Women trial lawyers

I graduated law school in 1972. Our class had several lawyers who ended up making their living as trial lawyers. One of them, Bill Riley, is now the Chief Judge of the Eighth Circuit and member of the Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States. The foregoing said, the Class of 1972 at the University of Nebraska College of Law did not include a single woman.

Elaine Mittleman, an experienced federal appellate practitioner, recently sent me an article about the retirement of a woman litigator. Grace Day called it quits this fall from one of Missouri’s preeminent law firms. Ms. Day practiced just down the road in St. Joseph. I am sorry to say that I never had occasion to cross her path. By all accounts, she was a kind but tough trial lawyer and the fact that she practiced law for 63 years is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her many accomplishments. See Marshall White, Attorney Grace Day leaves a legacy for women attorneys, St. Joseph News-Press (Oct 25, 2013).

 Photo by Jessica Stewart | St. Joseph News-Press

Photo by Jessica Stewart | St. Joseph News-Press

The accomplishments of Ms. Day, and the fact that I graduated law school 23 years after she did but without one woman in our class, started me thinking about woman trial lawyers, and particularly those who practice in federal court. I first thought about our Chief Judge, Laurie Smith Camp, and what a great litigator she was until she took the bench as the first female federal district judge in the District of Nebraska. I then thought of Marnie Jensen, a litigation partner at a national law firm with offices in Nebraska, and former law clerk on our court. My thoughts then turned to Sara Fullerton, a federal prosecutor here in the District of Nebraska. All three of these women are or were superb federal trial lawyers and wonderful people to boot.

While my law school education was excellent, I wish Grace Day, Laurie Smith Camp, Marnie Jensen or Sara Fullerton or others like them would have been among my classmates. I am much the poorer for their absence.


Thanks to Elaine Mittleman and the Polsinelli law firm, I have been privileged to see a video tribute to Grace Day that includes Ms. Day speaking about her experiences. It is well worth viewing. See here.


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