Riding with the Divas

One of the things that has received lots of press coverage recently is the debate about whether women can achieve work-life balance. You can read of few of the many articles here, here, here and here. For a number of reasons I have come to think about this as well. I must tell you though, that my consideration of work-life balance came to the forefront of my thinking in a most circuitous route.


In a completely different context, I lamented to a church group, the fact that I missed the type of service I used to perform “in the old days.” It seemed to me that somehow a big gap developed between the things I cared about, and interacted with on a policy level, and the day to day work on the ground. Let me be clearer. As a junior faculty member, I used to work every other week at CEO, an assistance organization run by a collective of churches. There, I would bag groceries, and restock the shelves. It was tremendously rewarding to be in the back room, anonymously working away. Similarly, as the Northwest Arkansas Worker Justice Center was being created there were days of set up for events and photocopying. The rowdiest volunteering I did, though it wasn’t necessarily supposed to be that way, was with my friend Nettie working the Habitat for Humanity booth at Christmas time, in the mall. We always took a boom box (that tells you how long ago it was) loaded with soulful carols and sang, as we solicited donations and encouraged folks to buy “the gifts that keep giving” from our booth. We were invited back each year to work the booth because of our “fundraising prowess.” [OK, so about now gentle reader, you’re asking yourself, “Where the heck is this going?” Just hang with me a bit longer and it will come together.]


The point is, more recently, my service had come to feel formal and distant; giving speeches, donating money, serving on boards, being recognized. By the way, a big part of this discomfort was feeling as though the social distance  between me and groups folks I care about had increased. How much of it is ego driven, and how much is making a real difference in the lives of people? Just about this time (and this is how God works) Pastor posted on the topic of “The Struggle Against Poverty as an Object of Consumption.”

So these are the things I’d been thinking about while also asking, “How can one know what her best/greatest/most valuable  contribution is?” In the meantime, through conversations in the church group I mentioned-actually we’re called a huddle– my Eureka moment occurred. The problem was not in the ways I found to serve, the problem was a general the lack of balance. It wasn’t only the how of serving, but also the who of it. At no time in my ruminations had I intentionally factored in the time for, and importance of friends and family or even my own health and downtime.


Family Fun

Over time, and with more sharing and reflection, I’ve come to the realization that the issue is deeper than balance, it is integration. Coincidentally, I came across a helpful piece in Forbes by Kathy Caprino entitled, 10 Commitments of People Achieving Successful Work-Life Integration. I commend it to you, if you have been working through these issues. I especially like the 10 commitments she suggest we make to ourselves. They really framed the issues well for me.

On the Fayetteville Square with Tim Snively

On the Fayetteville Square with Tim Snively

Since working towards better integration I’ve spent more time with my nephews, volunteered to register voters on the Fayetteville square, helped serve and clean up after a community meal sponsored by our church,  and met friends for a manicure and pedicure, and to share a bottle of bubbly. I have also been a lot more focused during the time I spend with Mom, truly listening and being responsive to her, even when I’m not sure what the topic is. I’m working to be more intentionally present during our visits. I realize this is a journey of many steps, but I’m grateful for wise counsel and the time to be reflective about all this. The journey is for certain, marathon and not a sprint, but at least if feels as though I am making progress.

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Quiet Family Time

I wanted to share some exciting news with you regarding another outstanding first this year. On May 14th, Diane Humetewa was confirmed unanimously by the Senate to become the first Native American woman, Article III Federal Judge. Humetewa is a citizen of the Hopi Tribe of Arizona.Image

Humetewa’s path to the federal bench includes a B.A. from Arizona State University in 1987, and her J.D. in 1993 from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. She previously worked as a U.S. attorney the George W. Bush administration, as well as an appellate court judge from the Hopi Tribe. Currently, she serves as special advisor to the President of Arizona State University, Michael Crow. You can read about her many previous accomplishments here.

Humetewa’s confirmation, is an important step forward for diversity in the Federal Courts, and progress we can all celebrate and appreciate.

To quote Justice at Stake, “In order to function effectively, every American must have the utmost confidence in their courts. However, a judiciary that does not reflect the population it serves undermines that confidence in creating a perceived or actual bias in judicial decision making. An ideal bench is representative of the larger community, including women, persons of color, members of the LGBT community, persons with disabilities and other underrepresented groups.”

