Women in Law Conference opens Saturday

BY CLARK CAHILL | APRIL 10, 2009 7:30 AM

On the UI law campus, this weekend is all about women.

The UI Organization of Women Law Students and Staff will hold its annual Women in Law Conference — an event for prospective students, community members, and current law students to meet a variety of accomplished women in the field — on Saturday. The event will teach participants more about the law profession, said Anna Timmerman, the organization’s board president.

“It is primarily aimed at prospective students, but it is beneficial for anyone who is interested in a legal profession,” said Lindsay McAfee, the vice president of the group’s board.

Students from across the Midwest plan to attend the conference, McAffee said, with some coming from as far as Las Vegas.

This year’s keynote speaker is Judge Amanda Potterfield, who was appointed by Gov. Chet Culver to the Iowa Court of Appeals in 2008. Before moving to the Court of Appeals, Potterfield served as a 6th District judge with offices in Johnson and Linn Counties.

After last year’s flood, Potterfield’s offices were unusable, but the UI found her a workspace, which she still uses today.

“I thought it was very considerate of the university to give me an office during the flood,” she said. “I am always glad to speak to different groups who are interested in the work I do and the judicial branch in Iowa.”

Potterfield plans to speak about the importance of the work lawyers do, the precarious situations in the realm of law globally, some of the interesting cases that have recently been covered by the press, and what makes her career fun.

In addition to her speech, the conference will feature an alumni panel including attorney Alison Werner Smith of Hayek, Brown, Moreland & Smith LLP in Iowa City and Cyndi Nance, the dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law. Attendees can also attend a mock law class taught by UI Professor Angela Onwuachi Willig, McAfee said.

“We want a panel of women who use their law degrees in diverse ways,” Timmerman said. “It will show prospective and current students there are many types of careers they can pursue after graduation.”

UI second-year law student Megan Weiler said the conference is a great opportunity to show students interested in law what to expect with balancing work and life and how Iowa supports women in the legal field.

“I think a lot of prospective students, especially women, are nervous about what their life might look like, especially with having a family,” she said. “I think the conference puts a lot of those fears to rest.”

Weiler, who served on the women organization’s board last year, said the work to prepare for the conference is a year-round process.

“We try to get impressive speakers, but you have to start early to get them committed,” she said. “It takes a lot of man hours, but it is very rewarding.”

The Women in Law Conference will begin at 9 a.m., with registration starting at 8 a.m., in the Boyd Law Building.

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