Law Women's Caucus Third Annual Alumnae Recognition Reception
April 14, 2008
Hello. Good evening. Welcome to the Law Women's Caucus' third annual
Alumni Recognition Reception. I am Sahar Fathi. I am one of the
co-presidents of the Law Women's Caucus.
don't have a name tag. I am probably the only person here without a
name tag. I think that was kind of on purpose, to make sure that I
stand out. But I'm really grateful, because there's a lot of stickers
that go on those name tags, and I don't really know what I want to do
with my life, so I would have had to put all of them on there, and then
you guys all would have been really dizzy and crazy and all trying to
talk to me, and I wouldn't be able to handle that.
[laughs] tonight, we're honoring two outstanding women in the legal
field. We're honoring Brenda Williams and the honorable Betty Fletcher.
Before we start, I'd like to take a moment to thank all of the people
who made tonight possible.
So, to our sponsors, the
Washington Law School Foundation, the University of Washington School
of Laws' Office of Development and External Relations, King County
Washington Women Lawyers, Washington Women Lawyer Foundation, the Great
Lumber Company. And then, also, I want to thank the LWC Steering
Committee, all the members of LWC who donated their time.
want to thank, in particular, the Alumni Recognition Committee, which
is Alicia and Zosia, and my co-president, Annie. And I really want to
thank Megan Vogel, because I feel like every event that happens in the
law school happens, to some part, because of Megan Vogel, so we're just
going to thank Megan Vogel. [laughs]
And then, finally, we're going to thank faculty and, of course, the
women who founded the Law Women's Caucus and all of you who
participated over the years.
in the audience, we have students who've just started law school, we
have people who are in the middle of their second year, people who are
about to leave law school, take the bar, women who have been practicing
for a few years, attorneys, judges, deans, professors with
distinguished careers. All of you are incredible.
amazing to see how far we've come. The first law school class, in 1899,
had three women. And I emailed Kathy Swinehart last week and was told
that this year 66 percent of the One-L class was women, which is 120
women. That's a lot. And I think this actually explains a lot of the
phenomena that have been going on recently.
If you attended
the annual Law School Gala on Saturday, you would have noticed the
overwhelming receipt of honors to women in the awards ceremony. So, our
very own LWC co-president, Jill Mullins, and the former LWC Alumni
Committee Chair Megan Vogel won President Intra-Students of the Year.
Lisa Kremer, who's a longstanding LWC board member, took the award on
behalf of parents at the law school for organization of the year.
So, essentially, what I gather is that women are taking over the school and the LWC is taking over the awards.
This is my confession for the evening: I hated law school my first
year. I really wanted to drop out. And don't look at me like you didn't
want to drop out, either. I know all of you wanted to drop out.
[laughs] I came to UW because I wanted to make a difference and I
wanted to save the world. And it was really hard my first year, and it
was competitive in fields that I didn't want to compete in at all. It
was mandatory, and no one was saving the world in Civ Pro I, which
shocked me. I don't understand why. [laughs] Exactly. [laughs]
so I kind of wished that there had been a handbook for my first year
and that there had been a self-help section and there were books with
titles, "Don't Drop Out Yet," and maybe an index of phone numbers that
the law librarians could have led us to of people to call when you're
freaked out your One-L year.
And the basic idea is that no
one really tells you that your first year of law school is going to be
incredibly hard, and nobody really says, "It's supposed to be hard,"
because if it wasn't hard, we wouldn't have a market for this kind of
reception. So we kind of have to make things difficult, so then I can
come out and have all these sponsors come and pay for things, and then
you guys can all get awards. And it all just makes the world go round.