Spine of a Bible


Pastor’s sermon at church this past Sunday was based on the Great Commission, found in Matthew 28:16-20. He focused specifically on these words, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” After sharing the basis for his message, Pastor told us some of the names and titles he’s been called which included nerd, dad, son and Pastor Dude (my favorite).  He invited us all to also to think about the many names we’ve be called, and then pointed out that at baptism we received the names reflected in the text for the day.



There are many names for God, including Counselor, Good Shepherd and Prince of Peace amongst others. The important thing about names Pastor explained, is that they tell you and others who and whose you are. Often names have a purpose and provide direction. Such is the case in the text, because Jesus says, “Go and make disciples of all nations and name them.” There is purpose because when you are given God’s name you are made one with the community of believers. Pastor encouraged us, as those who have been named, to go out and bless others with the name and to draw them into the unity, community and love that is God. He reminded us that “There is profound power in names. What you call people shapes, molds and impacts them. The most important name each of us have is God’s.”



The sermon got me thinking about how the names we call each other really do have an effect. They can serve as motivation, either to live up to, or prove others wrong about the labels they’ve put on us. I also thought about the importance society gives to 1st Amendment rights and the ability to speak freely. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with that principle, but for me the conflict is that I know words can wound. In my professional life I have been called among other things mediocre, a disaster,  and incompetent.  Though hurtful, that name calling motivated me to be objectively excellent, so that there could be no doubt about my capabilities or the fact that I belonged in the academy just as much as the speakers.  Folks from blue collar backgrounds  have unique challenges in navigating the academy, and women of color have additional difficulties. By the way, knowing that I am named by God, I lean upon my faith community and my belief that “If he brought you to it, he’ll bring you through it,” to weather the tempests of my professional life.  Anyway, I say all this to say that I found Pastor’s sermon helpful and profound on many different levels. It certainly has applicability in both my spiritual and professional life.

I hope that you, gentle reader, will remember that words have power, and think carefully about what you call/name others. Let love be your guide.

Love (Two red hearts)




With Ron Harrison

With Ron Harrison of Ft. Smith, Arkansas

Annualmtg CLE

This past week, in Hot Springs,  at the Arkansas Bar Association Annual Meeting,  I was the last speaker on the last day of the conference. Knowing that I had an uphill battle for the attention of my audience, I picked a hodgepodge of employment law topics that I thought might be interesting to a broad audience. Actually, my first thought was that no one would be there, but in fact the room was fairly full. Ah, the power of the mandatory CLE requirement.  I’ve linked the paper here: Things You May Not Know About Employment Law as well as a Prezi (dynamic presentation software) which covers topics not in the paper, and that frankly I couldn’t get to in the hour allotted for the session. I hope you find them both helpful Here’s a link to the Prezi Presentation. One of the topics the paper (briefly) addresses is the use of social medial to screen applicants  and employees. Arkansas has a statute, which covers employers’ use and access of employees’ social medial accounts.  It’s entitled, “Employer Access of Employees’ Social Media,” ACA §11-2-124. The day before my presentation, the Arkansas Department of Labor released new regs on the statute. You can access them here.

By the way, the Arkansas Bar Annual meeting is one of my very favorite events, because I get to catch up, and spend time with so many neat lawyers and their families.

With Asia Diggs of Memphis Tennessee

Rolling hills of the Oliver ranch

Rolling Hills of the Oliver Ranch

Last Friday was a beautiful day, with the temperature in the mid 80’s. I happened to be in the Washington County Courthouse and ran into a number of U/A Law Alumni and friends. Later in the day I headed to Sach Oliver’s ranch for Oliver & Bailey’s annual Bonanza, a fun event with live music and a great turnout of the local bar (no, not tavern, lawyers). The drive up was relaxing and lovely (aside from the pollen ), on (again) a terrific spring day. From the road, it was obvious how great a turnout there was for the Bonanza. Folks were everywhere, visiting and having a good time. The band, Full House, was kickin’ it and the whole vibe was chill.

Among the folks I ran into were Eddie Walker Jr., who will soon be the first Black President of the Arkansas Bar Association. His official title right now is President-Elect Designee. Eddie is a Workers’ Compensation claimant’s attorney from Ft. Smith, Arkansas. I met him years ago when I first began teaching that the law school. At that time he was teaching Workers’ Compensation at the law school as an adjunct professor, and I was fortunate enough to sit in on his classes. One word. Masterful. Later, I taught Comp and invited Eddie and Scott Zuerker to speak to the class about cases they had litigated on opposing sides. Scott now teaches the Comp class.

