Happy New Year!

This year has been filled with affronts to gender equality and expression, and has crystallized the need for lawyers to be intersectional, innovative, and zealous advocates. We want to encourage our students to enter the profession, prepared to take on issues like gender inequity and reproductive justice. The first step to that process is ensuring that your resume reflects these interests and will get you to the top of the stack!

Be sure to sign-up for our Resume Review on January 16th. This review session will pair you with a WCL alum who specializes in practices such as family law, LGBTQ advocacy, and reproductive justice. The registration link for the event can be found here: https://www.jotform.com/pijip/resume-review


We have a lot of great programming lined up for the spring, so be sure to join our Weekly Jobs and News Bulletin and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates!


Fall Semester Recap

Here is a quick recap of some of the great events that the Women & the Law Program hosted in October and November, for those who were unable to attend.

Gender and the Practice of Environmental Law

Erika Lennon (Senior Attorney, Center for International Environmental Law), Marya Torrez (Director of Public Policy, PPFA), and Chiara Pappalardo (Scholar-in-Residence, WCL) joined the Women and the Law Program to discuss the implications of environmental issues on women and gender inequity. Torrez pointed out that due to the intersection of gender inequity and environmental law, it is to our detriment not to acknowledge the overlaps, . Not only are women disproportionately affected by climate change, according to Lennon, but women are generally left out of the discussions seeking solutions to these issues. Because of this lack of inclusion, Lennon emphasized the importance of ensuring women’s voices are heard and creating safe space for people to voice their opinions; this is particularly prevalent in development work, where men and women may not attend community meetings together. Pappalardo echoed this sentiment, stressing that environmental issues are never gender neutral. Given this lack of gender neutrality, it is important to understand the larger impact on communities of environmental and development work. Gender imbalance is also evident in the practice of energy law. Pappalardo recounted her experience in the practice and told students that while an increasing number of women are entering the field, it is still heavily dominated by men.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the United States

We were happy to see one of our students, Adriana Buenaventura, along with the Critical Thinking Unit bring an amazing panel of experts, including Amanda Parker (Ayaan Hirsi Ali Foundation) and Angela Peabody (Global Women P.E.A.C.E. Foundation), to speak on the issue of female genital mutilation in the United States. Parker spoke about how 513,000 women have either been affected by FGM or are at risk of FGM, and how federal and state regulation might address the issue. Currently, only 27 states have anti-FGM legislation. This kind of state legislation is incredibly important in: giving law enforcement the tools to address the issue at a local level; sending the message that FGM is unacceptable in that state, which act as a deterrent; and filling gaps for provisions that the federal statute does not cover. In addition to legislation, Peabody discussed local initiatives and support groups for women who have been victims of FGM in the DC metropolitan area. In particular, Peabody spoke on programs her organization conducts to educate and train Virginia and Maryland law enforcement and school nurses on how to protect girls from FGM. Peabody also pressured Virginia senators to increase penalties for FGM from misdemeanor to felony. Both speakers encouraged WCL students to get involved in the work that is being done to end the practice!


Professional Development: Entering the Profession, Becoming a Lawyer

Our very own Program Coordinator, Sarah Barnett, led a workshop on the intersectionality of identities when entering a workplace with really strong norms, like the legal profession. The legal workplace will shape lawyers entering into it, but lawyers must also be aware that they will have the opportunity to mold it over time, reworking it to become a more progressive and inclusive community. The importance of identity, and methods to disclose identity to a possible employer were discussed and attendees reflected on the identities that will follow them into the workforce. This was the first of our Professional Development Series, which will be continued in the spring term – be on the lookout for our follow-up events, with topics including workplace boundaries, relationship-building, making it rain, asking for a promotion, and workplace attire!

Sterilization for Freedom: Coerced Contraception for Reduced Sentences

The semester’s first Gender & the Law Lunch & Learn, Sterilization for Freedom: Coerced Contraception for Reduced Sentences was hosted on September 20 in partnership with If/When/How and Lambda Law Society.

The event centered on reproductive rights and the justice system’s encroachment on them. Joining for this intimate lunchtime panel were:

  • Professor Brenda Smith, WCL professor and Co-Director of WCL Community Economic Development Law Clinic [Moderator]
  • Deborah A. Reid, Senior Health Policy Attorney, Legal Action Center
  • Amber Khan, Senior Staff Attorney, National Advocates for Pregnant Women

The discussion began with an overview of reproductive justice and the criminalization of substance abuse disorder and pregnancy. While the public often conflates reproductive health with contraception and abortion, this panel asserted the affirmative right of fertility choices.

When approaching the criminal justice system, it is important be aware that more than half of those incarcerated who have mental illness also have a history of substance abuse and that women of color have a higher likelihood of being involved in the system for a drug offense, according to Deborah Reid. This is a symptom of a paternalistic attitude towards women and people of color that are driving these issues, as well as the idea that substance abuse is a “moral failing” rather than a disease or a symptom of a mental health concern.

