Professor Renee Knake earned her J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School. She holds the Joanne and Larry Doherty Chair in Legal Ethics and is a professor of law at the University of Houston Law Center.
Her current administrative leadership includes an appointment as the director of Outcomes and Assessments. In this role, Professor Knake is responsible for leading the development and implementation of the Law Center’s compliance with the American Bar Association (ABA) standards on learning outcomes and assessment of student learning. At the Law Center, she teaches Constitutional Law, Professional Responsibility, and a seminar on Gender, Law, Leadership, and Power. She recently launched a pilot distance-learning version of Professional Responsibility.
Professor Knake was awarded the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, a position she held from January-July 2019.
Prior to joining the University of Houston faculty in 2016, Professor Knake served as the Foster Swift Professor of Legal Ethics and co-director of the Frank J. Kelley Institute of Ethics and the Legal Profession at Michigan State University College of Law, where she taught for a decade. During her time at Michigan State, she co-founded and secured substantial funding for the law school’s inaugural program on technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation in legal services, recently recognized as a top program in the nation.
In 2015, she was a scholar-in-residence at Stanford Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession and a visiting scholar at the American Bar Foundation.
Professor Knake is an internationally recognized expert on professional responsibility and legal ethics. She has been invited to speak throughout the United States and in countries such as Australia, Canada, England, Guatemala, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates. She is regularly contacted to assist in legal matters involving lawyer discipline and judicial ethics, and has twice testified successfully before the Texas Supreme Court Special Court of Review to support reversal of discipline charges against judges.
She is an author of three casebooks—Professional Responsibility: A Contemporary Approach (West Publishing, 3rd Edition 2017); Legal Ethics for the Real World: Building Skills Through Case Study (Foundation Press 2018); Gender, Power, Leadership and Law (West Publishing 2019)—along with more than 20 scholarly articles including publications in the Fordham Law Review, Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Illinois Law Review, Ohio State Law Journal, Washington & Lee Law Review, and the Washington Law Review. Professor Knake’s fourth book, Shortlisted: Women in the Shadows of the Supreme Court, is under contract with New York University Press.
Her work has been cited in briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court, prestigious law reviews such as the Yale Law Journal, and a range of media including the ABA Journal, American Lawyer, Associated Press, Bloomberg Law, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, CNN, National Public Radio, National Law Review, New York Times, Slate, and Wall Street Journal.
Professor Knake has been selected for a range of leadership roles nationally and internationally. She was elected to the American Law Institute in 2017, and was named a fellow of the American Bar Foundation in 2016. She currently serves as Chair-Elect for the AALS Section on Professional Responsibility. She was appointed as the Reporter for the American Bar Association Presidential Commission on the Future of Legal Services from 2014-16. She served as a delegate to the World Economic Form Global Agenda Councils on Justice (2014-16) and Rule of Law (2013-14).
An award-winning scholar, Professor Knake’s research focuses, in part, on innovation in the regulation of legal services, proposing access to justice reforms. Her article “Democratizing the Delivery of Legal Services” won the 2012 Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Professional Responsibility Section paper competition. Her most recent pieces The Behavioral Economics of Lawyer Advertising: An Empirical Assessment, The Legal Monopoly, Lawyer Speech in the Regulatory State, and Legal Information, the Consumer Law Market, and the First Amendment explore tensions between professional conduct rules and free speech/competition values. She also studies the media’s portrayal of nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court. Her article on this topic, Rethinking Gender Equality in the Legal Profession’s Pipeline to Power: A Study on Media Coverage of Supreme Court Nominees, was selected as a winner of the 2012 AALS New Voices in Gender paper competition.
She has received numerous awards for her work on entrepreneurship and innovation in legal services, including a significant grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation from 2012-14. In 2013, she was named an American Bar Association Journal “Legal Rebel,” an “annual honors program for the change leaders of the legal profession” and a member of the Fastcase 50, an annual award that “recognizes 50 of the smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries, and leaders in the law.” That same year she accepted the Innovation Award from the College of Law Practice Management, honoring “lawyers, law firms, and other deliverers of legal services who are currently engaged in some extraordinary innovative efforts.”
Before her academic career, Professor Knake practiced law at Mayer, Brown in Chicago and Hunton & Williams in Richmond, Va., where she specialized in commercial litigation, telecommunications, and labor/employment law. She also worked as an Assistant City Attorney for Charlottesville, Virginia.
Renee Knake Jefferson and Hannah Brenner Johnson talk about their research project into the careers and personal lives of nine women who could have been elevated to the Supreme Court.
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