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August 04, 2020

Patricia Lee Refo becomes American Bar Association president

WASHINGTON, August 4, 2020 – Patricia Lee “Trish” Refo of Phoenix, a partner in the law firm Snell & Wilmer, today became the 144th president of the American Bar Association at the close of the organization’s Annual Meeting.

Refo became the first ABA president to be sworn in virtually, accepting the honor by video from the porch of the Sandra Day O’Connor house in Tempe, Ariz., due to safety concerns caused by the pandemic.

From 2014 to 2016, Refo served as the ABA’s second highest-ranking elected official as chair of its policymaking House of Delegates. She has also served as chair of the ABA’s largest practice group, the Section of Litigation. Refo has held numerous leadership roles in her decades with the ABA including chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Membership, the American Jury Project, and the Association’s grassroots advocacy activity, ABA Day in Washington. Refo was also a member of the ABA Commission on Civic Education and the Separation of Powers. She is the 10th female ABA president and fifth in the past six years.

“I am honored to serve the ABA’s members and walk in the footsteps of so many legal giants,” Refo said. “This moment presents a unique opportunity to advance the ABA’s mission and lead the profession in finding new tools all attorneys can use to better serve their clients. Now, more than ever, our nation’s lawyers will step up to help solve the challenges we face.”

At Snell & Wilmer in Phoenix, Refo concentrates on complex commercial litigation and internal investigations. She chairs the firm’s Professional Liability Litigation Group.

Refo has served on the Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Evidence of the United States Judicial Conference, appointed by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, and on the Arizona Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Rules of Evidence. She is a member of the American Law Institute and its Litigation Advisory Panel and is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation and the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education. Previously, Refo served as a director of the American Bar Endowment and as co-chair of the National Association of Women Lawyers Committee for the Evaluation of Supreme Court Nominees.

Among her awards and recognitions, Refo in 2007 was named to the National Law Journal’s list of The 50 Most Influential Women Lawyers in America. She received the President’s Award from the State Bar of Arizona and has been inducted into the Maricopa County Bar Association Hall of Fame. She received her B.A. with high honors and high distinction and her J.D. cum laude from the University of Michigan.

A biography of Refo can be found here. A high-resolution photo of her can be found here.

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews