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March 2005

Laurie E. Leader
Professor of Clinical Practice

Professor Laurie Leader is keenly aware that her area of practice is ultimately about people. Whether she's mentoring students who are interviewing their first clients, representing a plaintiff in a sexual harassment lawsuit, or challenging a gene patent that could potentially restrict treatment to those suffering from a life-threatening disease, she never loses sight of the people behind the case.

Professor Leader has made it her professional mission to be a catalyst for change.

An employment lawyer for 27 years, Leader joined the faculty of Chicago-Kent in 1999 determined to be a positive influence on young lawyers. “I wanted more of a challenge in my practice, and I believed that teaching could offer that,” she says. “I also thought that I could make a difference here.”

Leader has made a difference with both clients and students. Her focus is on building relationships, and she often brings clients to her classroom. “I try to focus on client relationships and how the issue at hand affects my client’s life,” Leader explains. “I look at the best way to creatively accomplish what my client wants and to address his or her needs. All too often lawyers lose sight of the human side of the story, which makes them less effective in the courtroom.”

Leader also has made a difference in her perspective as a female trial lawyer and in the cases she brings to the clinic at Chicago-Kent. A litigator throughout her career, Leader sensitizes law students and lawyers to the unique issues facing women in the courtroom as well as the profession.

She was recently featured in Crain’s Chicago Business as one of six women litigators who focus on women’s issues. Sex discrimination cases are “one of her passions.” Just last month, Leader spoke to an audience of 90+ attorneys at the Chicago Bar Association on “Learning the Secret Handshake” for women in the legal profession. Always active in the profession, she previously headed the CBA’s Chicago Alliance for Women’s Committee on “Gender Bias in the Courtroom” and the CBA’s YLS Labor and Employment Committee. Leader’s cases cover all aspects of labor and employment law and include both individual and class actions. She is one of four lead counsel in two nation-wide class actions challenging the failure to pay insurance adjusters overtime compensation.

Leader represents employees as well as small and mid-sized companies, giving her students the opportunity to analyze employment issues “from both sides.” She even deviates from the labor and employment arena occasionally to litigate important legal issues.

Teaming with Professors Lori Andrews and Ed Kraus, Leader brought groundbreaking litigation in a high-profile case involving the development of prenatal and carrier testing for the genetic disorder known as Canavan Disease. Leader, Andrews and Kraus attacked the Canavan Disease patent -- which came about following development of effective testing -- through novel arguments based on traditional common law theories. A series of court decisions allowed the claim to proceed on unjust enrichment grounds. The case settled privately, but the issues continue to be at the forefront of debate over gene patenting.

Leader’s current projects include a proposal for the court-annexed voluntary and binding arbitration of employment disputes. That proposal was published in a recent volume of Chicago-Kent’s Employee Rights and Employment Policy Journal. Her other publications include two treatises and several book chapters and articles. She currently serves on the editorial board of, and regularly contributes articles to, Bender’s Labor and Employment Bulletin, published by LexisNexis.


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