The Honorable Margaret Marshall Confirmed as Special Presenter at Brown Forum | Women in the Law Conference


04.06.22 — The Honorable Margaret H. Marshall, senior counsel at Choate Hall & Stewart in Boston, will deliver a special presentation at Northeastern Law’s 14th annual Women in the Law Conference on May 13, 2022. A lifelong advocate for equality, justice and the rule of law, Judge Marshall was the first woman to serve as chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in the court’s then 307-year history. She was first appointed to the court as an associate justice in 1996. During her tenure on the court, Chief Justice Marshall wrote many groundbreaking opinions, including Goodridge v. Department of Public Health (2003), which declared that the Massachusetts constitution prohibits the state from denying same-sex couples access to civil marriage. The ruling made Massachusetts the first state in the United States to legalize gay marriage.

As chief justice she was widely recognized as a champion for an independent judiciary and as a leader in the promotion of administrative reforms within the judicial branch. Recognizing that “justice delayed, is justice denied,” her reforms greatly improved the delivery of justice, with significant decreases in case backlogs and in the length of time between the filing and resolution of cases, as well as in cost-savings throughout the system. A long-time advocate of access to justice for all, she implemented innovative procedures for self-represented litigants and strengthened pro bono services by the bar.

Chief Justice Marshall was born, raised and educated in South Africa at a time when apartheid, the oppressive system of white minority rule, was in place. She obtained her baccalaureate from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. While an undergraduate, she was elected president of the National Union of South African Students, at the time a leading anti-apartheid organization. She came to the United States to pursue a master’s degree at Harvard University (1968) and received her JD from Yale Law School in 1976. Following her graduation, Marshall practiced law in Boston, becoming a partner at Choate. Immediately before her appointment to the court, Chief Justice Marshall served as the vice president and general counsel of Harvard University, the first woman to hold that position.

Chief Justice Marshall has been involved in numerous professional activities. She served as president of the United States Conference of Chief Justices, and as chair of the board of the National Center for State Courts. She is a fellow and member of the Counsel of the American Philosophical Society, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member emerita of the Council and Executive Committee of the American Law Institute. She previously served as a member of the Committee on Science, Technology and Law of the National Academies, and until 2019 as a board member and chair of the Friends of Legal Resources Centre of South Africa. In 2004 she became a trustee of Yale University, the governing board and policy-making body for the university. Until 2016 she served as its senior trustee, the first woman to hold that position. She chaired Yale’s Advisory Committee on Campus Climate, which focused on the university’s steps to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct. Chief Justice Marshall has received numerous honorary degrees and other awards recognizing her judicial and other accomplishments, including an honorary degree from each of her alma maters as well as Northeastern University at the law school’s graduation in 2003, at which she delivered the commencement address.

“We’re ecstatic to that Justice Marshall will join us for the Women in the Law Conference this year,” said Mielle Marquis, director of external relations and co-founder of the Judith Olans Brown Forum for Women in the Law. “She has been an incredible role model for women lawyers and for women professionals in this country and beyond. We look forward to hearing all about her career and her advice for the next generation of women leaders.”

About Northeastern University School of Law

The nation’s leader in experiential legal education since 1968, Northeastern University School of Law offers the longest-running, most extensive experience-based legal education program in the country. Northeastern guarantees its students unparalleled practical legal work experiences through its signature Cooperative Legal Education Program. More than 1,000 employers worldwide in a wide range of legal, government, nonprofit and business organizations participate in the program. With a focus on social justice and innovation, Northeastern University School of Law blends theory and practice, providing students with a unique set of skills and experiences to successfully practice law.

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