In the summer of 1999 Founder and President Le Bertha Umbreit enrolled in law school in Chicago. One evening, while at the Chicago Bar Association, she happened, quite by accident, to stumble upon a meeting being conducted by Sybil Taylor, an Administrative Law Judge, whom she later learned was the chair of the Black Women Lawyer’s Association of Chicago. It was through this organization that Ms. Umbreit came to understand the various challenges faced by African American women entering the legal profession. This was the organization Umbreit turned to when she needed to identify and connect with a mentor, who provided the resources to help her successfully navigate law school and who provided guidance and direction to those new to the practice of law. The organization also provided employment strategies and jobs leads to its members. What an honor and blessing it was to have a safe harbor to turn to when one just needed to be reaffirmed, nurtured, celebrated and loved. When she moved to Phoenix in 2002 Ms. Umbreit looked for a similar organization. Although active in the Los Angeles area, she did not find such an organization in Arizona . After setting up her law practice in September 2004 she begin to investigate her options, talking with others about creating an organization. That is when she met Professor Penny Willrich, former Superior Court Judge, the very first African American female to sit for this bench, and currently a Professor of Law at Phoenix School of Law. The power of the Law of Attraction came to light the day they met. From this meeting came the birth of the Black Women Lawyer’s Association of Arizona. More women came forth to create the founding Board of Directors: Iller Hardy Co – Founder and Partner of the Law Offices of Hardy and Umbreit, Holly Marshall of The Law Offices of Holly Marshall, the Honorable Ida B. Wilber, first African American female Presiding Judge of the Ak – Chin Community Court, and the Honorable Carol Scott Berry, Phoenix Municipal Court. On May 5, 2006 the association was officially launched at the opening of the Law Offices of Hardy and Umbreit in Phoenix. At this celebration 4 African American attorneys, as well as a non attorney legal professional, were honored – Former Judge and current Law Professor Penny Willrich of Phoenix School of Law, Patricia Green, shareholder in the firm of Waterfall, Economidis, Caldwell, Hanshaw and Villamana, P.C. in Tuscon, Arizona, Brenda Thompson, first African American female executive director of the Maricopa Bar Association, Jo A. Saint-George, President of the Maricopa Bar Association and founder of the NBA Pipeline Program and Sybil Taylor Aytch, R.P., M.Ed, Senior Paralegal, Quarles and Brady in Phoenix. Contact information: www.bwlaa.org email@example.com Each year, at the State Bar Convention, the Arizona Women Lawyers Association (AWLA) holds the Mary Anne Richey Scholarship Breakfast. At the Breakfast, the Association honors an AWLA member with the Sarah Herring Sorin Award, recognizes the recipients of the Mary Anne Richey Scholarships, and raises money for the Scholarship fund. The Breakfast is named for the late Honorable Mary Anne Richey. In 1976, President Gerald Ford appointed her to the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, the first woman to hold that position in Arizona, and she continued as a federal trial judge until her death in 1983. The Scholarship is awarded annually to one student from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and one student from the James E. Rogers College of Law. The Sarah Herring Sorin Award is named for Arizona’s first woman lawyer. In the early 1900’s, she became the twenty-fifth woman to argue a case before the United States Supreme Court. She practiced throughout the Arizona Territory, developing a specialty in mining law. She studied law under her father, and during much of her career, father and daughter practiced law together. She was admitted to the bar in Arizona in 1902. The Award is given to an AWLA member who has demonstrated support and encouragement for the advancement of women in the legal profession. Recipients of the Sarah Herring Sorin Award are listed below. Helen Perry Grimwood, partner, The Grimwood Law Firm PLC. Ms. Grimwood is a past president of the State Bar of Arizona, and has been recognized by The Business Journal as one of the Valley’s “Most Influential” lawyers. She is founding president of The Sudanese Education Foundation, a past president of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association, and a former director of the National Conference of Women Bar Associations. The late Doris Mindel Kostant. Ms. Kostant graduated from the University of Arizona College of Law in 1960. She served as the first female President of the Pima County Bar Association, and spearheaded the Arizona Women Lawyers Association. Roxana C. Bacon. Among many “firsts,” Ms. Bacon