Spring 2000

Fall 1999

A Message from the Dean

Cities at the Horizon
Communities at the Horizon
Eastward from Our Horizon: U.S., China & Russia
Beyond the Horizon: Innovation and Technology

ILE Lecture: Charles A. Heimbold, Jr. L'60
Profile: Richard E. Rosin L'68
Profile: Pamela Daley L'79
Profile: Professor Jason Johnston
Profile: Howard Chang
Profile: Robert A. Gorman
Oral Legal History Project

Snippets of History
Faculty Notes
Alumni Briefs
In Memoriam

Penn Law

The Legal Oral History Project is a collaborative effort by a team of faculty, librarians, and students to record and preserve first-person narratives of graduates and faculty of the Penn Law School.  The Program was launched in 1998, and since then fifteen subjects have told their stories on videotape to law students who have transcribed the interviews and presented academic papers that position the subject within law and history.

Since the project focuses on the alumnus/a or faculty member’s life and professional experience, students acquire a sense of the breadth of possibilities their legal training will give them, as well as a meaningful relationship with a senior lawyer.  By studying their legal accomplishments in a historical context, participants gain a vivid appreciation for how developments in the law have influenced historical events.  More important, students gain a sense of how often lawyers have been in a position to shape these events. The Legal Oral History Project is co-directed by Professor Sarah Barringer Gordon and Associate Director for Public Services of the Biddle Law Library, Edwin Greenlee.

Following is an excerpt from a full interview conducted by Catharine L. Krieps L’99 with Judge Dolores K. Sloviter L’56 who served as Chief Judge of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals from 1991 to 1998.

Judge Sloviter has many fond memories of her law school years: “I was very happy at the law school, and I loved the law. I loved everything I was learning.”  With her classmates, who came from widely disparate social backgrounds from rural Tennessee to the Main Line, she learned rigorous thinking at Penn. According to Judge Sloviter, the Socratic technique taught at that time was a real social leveler, because students were judged based on what they could do rather than where they came from. 

She was eager to get a job, but found it to be a very difficult undertaking.  Describing this process as “the trauma,” Judge Sloviter continued:

Without going into the details of that term, women were not generally well received.  My story is the same as the stories we have all heard publicly now from Ruth Ginsburg and … Sandra Day O’Connor … We all had the same experience, of knocking on the doors of the big firms and being told, ‘We’re sorry, we really have nothing for you.  Would you like to be our librarian?  Would you like to be a secretary?  Would you like to write briefs in the back room?’  And the fact that I was Jewish was another obstacle because in Philadelphia firms at that time, about half of them did not take any Jews.  Maybe more than half of the large firms, to which you didn’t have to bring in business … I didn’t come from an environment or a background in which I would come in with a couple of corporations to bring to the firm, so I was limited in that respect.

Despite these considerable obstacles, she ultimately did find a position with the firm she would have picked at the very beginning: Dilworth, Paxson, Kalish & Green…. [Later as] a partner, Sloviter didn’t think of herself as a feminist or a trailblazer.  While she was not treated any differently from male attorneys at Dilworth Paxson, in the outside world social restrictions remained firmly in place.

The full transcript for this interview can be read at the website for the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Oral Legal History website: http://www.law.upenn.edu/bll/oralhistory/. A videotape of the interview can be viewed in the Biddle Law Library.