Colleen A. Khoury, Class of 1975
Former dean of the University of Maine School of Law
Colleen Khoury is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Maine School of Law and served as Dean of the law school from 1998 to 2005. Professor Khoury began her career at the Chicago law firm of Bell, Boyd & Lloyd, where she specialized in tax and corporate law and ultimately became a partner. She joined Ventrex Laboratories, Inc., a publicly-held biotechnology company in Portland, Maine in 1984 and in 1985, she joined the law faculty at the University of Maine.
Throughout her career, Professor Khoury has been active in efforts to support and expand access to justice in Maine. From 1993 to 1996, she chaired the Commission on Gender, Justice and the Courts, established by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, and was a member of the Gender Bias Task Force of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. She chaired the Maine Justice Action Group’s Statewide Access to Justice Planning Initiative in 2006, and served as Chair of the Maine Campaign for Justice in 2010. Professor Khoury has served on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Legal Education and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Maine, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and the Justice Action Group. She has received numerous awards and honors over the course of her career, including the John W. Ballou Distinguished Service Award from the Main State Bar Association in 2001 and the American Bar Association’s Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award in 2003.
What has been your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?
At each step there were challenges, and they were different challenges. Initially, it was probably being female. In each setting, I never felt that it was ultimately problematic, but I think that sense of being alone or being the first woman was very present. I wasn’t alone, but I think that in those years, that while I never felt treated differently by the people that I work with; it was always in the back of your mind. Were clients going to respond to you, would you be able to be authoritative? I once had a client who I knew wasn’t paying attention to me, and I think it was because she didn’t feel competent at that point in her life - so how could another woman be competent? I was pretty sure if I had been male, she would’ve felt more confident. I felt like I had to earn her confidence because of my gender. I think when I became a professor, I was lucky because I was 41 and I had a little more gravitas. At every juncture in my career, the concern wasn’t as great as I worried it would be.
What were you like as a law student?
Disciplined. I’m a pretty social person, but at the time it was a commuter school. I mainly had study companions. I was married and one of the oldest people in our day class. We were both 28. Mostly, I really loved law school and to study.
What advice would you give to young attorneys just starting their careers today?
My advice from a career perspective is to use every contact you have. I’ve often said to my students, “Nobody gets hired because of who recommended them, if they’re not competent. But your resume gets read.” Also think about other ways you can use your degree to get the experience you want and need.
What does your future hold?
I hope a lot of travel and continuing to be involved in the non-profit activities I’ve been involved in. now that I’m not working, I can spend more time on them and more intensively. I love to travel and I want to keep doing it.
Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice?
I think William Brennan. I had great respect for the way he went about making decisions and how he was able to move with the times. Also, his longevity in the sense of his intellectual flexibility.