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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 24, 2006

Conlin Speech Urges Law Students To Consider Careers As Trial Attorneys

Des Moines attorney Roxanne Conlin urged a group of University of Iowa law students to consider careers as trial attorneys, despite an increasing number of attacks on the profession.

"This has been a wonderful way to spend a life," said Conlin, who delivered the James Fraser Smith Lecture at the UI College of Law on Thursday. "I've been doing it for years, and I've had just the best time."

Unfortunately, she said trial lawyers have come under criticism in recent years for what the public believes are unwarranted jury awards given to people who don't deserve them. What the critics don't say or don't understand, she said, is that the judicial system is an individual's only protection against the power of corporations.

"Our legal system is the only check against unwavering corporate greed and corruption inherent in our economic system," said Conlin.

She said one of the most rewarding parts of being a trial lawyer is helping restore peoples' faith in themselves. She pointed to one client who won a sexual harassment suit against her employer, and while the final dollar award was below what they had hoped for, the fact that she won the case helped the woman overcome anxiety problems caused by her workplace stress.

"It was very restorative to her self-esteem," Conlin said. "It meant that a group of strangers heard her story and agreed that she was in an intolerable situation."

Conlin is known for her practice that focuses on representing people who have been harmed by others, whether by discrimination, products, doctors or vehicles. She was recently named by the National Law Journal as one of the 50 most  influential women lawyers in America, one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America and one of the top 10 litigators.

She was the first woman to be nominated by a major party to run for high office in the state of Iowa, after the Democrats nominated her to run for governor in 1982. The nomination came after a long career as a state and federal prosecutor, first as head of the Civil Rights Section of the Iowa Attorney General's Office and then as a United States Attorney.

Conlin has also served as president and general counsel of the National Organization for Women's Legal Defense and Education Fund and was the first woman president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, a 60,000-member organization of consumer attorneys. She was elected to the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame for her achievements.

The lecture is named after James Fraser Smith, a 1950 UI law graduate who has had a long and successful legal practice in Charles City.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010,