each of their unique contributions. Then we were privileged to hear from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS church. He discussed three concerns of the Quorum and the First Presidency. These three concerns were faith, family and religious freedom. His remarks were informative and insightful. It was wonderful to hear from such a great man in a Society setting. He noted that when one of these three things is hurt, the other two are also damaged.
It was a busy, satisfying and in some ways, life changing day.