From Attorney of the Year to Law Society’s International Chair: Annette Jarvis

By Cassidy Wadsworth

For Annette Jarvis (BYU Law ‘79), being named the incoming International Chair-elect (2020-21), followed by a two-year term as International Chair for the Law Society, is but the latest in a long series of titles, awards, and accomplishments. She has made a formidable name for herself in  bankruptcy law while also championing women’s practice of law, providing community legal service, and chairing and founding numerous professional organizations.

Jarvis is foremost a problem-solver. Whether in bankruptcy law, with family-work balance, or in promoting professional ethics in interfaith organizations, she is up to the task. “I love solving problems,” she said. 

Her contributions were recognized in 2016, when the Utah State Bar named her Attorney of the Year. She is one of only four women to ever receive the award.  “I’ve contributed to my profession, which matters to me,” she said. “And I’ve contributed to my community, sharing legal expertise and services.”

In college, Jarvis first entered a courtroom to observe a patent infringement case in which her father was involved. This prompted her to spontaneously take the LSAT, and her score revealed a natural aptitude for the law. She received a scholarship from BYU Law, but had to fit law school courses into her lifestyle; she married one week prior to classes beginning and gave birth one week before 2L finals. This was daunting, given that she was one of only 10women in her class. Despite the odds, Jarvis graduated in the top five percent.

As a new attorney, Jarvis found the legal field largely closed to women, especially mothers. “Based on studies done by the ABA, women who are successful in the legal profession have two things in common,” she said, “grit and a growth mentality.” Jarvis exhibited both, securing a clerkship in Utah’s bankruptcy court, although she knew nothing about bankruptcy law. 

Her clerkship taught Jarvis many things. “I was shy. I couldn’t stand up and speak in front of people,” she said. “But the experience made me realize that I can do this. I can learn this.” 

She leveraged her proficiency in bankruptcy law into a part-time associate position at her preferred firm—unprecedented at the time. This emboldened her to persuade several other firms to offer flexible hours and better pay to other women attorneys over the course of her career. She also pioneered working from home while raising five children.

Jarvis has a decades-long relationship with the Law Society. Her paper, “Thoughts on the Proclamation of the Family,” which explored issues surrounding LDS women in the workplace, spurred the founding of the Women in Law Committee. She was its first chair. “Women with a law degree, whether currently practicing or whether never having practiced law, can and should feel part of this Law Society,” she said. 

Jarvis hopes to support and grow Law Society membership while reaching out globally to other like-minded entities. She also hopes to promote ethics and confidence in the rule of law. “People obey the law because they have respect for the law,” she said. “But to have respect for the law, they have to know they can put their faith in the courts. And we need to protect that.”

Jarvis believes the Law Society provides value for people of faith, especially in those areas of the world where religious freedom is not a given. “We have an opportunity to reach out and coordinate with other religious organizations to improve the delivery of services, promote ethical behavior, demonstrate commitment to the rule of law, and provide support for people of faith in our profession.” In a move that underscored this philosophy, Jarvis(the previous head of the Law Society’s Salt Lake Chapter) invited attorneys of various other faiths to join her on its board.

Faith underlies Jarvis’ work, her commitment to the law, and her involvement with the Law Society. Of her faith she said, “It’s not situational. It is what I believe to my core.” It enables her to practice empathy in law. “What you bring to the table as a Christian—a person who believes in the sanctity of every human being—is what counts.”