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When Roxanne Barton Conlin was a teenager, she wanted to be an actress. But she was attending an all-girls’ Catholic high school, and a nun advised her against that road. “She told me I would be better off if I became a lawyer,” Conlin recalls. She left high school before graduating and entered college, earning a B.A. at Drake University by the age of 18. At age 21, she graduated from Drake University Law School. But, Conlin says, there were times early in her career when a life in Hollywood seemed attractive. When she graduated from law school in 1966, she was only one of three women in her graduating class, and discrimination against women lawyers was rampant, she says. Another woman law school graduate she knew “ended up as a legal secretary.” “I knew they couldn’t do that to me if I couldn’t type,” she says, so she avoided learning how. “Courts refused to acknowledge my existence.” Judges would say that they didn’t allow women in their courtroom. “I had to tough it out,” she recalls. “I’d say: ‘I’m sorry, but this is what I am and I have the right to be here.’ “ Despite the early difficulties, Conlin built a career and a reputation as a top trial attorney. Conlin, of Des Moines, Iowa’s Roxanne Conlin & Associates, is one of only two women ever elected to the Inner Circle of Advocates, an elite group of plaintiffs’ trial lawyers restricted to attorneys who have tried at least 50 jury trials and have won at least one million-dollar award. Conlin was the president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America for 1992-1993, its first female president. Conlin has won 15 to 20 verdicts of $1 million or more, despite practicing in a region known for conservative juries. Her biggest win came three years ago, when a jury awarded her client Linda Channon $80 million in a sexual harassment/employment discrimination case brought against United Parcel Service Inc. This was reduced significantly because of caps, but UPS paid the final judgment this year, “after we attached their bank accounts,” Conlin notes. In ongoing litigation, Conlin is plaintiffs’ counsel for shareholders in a class action against MidAmerican Energy, contending that the utility sold itself to its officers and principal shareholders for an artificially low price. She is also handling another class action on behalf of the black community in Des Moines for exclusion from nightclubs. During the Carter administration, before she entered private practice, Conlin was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa. She conducted dozens of trials, primarily in white collar and other complex criminal cases. Then in 1982, she was the Democratic party candidate for governor. She went into private practice after losing this race. Since 1991, she has headed her own firm, representing only plaintiffs in a wide variety of cases. “I really like doing the hard civil rights work,” she says. And she values her impact on her clients. After Conlin won that $80 million verdict, she notes, Channon went to college and finished four years of college in one year. “She’s about to graduate from law school.”

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