In a lecture at The University of Toledo College of Law Thursday, Sept. 20, Judge Nancy Gertner, professor of practice at Harvard Law School and former U.S. district judge, will discuss how to craft a principled and passionate life in the law representing the underserved, as well as her transition from advocate to judge.Gertner will speak at noon in the newly renovated Richard & Jane McQuade Law Center Auditorium.
Her free, public lecture, “An Improbable Life: From Feminism and Advocacy to the Bench,” is a part of the College of Law’s Cannon Lecture Series. Gertner’s 2011 autobiography, In Defense of Women: Memoirs of an Unrepentant Advocate, will be available for purchase and the author’s signature.
In the 1970s, as Gertner attended law school and began her career, women in the legal profession were a rarity, and female trial attorneys rarer yet. But Gertner, in bright red suits, jumped into a career as a criminal defense and civil rights attorney. She tackled a succession of high-profile cases — cases that often involved women’s and civil rights issues at a time when the ideals of those movements were just beginning to gain traction in the courtroom.
“Judge Gertner’s visit will give our students and members of the community insight into the changes in the legal profession in the past 40 years, particularly the remarkable expansion of the role of women in the profession,” said Daniel J. Steinbock, dean of the College of Law.
In 1994, after a career in private practice litigating criminal and civil rights cases, Gertner was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts by President Bill Clinton. She has been an instructor at Yale Law School, teaching sentencing and comparative sentencing institutions, since 1998. Gertner retired from the bench in 2011 and now serves as a professor of practice at Harvard Law School.
In 2008, Gertner received the Thurgood Marshall Award from the American Bar Association’s Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities; she is only the second woman to receive it. (U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the first.) She has been profiled on a number of occasions in the Boston Globe, the American Bar Association Journal, Boston magazine and The Wall Street Journal.
She is a graduate of Barnard College and Yale Law School, where she was an editor of The Yale Law Journal. She received her master of arts degree in political science from Yale University.
The Cannon Lecture Series was established in 1980 in memory of former Toledo attorney Joseph A. Cannon through a generous gift from his family and friends. The lecture series is intended to provide an opportunity for the College of Law, the University and the greater Toledo community to host individuals of national prominence who, in discussing questions of law and society, will emphasize the humanistic dimension as well as the limitations of our legal system.