Women in Law Week: Female Lawyers Speak to Colgate Students

Christine Amalfe

The first segment of Colgate’s Women in Law Week occurred on Monday, March 28 in Persson Auditorium. Throughout that week, various female lawyers presented their personal stories of success to the Colgate community. The Women in Law Week’s purpose is to provide students with a greater understanding of the complex field of law and various functions of a legal degree. Monday’s event featured alumna Avery Blank ’08 and Christine Amalfe P’16. They each spoke about their respective work within the legal realm and then welcomed questions from the audience.

Blank defined her work by stating her three primary areas of focus: advocacy, policy and leadership. Blank first explained each of these terms to the audience. Using examples from her past employment, she demonstrated how advocacy, policy and leadership effectively intersect to advance the position of women in leadership positions. Blank stressed that successful advocacy begins with an individual who is passionate about a subject and simply chooses to raise his or her voice.

“You should look at being a student at Colgate as the start of your advocacy,” Blank said.

Addressing her time as a student at Colgate, she shared an anecdote regarding a Political Science class that she took with Professor Nina Moore as a first-year. When Professor Moore asked a large auditorium of students to share their papers in front of the class, Blank was surprised to find herself raising her hand to contribute. She stressed that this was a pivotal moment in both her Colgate experience and a milestone on her professional advocacy path. Encouraging students in the audience to utilize writing and speaking resources at Colgate, she stressed that advocacy can occur outside law offices and government buildings and still achieve significant goals.

“It was so inspiring to see an alumna in a position of such expertise. As someone who wants to go into law, it’s important to hear these kinds of voices,” junior Rachel Cohen said.

Cohen related to Blank’s time at Colgate, and was encouraged by Blank’s tremendous success after graduation. Since her graduation in 2008, Blank has worked with numerous governmental offices and non-governmental agencies to contribute to the advancement of women in leadership. Blank currently owns and leads a Philadelphia-based firm, Avery Blank Consulting.

Sophomore Sarah Kurland appreciated how useful the panel was.

“It was interesting and motivating to hear the perspectives of the women on the panel and learn about their experiences in different realms of legal work. This wealth of information on women’s individual experiences navigating different legal careers opened my eyes to all the different areas of law that exist based on what you’re interested in,” Kurland said.

Kurland appreciated the opportunity to hear from both Blank and Amalfe, a practicing attorney at Gibbons P.C. and chair of the firm’s Employment and Labor Law Department. In her role at Gibbons,

Amalfe defends employers and their companies accused of various forms of employee discrimination. She focused on lawsuits based upon sexual harassment and gender discrimination, explaining the strict laws that define discrimination and how these laws often end lawsuits on the basis of no reasonable cause.

Sophomore Danielle Dillon found the event inspirational.

“It was great to hear the stories of such strong women, particularly in the field of law. Not only was it an informative and educational event, but I found the panelists and the wisdom they offered to be especially empowering,” Dillon said.

Noting the lessons Blank and Amalfe taught, Dillon pointed to their personal anecdotes as being the most salient component of their presentations. Just as Blank shared her educational experience at Colgate, Amalfe also explained how a business concentration in her undergraduate institution eventually led her to pursue corporate law. After realizing that corporate law did not satisfy her interests, Amalfe was given the opportunity to defend a client accused of sexual harassment. From that point on, she knew that employment law was her true niche in the legal realm.

Blank and Amalfe’s inspiring stories and useful insight provided students in the audience with an understanding of the large and sometimes overwhelming legal industry. Contributing greatly to the aims of the Women in Law Week, both individuals demonstrated the real possibility of success for a woman with a legal degree.