I know a lot of you don't think that you do anything extraordinarily
hard during the course of your day. I talk to a lot of people who are
like, "Oh, I'm just a lawyer. I work 50 to 60 hours a week, and somehow
manage to keep up with my personal hygiene and eat." I don't know how
they do that. Or, you know, you're a professor, and you have to deal
with classes and students and office hours and advising, and then your
family, and at some point, you have to sleep. How do you schedule that
And then there's, of course, the mothers, who are
students, and they're experts and they're doing reading, and they're
making sure that they're home in time to take care of the kids and cook
dinner and run some student organization on the side. Which, in the end
of it all, it blows me away. And I don't think it's a competition at
all. It's not about that. It's about doing what you love and finding a
way to do it. And then it's about finding people in your life who are
supportive of those things.
LWC was that for me. And I am
proud to be a part of this community, and I'm grateful for the support
I have received through the Law Women's Caucus. And I can't even begin
to say how proud I am of all the women on the Steering Committee and
the way that they've worked together to make a difference for all of
So, thank you for coming. I hope we can
continue this tradition for many years to come. Have fun. And our next
presenter is going to be Christie Fix, the future law clerk for Judge
Thanks, Sahar. I'm Christie Fix, and I'm a Three-L here at the law
school. And I want to thank the Law Women's Caucus for inviting me to
introduce the honorable Betty Binns Fletcher, for whom I will have the
great, good fortune of clerking next year.
Fletcher epitomizes the words "distinguished alumni." During her
extremely accomplished 50-year legal career, she has been a pioneer for
women in the legal profession and a model for a life lived in a public
service. She graduated from this law school in 1956, at the top of her
class, while, at the same time, being the mother of four small children.
career is marked by firsts. She was the first woman partner in a major
Northwest law firm. She was the first woman president of the King
County Bar Association. She was the first woman governor of the
Washington State Bar Association. And she also served on the ethics
committee of the American Bar Association.
In 1979, she was
appointed to the Ninth Circuit by President Jimmy Carter. And although
she assumed senior status in 1998, she has maintained a very active
caseload, and she has written very important opinions on questions of
civil rights, employment discrimination, immigration law, free speech,
and environmental law, among many others. In addition to these
accomplishments, Judge Fletcher has been a staunch supporter of this
law school throughout her career. Most recently, she has served on the
Dean Search Committee for the law school.
Through her many
professional and service activities, Judge Fletcher has had a profound
influence on a generation of lawyers in this community, and she is
well-deserving of the award that she receives tonight. Please welcome
the honorable Betty Binns Fletcher.
And so, before you begin, we'd like to give you this award,
Distinguished Alumni. And thank you so much. And it comes in its own
Judge Betty Binns Fletcher:
Oh, it's beautiful. Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you so much.
It's my pleasure to accept this honor. Really, it's kind of an
accidental award. I was the first in all these things because I was the
only woman around.
You know, tonight, I have no really prepared remarks, but I thought I'd
just maybe reminisce with you a little bit about what the law school
was like when I went to law school and the changes that I've perceived.
know, well, first, I'll tell you how I got admitted. I had had a year
of law school at Stanford as an undergraduate. They had let me in
because all the men had gone off to war. So I did one year. And then I
married my husband, who was in the Navy, and had four children, and
then decided it was time to come back to law school.
walked into the dean's office, and I said, "I'd like to start law
school again." And he said, "Well, we have an LSAT we give now. Have
you taken that?" And I said, "No. I've never even heard of it."
So he said, "Well, how did you do in that first year of law school?"
And I said, "Well, I did pretty well." And so he said, "Well, come on.
Start classes, and then you've got to take the LSAT."
So that's how it went. That's how I got into the law school.
were in old, old Condon Hall. We weren't over there in the barracks. We
were really central-campus right across from the library--beautiful,
beautiful library. We had workroom; everything was just beautiful. But
I won't go into the detail of how some of everybody got pushed off
campus and into the wilderness. But it's good to have you all back here
in this beautiful space. It's really wonderful.
probably like to know how many women were in my class. We were three,
only three. People have asked me, "Well, did you feel or suffer
discrimination in law school?" And I said, "Well, I came in for a bit
of kind of kidding, actually, joking.
