Arizona Women Lawyers Association
The Arizona Women Lawyers Association's mission is to promote and encourage the success of women lawyers by providing members with information and support, by fostering connections among women lawyers, and by monitoring and celebrating the successes of members and women lawyers at-large in our community. Helen Perry Grimwood, Past President of AWLA, notes, "AWLA is about success, mutual support, camaraderie, networking, and promoting women attorneys in all aspects of professional and civic affairs. It is the only bar association whose primary focus is identifying and addressing issues of importance to women lawyers, and the elimination of gender bias."
AWLA was formed nearly thirty years ago by the merging of groups of women from Maricopa and Pima Counties, who had been meeting informally for a number of years. In Phoenix, a group of women attorneys decided they needed an 'old girls network' and called themselves OWL (Old Women Lawyers), eventually changing their name to Original Women Lawyers. At first, informal lunches were held at the Arizona Club. Luminaries such as Lorna Lockwood and Sandra Day O'Connor attended these early meetings. The Maricopa Chapter of AWLA meets at the Arizona Club to this day. In Tucson, a group of women led by Superior Court Judge Alice Truman scrawled the idea for a women's bar association on a bar napkin at Rawlins Pub downtown. The napkin was lost, but the idea took root.
Today, AWLA has four chapters: Maricopa, Southern Arizona, Cochise and Northern Arizona. There are over 1000 members statewide. Influential and successful women Ì± and men Ì± from around the state have recognized the value of AWLA and joined our association.
AWLA has celebrated many achievements over its nearly thirty-year history. Probably foremost in the minds of many is the active role AWLA plays in promoting the applications of qualified judicial applicants, particularly women and minorities. Many years ago, AWLA members realized that women were not getting appointed to the bench in sufficient numbers, so AWLA started monitoring the process in both the appellate and superior courts. Today, AWLA's endorsement of applicants for state appellate judgeships is coveted. AWLA also monitors the judicial application and interview process in the two counties which currently have merit selection processes. The Maricopa and Southern Arizona Chapters send members to observe the Trial Court Commission's application review and applicant interviews. AWLA has a bank of questions asked by the Trial and Appellate Court Commissions spanning many years. Members who receive an interview for an appellate or superior court judgeship may request mock interviews from AWLA members. AWLA's Cochise Chapter was instrumental in the election of that county's first woman judge.
AWLA recognizes members and non-members alike who deserve recognition for their professional achievements and their support of women lawyers. The Sarah Herring Sorin Award is given annually at the AWLA's Mary Anne Richey Scholarship Breakfast to an AWLA member who has demonstrated support and encouragement for the advancement of women in the legal profession. Past recipients include Helen Perry Grimwood, Doris Mindell, Roxana C. Bacon, Grace McIlvain, the Honorable Mary M. Schroeder, Barbara Atwood, Laura Cardinal, Amy Schwartz, and Georgia Staton.
Each year, the Alice Truman Leadership Award is given by the Southern Arizona Chapter to a member who best demonstrates outstanding leadership in her career and community. Past recipients include Pima County Superior Court Judges Lillian Fisher, Sally Simmons, Margaret Houghton, and Leslie Miller; United States Magistrate Judge Nancy Fiora; and practitioners Jan Wezelman and Alyce Pennington. Since 1994, the Maricopa Chapter has presented an award at its Wine and Cheese Reception, which recognizes an individual who has demonstrated his or her support of women in the profession. Past recipients include Arizona Supreme Court Justices Ruth V. McGregor and Rebecca White Berch, the Honorable Mary M. Schroeder, and Governors Jane Dee Hull and Janet Napolitano.
On February 2, 2006, Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth V. McGregor and Vice Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch issued a Ceremonial Order that recognizes the accomplishments of AWLA. It can be viewed on AWLA's website at www.awla-state.org.