Highlights from UCLA NWLSO Judicial Panel

Last week, the UCLA chapter of the National Women Law Students Organization hosted a judicial panel on campus.  It was a great event and there are both organizational and substantive highlights.

Event Planning Best Practices:

  • Partner with a Professional Association: UCLA NWLSO worked with California Women Lawyers on the event. CWL helped identify and recruit judges for the panel.
  • Focus on alumnae: All three judges on the panel were UCLA grads. Not only is it easier to recruit these folks to help students, but they will be more relatable to the audience.
  • Chaperone your dignitaries: UCLA NWLSO assigned one board member as a liaison to each panelist. Each liaison handled all the communications about parking and logistics. One liaison ran out and grabbed a cup of coffee for one of the judges before the panel began. These liaisons ensured the panelists were there on time and ready to participate; they also had the opportunity to develop a small connection to these remarkable women.

Panel Discussion Highlights:

Kim Wardlaw, Judge, 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Joan Klein, Presiding Justice, California Court of Appeals
Linda Lefkowitz, Judge, California Superior Court, Santa Monica

  • Don't listen to those people who say you can do anything with a law degree.  Judge Klein made the point that most of the people used as examples to tell students you can do anything with a law degree either could have done what they're doing without a law degree or couldn't have done what they're doing without being a really successful lawyer first. 
  • Focus on developing a reputation as a thorough, thoughtful lawyer. In other words, sweat the small stuff.
  • Mentors need not be officially identified as such to change your career.  Judge Wardlaw noted that looking back at her career she benefited from mentorship, but that those relationships were the natural by-product of her work as opposed to connections she actively sought to cultivate. She heartily agreed that mentorship and championship are essential for any lawyer to succeed and advance, but encouraged students not to be distracted from the relationships naturally flowing from their work by all the talk of "finding a mentor."
  • There is no wrong time to have it all. The judges on the panel represented three very different examples of family planning. Judge Klein had small children as a law student. Judge Lefkowitz waited until her children were adolescents before going back to law school. Judge Wardlaw waited to have children until after she made partner at her law firm, and so had two young children when she first joined the federal bench.

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