One of the people who
we always called--the Trethaway Rules happened because Trethaway always
did something bad. So we couldn't park on campus anymore. And we
couldn't do this or we couldn't do that because there was a new
Trethaway Rule that happened.
He always--they posted our
grades by number on the bulletin board. And he would take great pains
to cross-reference and figure out so then he could tell everybody what
their grades were.
And he always called me Mom. He would call me Mom from great distances.
I tried to tell him that I actually had a name but he never used it.
But actually apart from some kind of kidding and joking I really didn't
feel discrimination. And oddly once they, once Trethaway told them what
my grades were I began to get invitations to study groups.
But in any event, where discrimination came for me was when I went out
to get my first job. We had a rather informal system of job placement
in the law school at that time.
was one professor who was in charge of it. And you went in and you told
him where you thought you wanted to practice. And if it was Yakama he
knew somebody in Yakama. If it was Spokane, he knew somebody there.
went in and told him that I wanted to work in Seattle. And he said,
"Oh, fine, fine." I noticed my classmates getting invitations to
interviews; nothing for me. I never heard a word. I was walking down
the faculty corridor one day and I heard him say, "Well, you wouldn't
consider a woman, would you?" And so I knew that there was never going
to be a job interview for me that way.
So, I asked my
classmates where they were interviewing. And they were very gracious to
tell me. So I took my resume and I would go in just cold-turkey. And
I'd ask the receptionist to see the hire-in lawyer. And they would all
immediately think that what secretary was getting fired?
But I would get in to see the hire-in lawyer. And I would sell myself.
But they would always say, "Well, that's just a very interesting resume
you have. You should be very proud of it. But I just don't think that a
law firm could really accommodate a woman, particularly a woman with
four children. You certainly have got some priorities there and you
just simply wouldn't fit in to the law."
I was pretty discouraged until I went to the Preston firm--Preston
Thurginson of the World. Well, it's about time. It's now K and L Gates
and I assume many of you know the firm now has 1500 plus lawyers. But
at that time it was--they had seven lawyers at that time.
one of the young partners, Jim Ellis, and I kind of clicked. And he
said, "Why I'm going to take you in to see the other partners." And I
met all the other partners and they all said, "Well, it's a very
But Charlie would never think of a woman being hired by a firm. Charlie Worawitz was not there.
I went back out to the law school and talked with the professor with
whom I had some rapport and who knew quite a bit about the firms
downtown. And I told him my sad tail. And he said, "Well, the Law
Review Banquet is coming up next week. You be sure to come. Charlie
always comes to the Law Review Banquet and I will see that you sit by
him. And you sell yourself."
So, that happened and I sat by
Charlie Worawitz and I went about selling myself. And after a few
minutes he looked at me and he said, "Who's your father?" And I told
him who my father was. Then he said, "You know, this Jewish boy would
never have become a Rhode Scholar if it hadn't been for your father."
And so I got my job.
But it was the old-boy network. It wasn't merit. It wasn't anything
else. So, anyway that's how it all came about. And in the law firm, I
felt I had to work harder, do better than anybody else or I wasn't
really going to succeed in the end.
Charlie was the president of the local Bar Association. And he came
into my office on day--not that I didn't have enough to do--and said,
"You know, the Bar Association has never had a newspaper. So, you're
going to be the editor."
So, that kind of took my breath
away because I really had a lot of briefing and hard work to do.
Although at that point I was still not being allowed to see clients. I
was doing work that I would hand out to others who would be presenting
But I took that as an opportunity to get acquainted and
to meet other lawyers and to meet judges. I would go around on a little
beat to see who had news for me and put together a newspaper. So, in
the end it turned out to be a good thing.
And my big break
in the law firm came on a sunny Friday afternoon, I think in May. And
oddly enough all of the lawyers were gone playing golf.
But there I was. And the receptionist came back and said, "I don't know
what to do. The president or the vice president of Metropolitan Life
insurance Company is here and wants to see the lawyer who does his
work." He'd come out from New York.