Pregnancy changes this framework. Amber Khan mentioned, for example, that past drug use is not actually illegal in the majority of the United States. However, if a person is accused of past drug use and they are pregnant, a question arises of whether this behavior should be considered child abuse.

Often, the court will use the sentencing phase to constrain a person’s reproductive rights; as a result, certain populations are punished and their reproductive freedoms are stifled. There is the sentiment that this type of person should not parent, and their children should be taken from them. Amber Khan provided the example of a Wisconsin man who was charged for missing child support payments; one of his probation conditions was that he would not be allowed to father additional children until he could prove that he could financially support them. The court determined here that his reproductive rights were not absolute and were subject to interference with “good reason.”

This event was incredibly moving and informative! A huge thanks to our panelists for providing this unique insight to our students. Stay tuned for new events this semester by checking out our calendar.

Women in Law: IP Edition!

On September 17, the Women and the Law Program and the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property hosted Women in Law: IP Edition.  This panel included a group of prominent women in the Intellectual Property space:

  • Brighton Springer, Attorney, Office of the General Counsel at the Department of Energy in the Tech Transfer and Intellectual Property section [Moderator]
  • Sarah Harris, General Counsel, USPTO
  • Camille Stewart, Consultant (Cybersecurity & Privacy), Deloitte and Security Fellow, Truman National Security Project
  • Suzanne Michel, Senior Patent Counsel, Google
  • Jessica Flores, Associate (IP – Patents, Nuclear & Electrical Power Plant Technologies), Foley & Lardner, LLP

Our panelists discussed working in the sector and tips for being successful within this space.  Students were advised on the importance of being open to technologies and having a willingness to grapple with new and difficult issues.  When entering IP, a burgeoning lawyer should seek mentors and volunteer for any opportunity available; many of our panelists voiced how this can be instrumental to a successful career.

Nuances between the public and private sector were addressed, and our panelists gave advice on the best ways to approach employment in both.  When looking for employment in the sector, it is important to be adaptable, as it is a dynamic environment.  Camille Stewart found it important to ask a lot of questions before entering into a new position in order to have realistic expectations of what will need to be done.  This is important because environments may vary, whether it is due to hierarchy or the type of clients that are taken on.

The public sector is ideal for those interested in policy work and advocating for how IP law should evolve.  When working in the government, it can be “a great feeling [because you] wear the white hat and feel like [you are] finding the right answers for the public interest,” according to Suzanne Michel.  This type of advocacy can be integral for encouraging innovation and protecting new invention.

Sarah Harris told students that a stark difference between the two is the efficiency found in the private sector, as it is driven by profit and law.  While in the private sector, there is always a question of risk, how much a strategy may cost, which does not necessarily exist in the government.

This in part due to that fact that work in the private sector is centered on representation of a client, rather than working in the public interest.  Because of this, the panelists agreed that a lawyer must look at the big picture of what is the client trying to accomplish, and where it makes sense to complete certain filings and how these costs differ by location.  For those interested in working for a firm focusing on IP abroad, Jessica Flores recommended first researching the percentages of domestic versus international work that a firm completes.

We are so grateful to our panelists for joining us!

Women in Politics Panel: Campaigning and Serving in Office

On September 6th, the Program on Law and Government, the Women and the Law Program, and the Women’s Law Association hosted a panel on Women in Politics: Campaigning and Serving in Office in the Year of the Woman.

This year has been called “the year of the woman” because of the record number of female candidates running for office at all levels, as well as the role of women as voters and donors. This year witnessed the impetus driving increased political participation, including women’s movements like the Women’s March 1 and 2, and the prominence of movements like #metoo and #timesup. Joining as panelists to discuss and provide insights on campaigning and serving in the year of the woman were Hon. Donna F. Edwards (D-MD), Hon. Eileen Filler-Corn (WCL ’93, D-VA), and Ambassador Connie Morella (R-MD).

Ambassador Connie Morella stated that “having women at the top—it makes a difference as you look down.” Similar to Ambassador Morella, each speaker emphasized the importance of choosing language that demonstrates respect and caring for one’s constituents and their needs; this is particularly vital given recent changes in public policy. In addition to this respect for constituents, a public servant “need[s] a purpose, a reason for getting involved, need[s] to like people, need[s] a passion, need[s] a plan,” according to Ambassador Morella.

In the Year of the Woman, Rep. Filler-Corn stressed that it was particularly important to “focus on the issues [because] your own identity is just one part of why you are in politics; remember what brought you there.” When campaigning and serving in office, it is imperative to continually focus on the issues most important to one’s constituents and to ensure continued advocacy for these issues.

Rep. Donna Edwards told students in attendance, “even on the bad days, it’s a good day. Public service is great. It’s not the big stuff that you do or the things that people pay attention to, but it’s the smaller moments. Politics can make a difference in people’s lives. It’s not about the debate but the ways that you can affect people’s lives.”