[If I might digress for a moment, this has been a terrific year of firsts (though at some level, that there are so many firsts is curious).  As you may have read from earlier posts, Paulette Brown was elected as the first woman of color President-Elect Nominee of the American Bar Association.]

Eddie was there with his law partner David Harp, who was giving him a good ribbing about the responsibility Eddie has agreed to take on as bar president, and his new status as a celeb. The three of us visited for quite a while and I asked Eddie to take a picture with me because (teasing) I know that soon he will be hard to get to.

Eddie Walker, Jr.Congressman Mike Ross, who’s running for Governor of Arkansas, was at the Bonanza too, and I snapped a picture of him with Eddie and David. Eddie David & Mike RossAfter a bit more schmoozing, it was time to leave because I wanted to attend a performance sponsored by the Northwest Arkansas Prison Story Project, and that meant getting on back down the road to Fayetteville.

The performance, Stories from the Inside Out” was  a staged reading by local actors based on the personal story exploration of 12 incarcerated women. The women are all non-violet offenders housed in the Northwest Arkansas Community Correctional Center. The Prison Story project works closely with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church’s Prison Ministry. Here, taken from the flyer, is more about the performance:

“Everyone has a story. When we are given an opportunity to listen to each other’s stories we are less likely to dehumanize on another with stereotypes. The goal of the NWA Prison Story Project is to create improved future stories–not only for the women who share their stories…bu for all of us…who listen and prepare ourselves for welcoming them back into our community when they are paroled.”

St. Paul’s is also working toward the goal of establishing a Magdelene House in Fayetteville. These are spaces in which women live for up to two years, unsupervised, as they transition back into the community. The Magdalene Communities are based upon living in a mutually supportive community, founded in love. You can learn more about them here.  It is a wonderful idea because typically women who finish serving their term or incarceration would have to return to the same challenges and living situations that often lead to their incarceration. Sarah Vanhooser Suiter has written a book featuring the stories of Magdalene house residents entitled, Magdalene House A Place of Mercy.

Story boards of the Prison Story Project Participants

Story board of the Prison Story Project Participants

The performance was a staged reading, by 5 local actresses. It wasn’t what I expected thought. The reading were structured together under different topics, which were projected overhead. I think I was expecting to come away with a wholistic view of each of the participants. For me, the readings were choppy and it was hard to get a sense of any one of the women. The other thing I had a hard time with was the complete darkness of the tone of the readings. Even when the topic was love, for example, the reading was, “He loved me even when he punched me in the eye.” It’s difficult for me to articulate my disappointment, but I think it was that the content focused so heavily on the terrible, violent and dysfunctional parts of the women’s lives. Perhaps that was the material they share, but from talking with friends who had attended previously, there was much more of a complete sense of the women. What made them laugh, who they were as Moms without so much “otherness” written into each segment. That, in my view makes it too easy for a middleclass (not very diverse) audience to separate themselves from these women and their struggles, which ironically was one of the purposes of the performance. I’m not sure if I’ll attend next year, as I think my interactions from going in to host with Pastor, Eucharist feels like a better way for me at least, to learn to be supportive.


photo 2


American Bar Association President James R. Silkenat has formed the ABA Task Force on the Financing of Legal Education, chaired by The Honorable Dennis Archer. You can read the official press release here, which contains the Task Force’s charge, as well as a list of its members. Here is a another article on the Task Force.

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Saturday turned out to be a free day and Marjorie and I took full advantage of it. We started out with a walk along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.  The weather was terrific and lots of folks were out and about. During our walk along the harbor, we saw a fascinating parade of bikes. The riders were quite lively and were all dressed in costume. I captured a few of them as they rode by. It made our walk that much more interesting and fun. I believe (they were riding by as they explained) that it was the Kinetic Sculpture Race, a fundraising event for the American Visionary Art Museum. I thought you might enjoy seeing a few of the participants:

