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MSU College of Law



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MSU Law Symposium to Explore Gender Disparity in the Legal Profession

East Lansing, MI — Michigan State University College of Law and the Michigan State Law Review are teaming up to present "Gender and the Legal Profession's Pipeline to Power," a legal symposium on the role of gender within the legal profession.

The event, sponsored by the Michigan State Law Review and the Law College's Frank J. Kelley Institute of Ethics & the Legal Profession, is taking place April 12-13, 2012 at the historic Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit.

The symposium serves as a catalyst to raise awareness about, discuss the dynamics of, and strategize solutions to the gender disparity that exists in positions of power within the legal profession. Scholars and experts from the fields of law, gender studies, political science, and journalism will reframe and advance the course of existing dialogue on gender equality.

"Our goal in creating this symposium is to inspire a meaningful conversation about gender inequality among positions of leadership and power in the legal profession," explained MSU Law Professor Renee Knake, co-coordinator of the symposium and co-director of the Kelly Institute. "While we have made great strides—for example, we now have three female Supreme Court justices—the reality is that women remain significantly underrepresented in state and federal judiciaries, law firm leadership, elected offices, and the boardroom."

Keynote and plenary speakers include:

  • Linda Greenhouse, a senior research scholar in law, the Knight Distinguished Journalist-in-Residence and the Joseph Goldstein Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School. She covered the U.S. Supreme Court for The New York Times between 1978 and 2008 and currently writes a biweekly column on law.
  • Deborah L. Rhode, the Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law and the director of the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession at Stanford Law School. Rhode is former president of the Association of American Law Schools, former chair of the American Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession, former founding director of Stanford's Center on Ethics in Society, and the former director of Stanford's Institute for Research on Women and Gender.
  • The Honorable Nancy Gertner, professor of practice at Harvard Law School. Gertner was appointed to the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts in 1994 by President Clinton. In 2008, she became only the second woman to receive the Thurgood Marshall Award from the American Bar Association Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities. She is the author of numerous articles and books, including her autobiography, In Defense of Women: Memoirs of an Unrepentant Advocate, released in 2011.

Over 20 leading scholars and experts from the fields of law, gender studies, political science, journalism, and beyond will be speaking on panels during the symposium.

The symposium will conclude with a panel featuring the first four female presidents of the Michigan State Bar: Julia Darlow (1986-87), The Honorable Victoria Roberts (1996-97), Nancy Diehl (2004-05), and Julia Fershtman (2011-12).

"MSU Law, formerly Detroit College of Law, was one of the first institutions to open its doors to women and minorities, admitting Lizzie McSweeney into the first class of students in 1891," Knake noted. "In holding our symposium in Detroit, we are returning to the location where MSU Law was founded to honor our legacy and to continue this tradition by advancing the conversation on how to resolve remaining gender disparity in the legal profession."

For those unable to attend the symposium, Bridget Crawford, professor of law at Pace School of Law, will be live-blogging on the Faculty Lounge, Feminist Law Professors and the Legal Ethics Forum. Participants' remarks and articles will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Michigan State Law Review.

A complete agenda can be found at

Professor Knake and Lecturer in Law Hannah Brenner were named co-directors of the Frank J. Kelley Institute of Ethics & the Legal Profession in 2011. The Institute was established to promote ethical education in the law and to bring ethical issues and concerns to light. Brenner's research and teaching primarily focus on issues of gender, leadership, the legal profession, and violence against women. Knake's scholarly interests include the law and ethics of lawyering, the legal profession and gender disparity, constitutional law, and innovation in legal services delivery.

Michigan State University College of Law, a leading institution of legal education with a long history of educating practice-ready attorneys, prepares future lawyers to use ethics, ambition, and intellect to solve the world's problems. As one of only a few private law schools affiliated with a major research university, MSU Law offers comprehensive interdisciplinary opportunities combined with a personalized legal education. After 100 years as a private and independent institution, the affiliation with MSU has put the Law College on an upward trajectory of national and international reputation and reach. MSU Law professors are gifted teachers and distinguished scholars, its curriculum is rigorous and challenging, and its facility is equipped with the latest resources—all affirming MSU Law's commitment to educating 21st-century lawyers.


320 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824

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