Two Phoenix attorneys were recently given the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.
Patricia Lee Refo, a partner at Snell & Wilmer, and Carolyn (C.J.) Johnsen, a member of Jennings, Strouss & Salmon, were chosen for their work as co-chairs in establishing "Arizona Women Lawyers Honoring Justice O'Connor," a new fund to honor Justice O'Connor through the College that now bears her name.
The fund has raised more than $85,000, which will be used for scholarships and other programs chosen in consultation with Justice O'Connor. The fund is the beginning of a 50-state effort by the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law to recognize the justice's legacy of judicial and community leadership.
Marilyn Seymann, Associate Dean of External Affairs, said the effort by the women was extraordinary, especially in light of the fact that neither graduated from the College.
Refo graduated from the University of Michigan Law School, and Johnsen from the Texas Tech School of Law.
"Both Carolyn and Trish are outstanding members of the women's legal community and have worked diligently to promote the presence of the law school to the women of our state," Seymann said.
Johnsen said she was thrilled and surprised to receive the award, and said the first woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court influenced women across the country.
"The project was an easy one to undertake as the opportunity to lead the effort to pay tribute to Justice O'Connor has truly been an honor," Johnsen said. "Justice O'Connor is an icon for women lawyers. Most of us 'older lawyers' remember vividly her appointment and she has been and continues to be an inspiration."
Johnson credited the enthusiasm and vision of Dean Patricia White and Seymann for the success of the project.
"ASU is a school that has had the vision to see Justice O'Connor as the national treasure that she is, and capture in the naming of the school what she represents, not just for women lawyers but for all lawyers," Johnsen said.
Refo said she was inspired by O'Connor.
"I was in law school when Justice O'Connor was named to the Supreme Court," Refo said. "That appointment forever changed what women lawyers can do."