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Brooksley Born’s resume screams establishment-she’s a graduate of Stanford Law School, a 31-year partner at Arnold & Porter, and a former chair of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. But friends and colleagues say she’s a revolutionary. Whether battling for women’s rights or pushing for more financial transparency, Born has broken barriers and challenged conventional wisdom. “She’s a demure revolutionary,” says Esther Lardent, president of the Pro Bono Institute. “Underneath that lovely silk dress, she’s metaphorically wearing a T-shirt with a raised fist.” Born joined Arnold & Porter in 1965, when women made up only 3 percent of the profession, and became a partner in 1974 while working part-time. In her public life, she was among the first to articulate how the law could be an instrument for change for women. Born and Marna Tucker taught some of the first classes on women in the law at Washington, D.C., law schools in the early 1970s. “It was a real consciousness-raising experience [because] discrimination was really established by law,” she says. Incited by this inequality, Born helped start several women’s rights advocacy groups, including the groups now known as the National Women’s Law Center and the National Partnership for Women & Families. She also led the American Bar Association into the equal rights fight, chairing the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities and cofounding the ABA Women’s Caucus. Born was just as much of a trailblazer in financial circles. At Arnold & Porter, she built a leading practice in the burgeoning field of financial derivatives. In 1996 President Bill Clinton appointed her as chair of the CFTC. She fought for greater oversight of over-the-counter derivatives, an unpopular position among the financial consiglieri, including Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan and then-Treasury secretary Robert Rubin. Even after the derivatives-driven hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management LP collapsed in 1998, Congress thwarted her efforts for more regulation. Born retired in 2003, but she still comes into the Arnold & Porter office a couple days a week. She chairs the National Women’s Law Center, and she is the ABA State Delegate for the District of Columbia. She’s also working on a new oral history project, “Women Trailblazers in the Law,” for the ABA. She will have to spend a long time interviewing herself. Back to Main Story

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