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The University of Houston Law Center Faculty

Renee  Knake Jefferson



Renee Knake Jefferson

Professor of Law and the Joanne and Larry Doherty Chair in Legal Ethics
Director, Law Center Outcomes and Assessments

Professor Renee Knake Jefferson holds the Doherty Chair in Legal Ethics at the University of Houston Law Center, and is an internationally recognized expert on legal and judicial ethics.  At the Law Center, she currently teaches Professional Responsibility and a writing seminar on leadership. Other courses previously taught include Constitutional Law, Federal Jurisdiction, Entrepreneurial Lawyering, the First Amendment and Lawyer Speech, and 21st Century Law Practice.

An award-winning scholar, she is the author of five books and more than 30 academic articles in leading journals such as Fordham Law Review, Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Illinois Law Review, Ohio State Law Journal, Washington & Lee Law Review, Washington Law Review, and Yale Law Journal Forum. Her book, Shortlisted: Women in the Shadows of the Supreme Court, has been called “an excellent contribution” by the Library Journal and praised in numerous reviews. Jefferson’s work is frequently cited in range of media including the Associated Press, Bloomberg Law, CNN, Houston Chronicle, New York Times, Newsweek, Politico, Slate, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. She regularly appears on radio and television news shows, including MSNBC and National Public Radio.

Professor Jefferson often is called upon to consult and testify as an expert on lawyer and judicial ethics matters, including appearances before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary and the Supreme Court of Texas. She serves as a subject matter expert for the National Conference of Bar Examiners on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, and is a member of the West Academic Law School Advisory Board.

In 2015, Professor Jefferson was a scholar-in-residence at Stanford Law School's Center on the Legal Profession and a visiting scholar at the American Bar Foundation. In 2019, she held the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University in Australia, where she conducted research for her forthcoming book, Law Democratized: A Blueprint for Solving the Justice Crisis.

Professor Jefferson has been selected for a range of leadership roles. She currently sits on the board of directors for the International Association of Legal Ethics. She was elected to the American Law Institute in 2017, and was named a fellow of the American Bar Foundation in 2016. She is a past-chair for the Association of American Law Schools Section on Professional Responsibility. She was appointed as a reporter for the American Bar Association Presidential Commission on the Future of Legal Services from 2014-16. She served as a delegate to the World Economic Form Global Agenda Councils on Justice (2014-16) and Rule of Law (2013-14).

Prior to joining the University of Houston faculty in 2016, Jefferson held the Foster Swift Professorship of Legal Ethics and was co-director of the Frank J. Kelley Institute of Ethics and the Legal Profession at Michigan State University College of Law, where she taught for a decade. During her time at Michigan State, she co-founded and secured substantial funding for the law school's inaugural program on technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation in legal services, recently recognized as a top program in the nation. She currently serves on the Michigan State University Board of Trustees, appointed in 2019.

Before her academic career, Professor Jefferson practiced law at Mayer Brown in Chicago and Hunton & Williams in Richmond, where she specialized in commercial litigation, telecommunications, and labor/employment law. She also worked as an Assistant City Attorney for Charlottesville, Virginia. She earned her J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School.

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