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Deborah L. Rhode
Rhode in 2011
Rhode in 2011
Born(1952-01-29)January 29, 1952
DiedJanuary 8, 2021(2021-01-08) (aged 68)
Academic background
Alma materYale Law School
Academic work
InstitutionsStanford Law School
Main interestsLegal ethics, women in leadership
Notable worksThe Beauty Bias
Deborah L. Rhode (January 29, 1952 – January 8, 2021) was an American jurist. She was the Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, the director of the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession, and the director of Stanford's Program in Law and Social Entrepreneurship. She coined the term The "No-Problem" Problem, and authored over 250 articles and 30 books, including Women and Leadership, Lawyers as Leaders, and The Beauty Bias, and was the nation's most frequently cited scholar in legal ethics.
1 Education and early career
2 Academic career
2.1 Books
3 Personal life
4 Selected publications
4.1 Books
4.2 Journal articles
5 References
6 External links
Education and early career
Deborah L. Rhode was born on January 29, 1952, in Evanston, Illinois, and grew up in an affluent suburb of Chicago. She enrolled in Yale University in 1970 in just the second class to admit women. Originally she wanted to work on poverty and had no interest in feminism, but an advisor gave her reading by Simone de Beauvoir that transformed Rhode's perception of the world around her. The status of women as "unwanted minority" made an impression, for instance in university administrators who could not see any problem with describing the new student body as "a thousand male leaders and 250 women". Rhode became a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Yale debate team. She received her B.A., summa cum laude, in political science in 1974.
She continued at Yale for law school and worked in the school's legal clinic which she said left her "angry all the time" at the injustice she witnessed. She and others in the clinic wrote a manual for low-income clients who could not afford attorney's fees for uncontested divorces—drawing the ire of the local bar association—but she also decided the practice of law was not sustainable for her and found her calling instead in legal academia. Her first academic work was a study of this issue, and published a paper in the Yale Law Journal, co-authored with Ralph Cavanagh (later her husband), finding that clients in uncontested divorces did equally well with advice from law students as from attorneys. She received her J.D. from Yale Law School in 1977.
After law school, Rhode clerked for Judge Murray Gurfein of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1977–78 and for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in the 1978–79 term. Rhode became friends with Merrick Garland, who clerked for William J. Brennan Jr. the same year.
Academic career
Rhode giving a presentation in 2011
Following her Supreme Court clerkship, in 1979 Rhode joined the faculty of Stanford Law School as an associate professor, becoming the third woman on the faculty, after Barbara Babcock and assistant professor Carol Rose (Rose left at the end of Rhode's first year). She remained an associate professor through 1984. At Stanford, the overwhelmingly male environment spurred Rhode to teach the law school's first class on gender and the law; it came in response to episodes such as a retirement party of the law school's dean that she attended in 1981, at which a stripper had been hired. She was also the first to teach a course on leadership for lawyers, lamenting that so many attorneys ended up in political positions of power without having any preparation for it as part of their legal education.
Rhode served as a member of the Yale Corporation, the governing body of Yale University from 1983 to 1989, where she found that the gender issues she dealt with in the previous decade persisted. She tried to nominate Simone de Beauvoir, who had been so pivotal for Rhode, for an honorary degree from Yale, but the majority-male group resisted, questioning whether de Beauvoir had written her own work, claiming that it could have written by "her husband".
Rhode was a president of the Association of American Law Schools, the founding president of the International Association of Legal Ethics, the chair of the American Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession, the founder and director (2003 to 2007) of Stanford's Center on Ethics, and the director of the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University.
During the Clinton administration, Rhode served as senior investigative counsel to the minority members of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary and advised them on presidential impeachment issues. More recently Rhode was the vice chair of the Board of Directors of Legal Momentum (formerly the National Organization for Women's Legal Defense and Education Fund) and was a columnist for The National Law Journal.