Batimore paradeThough we ambled a bit, our walk had a destination. We were headed to Zion Lutheran Church (more about that in a minute) for a Mayfest celebration. However, as we followed the GPS on Marjorie’s phone, we walked a bit out of the way. Once we got going in the right direction again, thanks to a Harley riding officer (gratuitous Harley plug, I know), we noticed that right across the street from where we were standing was the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture! Needless to say, we made a detour to check out the museum, and were glad we did. We learned quite a bit from the exhibits, for example that John W. Greene Jr., in 1941 established the first African-American owned airport in Maryland. The museum’s permanent exhibits,which are housed primarily on the 3rd floor, are divided into three areas; Artistic and Intellectual Journeys, Family and Community Stories and Labor that Built a Nation. We spent time going through each of them and very much enjoyed the many displays. Needless to say, my favorite area deal with labor and employment, but I was fascinated with an interactive quiz for “runaway slaves.” Museum visitors are invited to respond to a series of prompts, in the role of an escaped slave. I did not do very well, and we decided based on my performance, I would have been recaptured. It made us both think. We later learned that on the third Thursday of every month there is live music (jazz I think) with food and sometimes line dancing. Reginald F. Lewis MuseumOn the way out we stopped at the restaurant on the first floor of the museum, and enjoyed a meal fit for the queens we are.  We ordered catfish (Marjorie) and fried chicken (me) both accompanied with corn bread, greens and mac& cheese. The food was absolutely scrumptious and the proprietors could not have been nicer. If you go there be sure to stop in and treat yourself to a yummy meal.

After that we were on our way at last to Mayfest at Zion Lutheran. Well, I have to tell you that it was not a great experience. It was a lovely old church with a lot of history. Services are still conducted in German. As this was the object of our walk we were excited to finally arrive. We walked in, around and through the festival and were never welcomed. In fact we didn’t even get folks to make eye contact. We tried opening our printout of the festival and pointing at the spots highlighted on it, and that didn’t help either. So, we left. Disappointing (and a tad embarrassing as a Lutheran myself). Zion Baltimore

We headed back, through a somewhat dicey area of town. At one point three rough, seemingly angry characters walked past. When I looked back, they were doing likewise. I told Marjorie about it; we got ready for a confrontation, but thankfully none occurred.

Our day ended quite pleasantly as we were able to visit, and have dinner a dear friend, Staci Walters Fujii, and her daughter (and my goddaughter) Blake Catherine. We had a great meal at (I know, like we needed to eat again, but we did). We ate at Phillip’s Seafood and our meals were all very good, and we had a terrific server named Cory (who had a great voice for radio–in fact he has been a DJ). It was the perfect way to close out a relaxing day.

Blake Catherine, Stacie, Me & Marjorie

Blake Catherine, Stacie, Me & Marjorie


Thursday was a pretty full day and included lunch with our Chancellor and Provost. From there I headed back to the law school to administer my Torts exam to my beloved first year students. Afterwards I headed immediately to the airport for a trip to Baltimore, Maryland for the Law School Admission Council Board meeting. Because the 3 hour exam started at 1:30, my flight left at 6:15, and with a connection in Chicago, arrived in Baltimore at midnight. Ugh.

The flight was uneventful except for an exchange with a fellow passenger. I had taken my seat on the flight to Baltimore when a guy who was boarding made extended eye contact–long and unflinching. It wasn’t hostile, but I couldn’t decide what the deal was so I said, “Hi, are you a rider?” He looked surprised, and for a moment didn’t respond, but then he said, “Yes I have a Street Glide that I rebuilt myself.” By that time the aisle cleared and he moved past. Before takeoff though, he came back to my row and asked,”How did you know that?” I told him that he was very direct in terms of eye contact, he had swagger and also the goatee thing typical of a lot of riders. He said, “I’ve always been that way. I think it’s amazing you knew that because no one can ever tell when I’m dressed like this (suit), but of course they know when I’m in my riding gear.” With that he headed back to his seat shaking his head. Once the flight landed, we exchanged a few pleasantries. I told him about Bikes, Blues & Barbeque and that was that.

LSAC Board MeetingThe Board meeting lasted all day, Friday. There was much business to be done including budgeting, updates on committee actions and projects, and receiving reports from sister organizations. LSAC has a number of standing committees including Diversity, Finance & Legal Affairs, Audit, Test Development & Research and Services and Programs. Sister organizations regularly attend the Board meetings. These include  the AALS, the ABA Section on Legal Education, and CLASSI, Canadian Law Admissions, Statistics Services and Innovations. One of the more interesting aspects of the CLASSI report was the reminder that in Canada, a prospective solicitor must complete a term of articling before being admitted to the bar.

