MSU College of Law

Renee Newman Knake

Renee Newman Knake
[Hi-Res Photo]
Professor of Law
On leave 2016-2018
Law College Building
648 N. Shaw Lane Rm 441
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300

Professor Knake (pronounced "kah-NAH-kee") joined the Law College Faculty in 2006. She received her J.D. from The University of Chicago Law School in 1999. During 2015, she was a Scholar-in-Residence at Stanford Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession and a Visiting Scholar at the American Bar Foundation.

Professor Knake's expertise and research interests include the First Amendment and the regulation of attorney speech; legal ethics; and gender and the legal profession. Her scholarly articles have been published in top academic journals such as Connecticut Law Review, Fordham Law Review, Ohio State Law Journal, and Washington & Lee Law Review. She is also a co-author for the casebook Professional Responsibility: A Contemporary Approach (West Publishing).

Professor Knake has been invited to speak about her work at a number of leading law schools including Arizona, Connecticut, Fordham, George Mason, Georgetown, Stanford, Washington & Lee, and Yale. She also has delivered talks to organizations such as the American Bar Association National Conference on Professional Responsibility, the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers, and the Legal Services Board (UK). Her research has been featured in a range of media including the Wall Street Journal, ABA Journal, National Law Journal, American Lawyer, Legal Futures (UK), Law Society Gazette (UK), and Bloomberg Law.

At the Law College, Professor Knake teaches courses related to the regulation of lawyers and courts, including Federal Jurisdiction, First Amendment and Regulation of Lawyers' Speech, and Professional Responsibility.

Among Professor Knake's administrative responsibilities, she currently serves as co-director of the Kelley Institute of Ethics and the Legal Profession. In 2014, she was appointed as the Reporter for the American Bar Association Commission on the Future of Legal Services. In 2015, she was named to the State Bar of Michigan 21st Century Law Practice Task Force. She also is a delegate to the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Justice.

Professor Knake's scholarship and teaching are inspired by her years of law practice. Before her academic career, she worked as an associate at Mayer, Brown in Chicago, Illinois, and Hunton & Williams in Richmond, Virginia, where she specialized in commercial litigation, telecommunications, and labor/employment law. She also served as Assistant City Attorney for Charlottesville, Virginia. She is admitted to practice in Michigan, Virginia (associate), and Illinois (inactive).

J.D. 1999, University of Chicago Law School; B.A. 1996, North Park College, summa cum laude

  • 21st Century Law Practice
    This course provides students with an overview of the practice challenges facing lawyers in the 21st century, including economic pressures, technological advancements, increased globalization, international deregulation, and access to justice concerns. Building upon this background, the course will then explore a set of case studies to examine a variety of innovative new legal services delivery mechanisms and businesses in the US and the UK, such as Axiom, LegalZoom, QualitySolicitors, and others that have been created in anticipation of (or in some cases in response to) these practice challenges. Students will critically assess these legal service providers, and will reflect upon how lawyers and regulators should respond.
  • Entrepreneurial Lawyering
    This course helps students understand the economic pressures, technological changes, and globalization facing the legal profession in the 21st century, and to assist students in successfully navigating their legal career given these challenges. The course explores the concept of a virtual law practice as well as the use of technology and cloud-computing in building a law practice; free and low-cost resources and tools will be shared that will help the entrepreneur-minded student identify ways to leverage leading-edge technology to defray start-up costs associated with launching a practice and to control overhead. Ethics, licensing, and malpractice issues will also be discussed. The course will be particularly useful for students who are contemplating solo practice, consulting, or engaging in an entrepreneurial venture, as well as those who are considering non-traditional uses for their law degree. Other topics to be covered include client development and networking, case studies of innovative legal services delivery mechanisms and alternative business structures, and work/life balance including the study of emotional intelligence and mindful lawyering practices. This course assumes students may (or may not) arrive with a range of experience in the use of technology we will provide training for everything needed to succeed in this course.
  • Federal Jurisdiction
    (Formerly DCL 349) The focus of this course is the operation of the federal court system. It will cover not only the usual bases of federal court jurisdiction, such as diversity, federal questions and removal, but also other doctrines that impact federal courts, including standing, ripeness, mootness, abstention and state sovereign immunity. Significant attention will be focused on federal litigation under the Civil Rights Acts. This course will be of benefit to those intending to practice in federal courts and to those seeking a federal court clerkship. (This is a 2 credit course when taken in Washington D.C.)
  • Foundations of Law
    The primary focus of this course is to provide first-year students with an introduction to the study of law, with preliminary exposure to legal reasoning, the structure of the American legal system, and fundamental legal-theoretical concepts. This course also seeks to put students who come to the law from a variety of academic backgrounds on a more equal footing.
  • Lawyers & Ethics
    The course is taught in the first-year and supplements the required upper-level required Professional Responsibility course. The course exposes first-year students to the ethical philosophy necessary for making decisions in life, law school, and law practice.
  • Professional Responsibility
    (Formerly DCL 260) A course designed to acquaint the law student with many of the obligations owed by the lawyer, both individually and as a member of the legal profession, to the society in which he/she lives. In addition to a discussion of ethical problems involved in the practice of law, an overview of all phases of the profession will be undertaken, including disciplinary proceedings, the functions of Bar organizations and unauthorized practice. Students who have already taken Lawyer Regulation and Ethics in a Technology-Driven World may not take this course.
  • Topics in Professional Responsibility: The First Amendment and Regulation of Lawyers' Speech
    The First Amendment protection afforded to the speech of lawyers is a critically important aspect of professional responsibility and legal ethics. This seminar provides an opportunity for students to conduct an intensive study of Supreme Court cases, lower court decisions, legal scholarship, and other materials addressing the regulation of attorney speech. The topics to be explored in this seminar include attorney licensing requirements, regulation of professional advice, advertising/solicitation restrictions, legal blogs/websites, criticism of the judiciary, civility rules, courtroom decorum, pre-trial publicity/statements to the media, mandatory reporting/whistle-blowing, confidentiality duties, and judicial speech. It is recommended, but not required, that students take Constitutional Law II prior to enrolling in this seminar.

Michigan, Illinois (inactive), Virginia (associate)

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Recent Publications


Professional Responsibility: A Contemporary Approach, 2nd Ed. with Russell Pearce, Daniel Capra, Bruce Green and Laurel Terry (West Publishing 2013)


Legal Information, the Consumer Law Market, and the First Amendment, Fordham Law Review 2843 (2014)

Democratizing Legal Education, 45 Conn. L. Rev. 1281 (2013)

Democratizing the Delivery of Legal Services, 73 Ohio St. L.J. 1 (2012)

Attorney Advice and the First Amendment, 68 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 639 (2011)