In October 2020, School of Law alumni had the opportunity to meet virtually with three distinguished alumnae to discuss the unique role of women in the law profession.
The Women in Law Speaker series, which is planned to become an annual event, featured Susan Christensen, JD’91, chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court; Felecia Epps, JD’83, dean and professor of law at the University of North Texas at Dallas; and Susan Reff, BA’97, JD’01, founding partner of Hightower Reff Law in Omaha.
The series evolved from a similar series, Women in Health Care, in the School of Medicine. It also paid homage to the centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing a woman’s right to vote.
“The Women in Law speaker series provides the law school community the chance to connect and learn from our distinguished alumni who have diverse backgrounds and experiences,” Dean Joshua Fershée says. “We have not heard enough from Creighton Law’s strong community of brilliant and dedicated women who offer an invaluable resource for our legal community, including our students and alumni, who are looking for guidance and inspiration.”
Each speaker focused on her own path in the profession, starting with Christensen who discussed work-life balance. When she started law school, she had two children with a third on the way.
“Statistics show that women are very successful in law school and make up a large amount of law school classes, yet women tend to leave firms after four or five years at a much higher rate than men, often due to dependent care responsibilities,” Christensen says. “I also discussed the growing trend of law school students and new attorneys to look for firms that are more understanding about overall work-life balance and offer benefits such as family leave and flexible work hours.”
Epps’ presentation, “Life Lessons in Leadership,” concentrated on her career in the U.S. Marine Corps. She was certified as a Judge Advocate in the U.S. Navy and, while on active duty, was awarded the Naval Achievement Medal and the Navy Commendation Medal.
“I would advise women to be willing to take the risk to do something different that presents them with unique challenges,” Epps says. “For me that was mainly the Marine Corps. Overcoming challenges is the way to personal growth and professional development.”
Finally, Reff spoke on her role in opening an all-female practice.
All sessions allowed Creighton alumni — both women and men — to reconnect with classmates and be inspired by their fellow alumni. Participants included a wide range of people, from recent graduates to seasoned attorneys. For the latter, Christensen had a special piece of advice.
“Try to remember how you felt as a new attorney as you progress in your career. It is beneficial to everyone if our more seasoned practitioners take the time to mentor new attorneys and create effective workplace policies that keep them happy and sane with their work-life balance,” Christensen says.