Rhode received the American Bar Association's Outstanding Scholar Award; the American Bar Association's Michael Franck Professional Responsibility Award; the American Bar Foundation's W. M. Keck Foundation Award for distinguished scholarship on legal ethics; the American Bar Association's Pro Bono Publico Award; and the White House's Champion of Change Award for her work on access to justice. Rhode's scholarship has also focused on gender equality; she has argued that the implicit demand for women to wear makeup at the workplace is a form of "gender subordination".
Rhode was an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was also the most-cited legal scholar in legal ethics, as found in 2007 and 2015 studies, and was the third most-cited female legal scholar overall. A 2012 study identified Rhode as one of the 50 most relevant law professors in the United States.
Rhode was the author of 30 books, dealing with a range of subjects in the fields of gender and the law, legal ethics and other concerns of the legal profession.
In her 1997 book, Speaking of Sex: The Denial of Gender Inequality, Rhode dealt with the issue that women's gains made advocating for the inequities that remained more difficult. She argued that recognition of the persisting gender gap was a necessary precondition for further progress. A New York Times reviewer found the book "scrupulously researched, balanced, sobering and sober", though worried that its "focus... on hard research rather than easy sensationalism" might lose the audience.
In 2000, Rhode published In the Interests of Justice: Reforming the Legal Profession. Reviewing for Legal Ethics, Barry Sullivan described Rhode's concern with the practice of law in the United States tackled in the book: that the legal profession "is insufficiently accountable to the public, that it falls far short of fulfilling its responsibilities to the society it ostensibly serves, that the best interests of its members are not well served by the current organisation and practices of the profession, that the membership of the profession is insufficiently diverse, and that the profession therefore requires radical reform."
In 2010, Rhode's book The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law argued that discrimination on the basis of appearance should be subject to constitutional scrutiny.
Rhode's 2013 book Lawyers as Leaders grew out of a course she taught on the subject, noting that 26 of the first 45 presidents of the United States were lawyers, yet when she attended a conference on leadership convened by Harvard University, she was the sole legal academic among 200 invitees.
In 2014, Rhode's book What Women Want: An Agenda for the Women's Movement returned to the issue of unacknowledged gender inequality.
Personal life
Rhode was married to Ralph Cavanagh, a senior attorney and co-director of Natural Resources Defense Council's energy program.
Rhode died at her home on January 8, 2021, at age 68.
Selected publications
Rhode, Deborah L. (1997). Speaking of Sex. Harvard University Press. Preview.
Rhode, Deborah L. (1998). Professional Responsibility: Ethics by the Pervasive Method (2nd ed.). Aspen.
Rhode, Deborah L. (2000). In the Interests of Justice. Oxford University Press.
Rhode, Deborah L. (2004). Access to Justice. Oxford University Press.
Rhode, Deborah L. (2005). Pro Bono in Principle and in Practice: Public Service and the Profession. Stanford University Press.
Rhode, Deborah L. (2006). Moral Leadership: The Theory and Practice of Power, Judgment, and Policy. Jossey Bass. Preview. Preview from Stanford.
Rhode, Deborah L. (2006). In Pursuit of Knowledge: Scholars, Status, and Academic Culture. Stanford University Press.
Rhode, Deborah L. (2010). Gender Law and Policy. Aspen Press. Details.
Rhode, Deborah L. (2010). The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195372878. Preview from Stanford. Preview from Oxford University Press. Article: Dallas News.
Rhode, Deborah L. (2013). Lawyers as Leaders. Oxford University Press.
Rhode, Deborah L. (2014). What Women Want: An Agenda for the Women's Movement. Oxford University Press.
Rhode, Deborah L. (2015). The Trouble with Lawyers. Oxford University Press.
Journal articles
Rhode, Deborah L. (Fall 1991). "Enough said". Yale Journal of Law and Feminism. Yale Law School. 4 (1): 35–38. Pdf.
Rhode, Deborah L.; Cummings, Scott L. (April 2010). "Managing pro bono: doing well by doing better". Fordham Law Review. Fordham University School of Law. 78 (5): 2357–2442. SSRN 1580263. Pdf.
Rhode, Deborah L. (May 3, 2010). "Prejudiced toward pretty". National Law Journal. Tom Larranaga. p. 34. Abstract from Stanford Law School.
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