November Alumna Spotlight: Patricia Frobes

At a time when law school classes consisted of few women, Patricia Frobes set herself apart from the pack.

Frobes was among the top of her class when she graduated from the University of Utah College of Law in 1978.

She went on to become the first woman to lead a practice area and serve as vice-chair of O’Melveny & Myers, a top tier international law firm.  She has been a member of the board of directors of Zions Bancorporation since 2003 and currently holds the title of the Lead Independent Director of the Board. She also heads a nonprofit volunteer group that cares for the first public rose garden in Portland, Oregon.

Today, she’s passionate about advocating for gender equality at law firms and within the legal industry. Statistics for the number of women employed at law firms remain sobering, particularly in Utah, where statistics show just 9 percent of attorneys currently employed in  law firms are women, with  the overall total of employed female attorneys in the state sitting at  24 percent.

Frobes this month visited the S.J. Quinney College of Law as part of the school’s Alumni in Residence Program. She shared her observations about gender equality in the legal profession and the lessons

Patricia Frobes speaks to S.J. Quinney College of Law faculty.

Patricia Frobes speaks to S.J. Quinney College of Law faculty.

she has learned navigating the profession while being female.

She said her time at the College of Law as a student helped prepare her for the twists and turns of her career path.

“Certainly having the ability to analyze issues, synthesize disparate views and build consensus are important skills to have, as well as being able to tolerate a fair amount of ambiguity,” said Frobes. “Law school taught me how to cut through a set of facts and circumstances to identify core issues and the discipline to focus on solutions for those issues while ignoring extraneous detail – basically the foundation for developing analytical skills and identifying common themes in a seemingly unrelated or opposing set of facts or positions.”

She recalled College of Law brought her one of the best pieces of advice she has ever received from Professor Ron Boyce: “Never get angry except on purpose.”

She said she’s committed to continuing her work on raising awareness about gender bias in the legal world as well as fostering conversations about how to improve skills training for all attorneys.