January 09, 2012

Law school to host ‘Women in Leadership Program’

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois University School of Law will host a program later this week that focuses on preparing law students to be leaders while also learning about challenges that women face as leaders within the legal profession.

The third “Women in Leadership Program” is Thursday and Friday, Jan. 12-13, in the Hiram H. Lesar Law Building at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.  The workshop runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.  The workshop culminates with a dinner that features U.S. District Court Judge Sue E. Meyerscough of the Central District of Illinois as the keynote speaker.

The workshop will also feature the opening of a semester-long display that highlights the history of women in Illinois law.  The “Early Illinois Women and the Law” exhibit is on loan from the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission.  An opening reception is set for 5 p.m., Friday, Jan. 13, in the law school’s formal lounge.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the program at the SIU School of Law.  For more information or to arrange interviews, contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school’s director of communication and outreach, at 618/453-8700.


Dean Cynthia L. Fountaine is excited about the exhibit.  More information on the exhibit is available at http://www.law.siu.edu/Current Students/womenleadershipexhibit.php.

“The stories of the women featured in the exhibit, each of whom were leaders in paving the way for women to work as lawyers and judges, are a reminder to us of the tremendous impact that women leaders can have,” Fountaine said.  “We are pleased to honor these women from the past, and also to encourage and acknowledge the leadership of women in our own time.”

Law school professors Cindy Galway Buys and Alice M. Noble-Allgire created the “Women in Leadership” program in 2010 to address gender inequities they see within the legal profession.  About 30 current SIU School of Law students, including 12 male students, will participate in the workshop with topics on gender and communication, negotiation, interviewing, networking, gender issues in the workplace, developing a personal-professional brand, and balancing career and family.

The program features law school faculty and other faculty on campus, alumni, and local attorneys participating in lectures, small group discussions, group exercises, and panel discussions.

“We are hoping that our students recognize the need for diversity in the profession and the benefits of that,” said Buys, who also directs the law school’s international law program. “We hope the workshop enables them to improve their skills that allow them to succeed in the profession.”

Noble-Allgire said she has a “great sense of satisfaction in watching the transformation that takes place when students are empowered by the knowledge and skills” the program provides.

“Law school is a life-changing experience in itself, but it is especially gratifying to see participants of this program push themselves to pursue leadership opportunities they might not otherwise have sought and to use the tools we’ve given them to overcome any challenges they might face,” she said.

Noble-Allgire said she is very pleased with the enthusiastic response the program has from students, colleagues and the legal community.  Her biggest surprise is the increased interest from male students, but said that is also vital to the program’s success.

“Their participation has enriched the discussion and enhanced the overall benefits of the program for everyone,” Noble-Allgire said.

Women hold approximately 15 percent of equity partnerships in the nation’s top law firms, comprise 21 percent of the nation’s law school deans, 20 percent of corporate general counsel, 22 percent of federal judges and 26 percent of state court judges, according to the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession. 

About 38 percent of SIU School of Law students are female, Buys said.  In addition, female attorneys still earn about 74 percent of their male counterparts, she said.

In Southern Illinois, there are 20 female circuit and associate judges among 66 judges within the First, Second, and 20th judicial circuits, which cover 26 counties, according to the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts website.

“It’s a great profession, but as in all professions, women have a long way to go in terms of attaining leadership positions and financial compensation,” Buys said.

In addition to the one credit course for the two-day program, students can also earn two credits with a practicum that also consists of a research paper, oral presentations and journal-length articles, in addition to job-shadowing a prominent female attorney or judge to observe her leadership skills.

Judge Meyerscough is a two-degree graduate of SIU Carbondale, earning her law degree in 1980.  Her appointment to the federal bench in March 2011 followed 21 years as an associate, circuit and appellate state court judge.

Meyerscough “is an outstanding leader and a tremendous role model for our students,” Fountaine said.  “I look forward to hearing her speak about the challenges and successes that she has had during her career.”