SIU School of Law 2019

December 20, 2019

Federal judge, alumna Rosenstengel to keynote ‘Women in Leadership’ dinner

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Nancy J. Rosenstengel, the U.S. District Court Chief Judge for the Southern District of Illinois and an SIU School of Law alumna, is the keynote speaker at the “Women in Leadership” networking dinner at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in January.

Nancy-rosenstengelThe Jan. 10 dinner is the final event for a two-day “Women in Leadership Workshop” that prepares students to be leaders in the legal profession and in their communities after graduation. Approximately 36 female and male law students who are participating in the workshop will learn about being effective leaders in a diverse workforce. This is the 10th anniversary of the Women in Leadership workshop and dinner, which has corresponded with increases in female law students at the School of Law, fulfilling one of the original goals for the program.         

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to attend the workshops and the dinner featuring Nancy J. Rosenstengel, U.S. District Chief Judge for the Southern District of Illinois. For more information or to arrange interviews contact Mike Ruiz, assistant dean for career services and special projects, at or 618/453-8763.

The workshop is for SIU School of Law students, but the dinner also recognizes female leaders in the legal profession and is open to the public. The dinner cost is $30 per plate or $200 per table with a Jan. 3 online registration deadline. The dinner begins at 6 p.m. Jan. 10 in the SIU Student Center, Ballroom B.

Visit the “Women in Leadership Program” page for dinner registration information and additional workshop details.

Leadership Award recipients will be honored

Last year, the law school started a tradition of honoring women and supporters who represent the legal profession’s best. This year’s honorees, with their respective award, are:

  • Women in Leadership Lifetime Achievement Award: Carolyn B. Smoot. The award recognizes a person who has “distinguished herself as a pillar of the legal community and whose career, accomplishments and contributions to law and society serve as an inspiration to future lawyers.” Smoot’s legal career included serving six years as First Judicial Circuit judge before she retired in November 2016. A 1983 graduate SIU law school graduate, Smoot was an attorney for 27 years prior to her judicial appointment in December 2010, where she was the first female circuit judge in Williamson County and second female judge in the First Judicial Circuit. Her legal career included work as an assistant state’s attorney in Williamson County and a private practice focusing on family law, probate law, mediation and adoptions. She also taught and was director of the university’s Paralegal Studies Program.
  • Trailblazer Award: Renee Snow. The award recognizes a person who has “made outstanding contributions to the legal community, shown a commitment to women’s issues and is emerging as a leader early in her career.” Snow is general counsel and chief legal counsel with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in Springfield. Prior to working IDNR, Snow worked as an assistant attorney general with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office; and was an assistant state’s attorney in Effingham and Sangamon counties. She earned her law degree from SIU in 2004.
  • Pathways Award: Diane Goffinet. The award recognizes a leader in an organization who demonstrates a “commitment to creating pathways to success for women attorneys” and who addresses issues for women in the legal system. Goffinet, the managing attorney for Land of Lincoln Legal Aid, manages offices in both Carbondale and Mount Vernon, overseeing a staff of nine other attorneys who help provide legal assistance to low-income individuals in the lower 23 counties in Southern Illinois. A 1994 SIU School of Law graduate, Goffinet has worked with Land of Lincoln for more than 25 years. Prior to that, she was a judicial clerk for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

Keynote speaker earned SIU law degree in 1993

Rosenstengel, who became chief judge in April, has been on the federal bench since May 2014 and is the first female district judge to serve in the Southern District of Illinois. She also is the first female Chief Judge of that court. President Obama nominated Rosenstengel to serve as a federal district judge in November 2013; the U.S. Senate voted 95-0 for final confirmation in May 2014.

Before her appointment to the bench, Rosenstengel was an attorney with Sandberg, Phoenix & von Gontard in St. Louis, Missouri. She later served as a law clerk to U.S. District Judge G. Patrick Murphy and as Clerk of the Court in the Southern District of Illinois. Prior to attending the SIU School of Law, Rosenstengel earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois and Urbana-Champaign in 1990.

Women in the legal profession

  • According to the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Legal Profession, as of April 2019, women make up 38% of all attorneys in the United States.
  • Approximately one-third of federal judges are women.
  • 35% percent of law school deans are women.
  • 19% percent of law firm equity partners are women.
  • The Illinois Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court each have three female justices.