And so I said, "Well, bring him in. I've been doing his work all right."
I'd been doing it and handing it to Mr. Preston who was presenting it.
So, I was able to run down the cases that we had in the office. And
that was my big break.
then was allowed to see clients. And they invited me--Metropolitan Life
Insurance Company--called Mr. Preston and said they would like me to
come to New York and meet their legal staff. So, that was really the
beginning for me.
So, I guess that's enough of reminiscing.
I've had a wonderful career. And when I had an opportunity to go to the
Court, it was a real, in a way, wrenching, because I'd become attached
to my clients. I loved my partners and I'd helped to build a big
practice. But service on the Court is not only an honor but it's an
opportunity in a way to do a little good here and there.
So I guess that that's all that I can say. I'd be happy to answer any questions. But thank you for this nice award.
Our next introduction will be given by C.J. Valdez, who is general counsel for the Zella Company and president of LBAW.
Hello. Can you guys here me OK? I have a loud voice so I'm not shy. So, I hope you can hear me.
good evening, I'm C.J. Valdez and I'm the current president of the
Latina/Latino Bar Association of Washington and the general counsel of
the Zella Company. And tonight I have the great privilege of
introducing Brenda Williams.
I had the pleasure of meeting
Brenda during my law school years while she was trying to buy a large
group of Latina/Latino Bar--Latina/Latino students to a potluck during
the middle of our finals.
And it was a bit intimidating
because you know, there come Brenda sending you an email. You know,
she's part of the LBAW board and what-not. And she was very persistent,
you know. And asking how many were going to make it, who were going to
make it, how important it was and what-not. So, she's you know, amazing.
proud daughter of Mexican and German parents, she left the lasting
impression on me with her dynamic persistence and just getting me
involved in this event. And I think that as I got to know her and have
gone to grow with her as well, I've learned that she is amazing. She
can sacrifice her evenings, her weekends. Always available to share
wisdom, provide advice, or just simply listen.
And so, I
think for those of us who know Bren, they can admit that she is a force
to be reckoned with [laughs] whose passion for life is unseeingly
recognizing her career, volunteer work, and mentorship.
a California native, Bren moved to Seattle in 1989. She attended the
University here for a Bachelor's Degree in poly-sci. And she also came
here for her Master's in Public Administration and J.D. in 1997.
When she graduated she then took a job with the Defenders Association, where she was there for over 10 plus years.
I will take the time to mention that during law school, Brenda along
with two other people as you'll read in the bio, included in the
program, was responsible for initiating and implementing the National
Latina/Latino Law School Conference.
Which since then has
gone to very competitive conference with many law schools bidding to
see who can host--I mean it's about 200 or so law students, Latino law
students who show up to these conferences.
So, that's, you
know--from the get-go, Brenda was already involved and doing a million
things and moving and shaking people. So, after her graduation she went
to the Defender's Association. There she's worked with misdemeanor,
felony, juvenile, dependent offenders, the legal intern supervisor and
most recently the special offender commitment defender.
in addition to her work as a public defender, Brenda takes the time
somewhere to also teach at the University of Washington Education
Outreach Paralegal Study Certificate Program. She plans courses,
grades, and does all sorts of the regular [indiscernible] of the actual
And if that wasn't enough, Brenda also has
part-time role at the Administrative Lodge at the Office of
Administrative Hearings working with conclusions of law and findings of
fact regarding unemployment benefit hearings.
continues to remain active in the legal community while she reinvents
herself and her volunteer in social causes. She's currently serving on
the Central La Drasa board, the Seattle Central Community College
Foundation, and a dedicated member of the Washington State Bar
Association Board of Governors as a Governor.
But beyond her
many accolades, she's an amazing woman whose passion for teaching and
leading others into public service as seen in everything she does.
Everything is intentional. Everything is a passion. And that's just the
way Brenda is.