was the first woman to be elected president of the State Bar of Arizona. She received the prestigious Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award from the American Bar Association in 2007. Currently she is an adjunct professor at the University of Miami School of Law. She is a founder of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association. Grace McIlvain, of counsel, Haralson, Miller, Pitt, Feldman & McAnally P.L.C. Ms. McIlvain, who is semi-retired, is a past president of the Southern Arizona Chapter of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association. She has served on several Arizona State Bar committees and task forces. In 2000, Ms. McIlvain was the first woman to receive the Walter E. Craig Distinguished Service Award from the Arizona Bar Foundation. The Honorable Mary M. Schroeder, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Judge Schroeder has served on the Court since 1979 and was Chief Judge of the Court from December 2000 through November 2007. She previously served on the Arizona Court of Appeals, and practiced law in Phoenix. She is a recipient of many awards, including the prestigious Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award from the American Bar Association. Barbara Ann Atwood, Mary Anne Richey Professor of Law Emerita at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. Prof. Atwood has been a member of the faculty since 1986. She clerked for the late Mary Anne Richey, and then worked as a trial attorney for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. Her books include A Courtroom of Her Own—The Life and Work of Judge Mary Anne Richey (1998). Amy Schwartz, partner, Beaugureau, Hancock, Stoll & Schwartz, P.C. A member of AWLA-Maricopa Chapter Steering Committee since 1990, she founded the Chapter’s Business Development Forum. She also chaired the Chapter’s Speakers Committee for many years, and more recently organized the Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day Cheering Station. She practices railroad law and commercial litigation. Laura Cardinal, Cardinal Law. Ms. Cardinal was the Cochise County Legal Defender from 1991 to 1994. In 1994, she entered private practice. She practiced at Cardinal & Stachel, P.C. in Sierra Vista from 2000 to 2010. Laura is a graduate of the University of Arizona School of Law and she received her undergraduate degree in economics in 1984 from the University of Arizona. She clerked for the Honorable Sarah D. Grant (ret.), whom she credits as being an important mentor. Georgia A. Staton, partner, Jones, Skelton & Hochuli. Ms. Staton has practiced chiefly as a trial attorney defending governmental entities in catastrophic personal injury claims; civil rights and employment matters. She is certified before the Arizona State Bar Association as a specialist in personal injury and wrongful death and is a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers. Among her many professional activities, she is a long-time member of AWLA. The Honorable Janis Ann Sterling (ret.). Judge Sterling became the first female judicial officer in Yavapai County when she was appointed as a Commissioner and Judge Pro Tempore in 1987. When she was elected to the Superior Court in 1994, she became the first woman elected to the position. She retired from the bench in 2008. In addition to her many “firsts” and her distinguished legal career, Ann was a founding member of the Northern Chapter of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association. The Honorable Ruth V. McGregor (ret.). Justice McGregor served on the Arizona Supreme Court from February 1998 until her retirement on June 30, 2009. She was the Court’s Chief Justice from June 2005 until her retirement. She was also a member of the Arizona Court of Appeals from 1989 until 1998, where she served as Chief Judge from 1995 to 1997. Before her appointment to the bench, she served as law clerk to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor during Justice O’Connor’s first term on the United States Supreme Court. Amelia Craig Cramer, Chief Deputy Pima County Attorney. Ms. Cramer has been Chief Deputy since 2006. She has been with the Pima County Attorney’s Office since 2001. Ms. Cramer currently serves as president-elect of the State Bar of Arizona, as well as on several State Bar committees. She has received awards from many organizations, including the AWLA-Southern Arizona Chapter’s Alice Truman Leadership Award. Paige A. Martin, partner, Kutak Rock LLP. Ms. Martin is a past president of AWLA. She has been a member of the Maricopa Chapter Steering Committee since 1992. She received the AWLA President’s Award in 2005. Ms. Martin is a past president of the Scottsdale Bar Association. She has been with her firm since 2006, where she practices commercial litigation and represents governmental entities.
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