In addition our President & Chair, pictured below, gave their reports. IMG_5729[1]

LSAC President Dan Bernstein (L-R), Chair Athornia Steele, General Counsel Joan VanTol & CFO Marjorie LaRue-Britt

One of the wacky, interesting, “you can’t make this up” things that happened, was that the hotel we were meeting in, was also the host hotel for an adult novelties convention. Yep, it is what you think. I felt compelled to investigate during our breaks and met some really nice, but kinda different people. One of them had a daughter who was interested in, and wanted to apply to law school. They thanked me for coming in, and gave me a departing gift. Because this is a safe for work blog, that is all I’ll say about that. But here are a couple of the convention banners.








Mom & Makenzie

There are times when I feel overwhelmed with the power and beauty of an extraordinary experience. This week there was just such an occasion with my Mom. During recent visits with her, she expressed an interest in visiting the law school. Though it seems like a small request, it requires taking care of all the logistics (transportation and access) and that she have a good day. It all came together for one amazing moment. Mom arrived, with the loving care and assistance of Kayla, her terrific caregiver. We had both prepped Mom for the day, encouraging her and sharing her enthusiasm for the visit. We hoped for the best when the day came. Kayla arrived early to fancy Mom up for her visit. and she was in a great mood when she arrived at the law school. We stopped to visit with a number of colleagues as she rolled through the building. They were all kind and welcoming, and Mom enjoyed the attention, charming all with her warmth and good humor.

The highlight of the day was for Mom to meet Makenzie Arnold-Hillard, a third year law student who holds the Eual Dean (Dad) & Fern Nance (Mom) Social Justice Scholarship. Makenzie is a first generation law student who has taken a position with Legal Service upon graduation. Photo: Mom meets Makenzie  Arnold-Hillard, the wonderful 1st generation law student/future Legal Services Lawyer who holds the scholarship named for Mom & Dad. No words for the power of this moment.

She visited with Mom, described her background, and told Mom that she was raised to help others, and was committed to doing so. Then she thanked Mom for the opportunity to meet with her and thanked her for the scholarship assistance. When Makenzie told Mom about her post-graduation plans, Mom said, “That’s really hard, to work for poor people. Thank you for doing that. Bless you. I am proud of you.” I can not tell you what an amazing moment that was. It is one I will always treasure, and which was a blessing to experience. After they visited for a while, we went upstairs, to the Hall of Deans, so Mom could see my portrait. I could describe that moment but as the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Mom in the Hall of Deans



Three times a year the ABA Labor and Employment Law (LEL) Section Council meets to do the business of the Section. I’ve mentioned this before, but for the newcomers, the Section operates on consensus which means that there is balance in perspective in all its administration and programming. There are management, union/employee, and neutral members who work together to get the work of the Section done, and to provide a much richer view of the topics presented at our Continuing Legal Education programs. I serve on the Council as an At-Large member until August, but serve in a continuing role as a Section representative in the ABA House of Delegates, its policy making body.Our LEL Section has three delegates, me (neutral), Keith Frazier (management) and Don Slesnick (labor/employee). What I didn’t know before arriving at the Council meeting is that Section was extremely fortunate to have in attendance the Chair of the House of Delegates, Robert Carlson.

The flight was uneventful, but upon arriving at the Drake Hotel, I realized that I hadn’t eaten all day, so I wandered over to the nearby Cheesecake Factory. My lunch, tamale cakes was actually quite tasty. Image

The Council events began later that evening with a lovely reception at the hotel, followed by dinner at Ditka’s. The Section social events are a great time to catch up with what it going on, personally and professionally in the lives of long time friends and that evening was no exception. It’s always terrific to see Chris & Shellie Hexter, Michael Green, Gail Holtzman, Denise Clark, Samantha Grant, Steve  and Cindy Gordon, Ruben Chapa, and Kelly Dermody among others. I truly value the relationships that have come out of my involvement with the Section.

At the dinner, our current Chair Joel D’Alba recognized the outgoing member of the Council. As my term as an at-large, voting member of the Council ends in August, he presented me with a beautiful bowl in recognition of that service.