At the end of the session, the floor was open for students to ask the panelists questions. WCL 1L student, Eliza Collins asked, “We have seen a lot of diversity in the candidates across the United States in the upcoming primary elections, including women, minorities, and LGBT candidates—what has been done to promote diversity for those working behind the scenes on campaigns?” Each panelist gave an enthusiastic response to this question. The promotion of diversity in campaigns includes hiring campaign and legislative staff from diverse backgrounds, as well as tapping into local organizations’ resources to encourage diverse participation in campaigns.

Our panelists were incredibly inspiring and we hope to see more WCL women graduates become politicians!

Many thanks to our wonderful panelists, Hon. Donna F. Edwards (D-MD), Hon. Eileen Filler-Corn (WCL ’93, D-VA), and Ambassador Connie Morella (R-MD) for joining. A big thank you to participating WCL students and faculty! We look forward to seeing WCL students at our other exciting events this fall!

Welcome back WCL!

As always, the first week back to WCL was filled with wonderful events for students to meet faculty and learn about the many opportunities to get involved within the school and the community. On August 27th, the Women and the Law Program held a reception to welcome incoming and returning students, faculty, and staff. This reception is the first in a jam-packed semester of exciting events that the Women and the Law Program will host!

Our program Director, Ann Shalleck and our Associate Director, Daniela Kraiem, introduced the many projects related to gender and the faculty in attendance who are committed to incorporating a gendered lens into their syllabi and classrooms. WCL is rich with professors who are passionate about gender justice in their research, advocacy, and coursework, as well as in the broader legal community. Students are not only able to explore these passions in the classroom, but also have access to numerous extracurricular opportunities to contribute to this important work, including in WCL’s Clinical Program, pro bono opportunities, research assistant positions, and events on campus.

Numerous student organizations joined the Women and the Law Program to welcome incoming students and discuss the various ways they can get involved with gender issues around campus. Thank you Women’s Law Association, If/When/How, Lambda, Family Law Society, and Journal on Gender, Social Policy and the Law for joining us!

Later that week on August 30th, we also screened the documentary RBG, which explores the incredible life and accomplishments of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or the “notorious RBG,” as she has been fondly labeled. Over 85 students and faculty came to enjoy the documentary, while munching on nachos, candy, and popcorn. A special thanks to the Women’s Law Association and the Office of Student Affairs for serving up the popcorn!

The RBG screening was a hit and we can’t wait to meet more WCL students this semester! Thank you to everyone who participated in and attended our “Welcome Back” events! Keep your eye out for our upcoming programming!

Distinguished WCL Alumni Working at Planned Parenthood


The Women and the Law Program is proud to highlight three WCL alumni currently working at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Brynn Weinstein, Marya Torrez and Rachel Sussman are all doing critical work alongside Planned Parenthood to advocate for sexual and reproductive health rights and provide quality health care, as well as empower individuals to make their own, well-informed, decisions about their sexual and reproductive lives.

Brynn Weinstein, a 2012 WCL graduate, currently serves as the Director of Health Center Regulatory Strategy at Planned Parenthood.  In this role, she provides guidance to Planned Parenthood affiliates preparing for and responding to TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws and regulations. She also assists affiliates in efforts to mitigate the impact of enacted TRAP restrictions on health center operations.

In addition to working directly with Planned Parenthood affiliates, Brynn works on larger strategic efforts to create, implement, and advance national measures addressing operational barriers to abortion access caused by restrictive legal environments and/or opposition tactics.

WCL graduate Rachel Sussman is the National Director of State Policy and Advocacy at Planned Parenthood. In this role, Rachel leads the organization’s efforts to promote policies at the state level to expand access to sexual and reproductive health, while defeating attacks that seek to undermine access to basic health care services. With over 12 years of experience, Rachel provides expertise on state-level abortion policy and has been instrumental in developing communication efforts and strategic initiatives key to Planned Parenthood’s mission of ensuring that access to abortion remain safe and legal. Under her leadership, Planned Parenthood has expanded its engagement with State Legislators, Attorneys General, and key state partners.

Marya Torrez, a 2014 graduate of WCL’s LL.M program, is currently the Director of Public Policy at Planned Parenthood where she is part of the Government Relations team. Marya oversees a team focused on analysis and response to federal policies implicating sexual and reproductive health.

Alongside analyzing and responding to federal policies, Marya develops and executes cross-departmental plans and strategies for responding to administrative actions that threaten reproductive and sexual health access and care and impact the communities that Planned Parenthood health centers serve. In addition to her work with Planned Parenthood, we are excited to have Marya back at WCL as an Adjunct Associate Professor teaching Reproduction and the Law.

It is inspiring to see all that our alumni are doing to ensure every individual receives quality health care and the opportunity to make informed and independent decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive health. Marya, Rachel and Brynn, through their efforts to expand access to health care, are a powerful example of the influential work WCL alumni are doing every day around the country.