Sun Valley, Idaho • As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reflected on her life Friday during a speech at the Utah State Bar convention, she had this advice for young lawyers: "Do something outside of yourself. Something that will make a difference."
The jurist spoke to a packed room of Utah lawyers and their families, sharing details about her life ranging from why she chose law school, to her role in changing laws that discriminate against women, to her rise to Supreme Court justice — and even about her pop culture status as the "Notorious R.B.G."
"I'm 84 years old," she said when asked about the moniker. "And everyone wants to take their picture with me."
In a conversation moderated by retired federal Judge Deanell Reece Tacha, Ginsburg offered plenty of other advice for her audience of legal advocates.
She told them to work toward something that will make the world better — and not just make money. She said parenting often has a lot to do with luck and noted that, while her daughter grew up well-behaved, her son was what she called "lively."
Ginsburg also shared wisdom that she received from her mother-in-law on her wedding day for a happy marriage: "Every now and then, it helps to be a little deaf."
"So that was the advice I followed through marriage of 56 years," she said, "and to this day with my colleagues."
And that "Notorious R.B.G." nickname?
"Of course" she knows where the name originated, she said, adding that she had "something very important in common" with the famous rapper Notorious B.I.G.: "We were both born and bred in Brooklyn, New York."
Ginsburg has been a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court since August 1993 after she was picked by President Bill Clinton — a nomination, she said, that was the highlight of her career.
Regarded as one of the most liberal justices on the high court, she has a penchant for producing scathing dissents as counterpoints to her more conservative colleagues.
She is also well-known for her legal work on cases challenging gender equality issues and championing women's rights. On Friday, she reflected on several of the cases in which she has been involved, noting that she initially had planned to enter a "safe profession as a woman" and be a history teacher.
"I want to say how lucky I was to be born when I was and to be a lawyer," she said. "I didn't say anything that women haven't said since Abigail Adams [the wife of second President John Adams]. But society wasn't ready to listen until the late '60s."
Ginsburg also noted that while many of the laws that discriminated against women were changed years ago, there is still work to do — and "unconscious bias" to overcome.
She recalled a recent study in which researchers noted every time a justice interrupted another — and found that male justices interrupted female justices approximately three times as often as they interrupt one another.
"I hadn't even been conscious of that, and neither were my male colleagues," Ginsburg said. "But I think next term, it may be different."
Ginsburg's comments were well-received by Utah's lawyers, who rose when she entered the Sun Valley ballroom and gave her a standing ovation after her hourlong comments.
Utah State Bar President Robert Rice estimated that more than 1,000 people attended Ginsburg's session — the highest number they've seen at a summer convention in a decade.
Rice noted that as he looked around the packed room, he saw lawyers who had brought their young daughters to see what an icon like Ginsburg had to say.
"That's a big reason why she's such an attraction and is so well-respected by Utah lawyers," Rice said. "They see her as a role model of not only what young women may be in the legal profession but what lawyers should be and what judges should be."
The convention extends through the weekend. Rice said the location of the gathering — which is a means for Utah attorneys to obtain required continuing legal education credits in ethics, professionalism and civility — rotates. They've been coming to Sun Valley for years, he said, with the idea that lawyers would spend time relaxing and networking, rather than rushing back to the office to finish work.
Ginsburg is the second U.S. Supreme Court justice to address Utah lawyers in recent years. In 2015, Justice Anthony Kennedy spoke at the convention and discussed the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta — a precursor and foundation of future documents like the Bill of Rights and U.S. Constitution.