She serves as a mentor to a handful of the
Latino law students--some men, some female, but mostly the
females--always taking the time to promote their participation in not
only the profession but in taking the time to invest in themselves with
just community service and things that are of purpose.
a doubt that she is a special role model who leaves a lasting
impression on everybody that knows her. That's, you know--I just really
think that the University's happy and proud to have someone like Brenda
representing them out there.
So, she's certainly deserving of this award. And without anything else, I just want to introduce Brenda.
And Brenda the same for you.
And the award's for you. And again, carrying case.
I get the carrying case? Thank you very much. Thank you. Wow. Thank you, C.J.
I just want to mention that I don't actually sacrifice my evenings and weekends, I just drag my husband and baby along with me.
And that sort of just makes it all seem like family time. And I
would've brought my daughter but she had a fever, so she's with Grandma
So, I want to thank you for this honor. And in particular, thank you to the Law Women's Caucus for this recognition.
I moved out of my parents' house at 18 from--moving from Southern
California to Seattle, I wasn't sure if I wanted to become a doctor, or
a lawyer, or a something else. No one in my family had yet--had
completed college, let along graduate school.
So I had to
navigate the system of higher education on my own--seeking out mentors
when it was appropriate--but for the most part learning by trial and
error. And that meant making mistakes; sometimes a lot of mistakes.
although I am fortunate now that I received my undergraduate degree
from the University of Washington and my two graduate degrees, the
experience left me knowing that there was a serious need for mentors.
particular, mentors that were not part of the same usual club. And so I
began to reach out to women and to other minorities that were pursuing
similar educational goals. And I wanted to reach out to them to let
them know what had worked for me. And sometimes just to reassure.
was part of my motivation and collaborating to found the National
Latina/Latino Law Student Conference. When I was in law school 12 year
ago. Emphasis on the Latina, which comes first in the title--which
people point out often that's not grammatically correct. But it is what
it is. And we named it the National Latina/Latino Law Student
Conference for a reason.
And I am proud to say that the
National Association which is now in its fifth year and handling close
to $100,000 per year has been shared by only female law student
leaders, although the leadership positions are opened to all.
the Alumni Association I've been fortunate enough to mentor a number of
young women. And I really hope that my working with students is helpful
to them. But what I gain from that is actually the more important
thing. And I gain the community of working with future women lawyers
and I also enjoy the times that we spend laughing and living together.
such as the UW's Law Women's Caucus which promote mutual support and
encouragement are so essential to the success of future women lawyers
and also the successful integration of the profession by women.
I encourage all of you to continue the work that you are doing to
create a more inclusive legal system, a more inclusive legal
profession. And to step back and be proud of your accomplishments that
you've achieved so far. And when you graduate don't hesitate to reach
back in much the same way to the students that are coming behind you,
the future law students of tomorrow.
Thank you again for this wonderful award. I'm very honored, extremely honored to receive it tonight. Thank you.
Hello, I'm Aniva Thigh, the co-president of the Law Women's Caucus. On
behalf of LWC, I'd like to thank our speakers for their very inspiring
words this evening. I am thrilled that we were able to honor two such
outstanding women this evening.
Transcription by CastingWords
also like to recognize the generosity again of our sponsors, the Law
School Foundation, the Office of Development and External Relations
here at the law school, Washington Women Lawyers, King County,
Washington--excuse me, the King County Chapter of Washington Women
Lawyers and Gray Lumber.
And I'd also like to recognize
again the generosity of the time and spirit of our committee. Without
their generosity this evening could not happen.
like to thank all of you for taking the time out of your very busy
schedules to connect with our alumnae community. I hope you can join us
all for the reception that follows in the Perkins Career Room. There'll
be light refreshments and drinks as well. And it will be a great chance
to connect with your fellow alumni and to draw some inspiration from
the stories that you hear.
I'd like to thank you all again for coming. And I hope that we will see you all next year. Thanks so much.