The Sharon L. King Alumni Award recognizes outstanding professional achievement among Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) former legal fellows and interns. Sharon joined LCBH as a volunteer in the Attorney of the Day Program in 1997 and then became a member of the Board of Directors, serving two terms as President.
LCBH is grateful for Sharon's long service and the contributions she has made to sustain the future of LCBH. If you are a former staff member, board member, or intern, we encourage you to Share Your Story.
Tell us about your legal career. Where did you work, and what type of law did you practice?
My legal career began when I graduated from college and became fully aware of women's lack of workplace opportunities. Mount Holyoke College, a women's college in Massachusetts, had affirmed my understanding from childhood that women could and should make their opportunities, so I enrolled in law school even though the legal profession was not particularly welcoming to women at that time.
At Valparaiso University School of Law, I was the only woman student in the entire law school, and the faculty was all male. Fortunately, unlike for other women in law school at that time, I had a supportive law school experience. I graduated first in my class but then was faced with law firms generally not hiring women. Again, good fortune arose. I was accepted on the Attorney General's Honor Program at the United States Department of Justice, where I had the opportunity to brief and argue federal tax cases in United States Courts of Appeal throughout the country for about four and a half years. During that time, I also received an LLM in Taxation from Georgetown Law School.
When it came time to consider exploring private practice, Paul Dean, the then Dean of Georgetown Law School, volunteered to introduce me to Chicago Law Firms, which still were reluctant to hire women lawyers. Still, it was where I thought I would have the best chance. I was hired by the historic firm of Isham, Lincoln, and Beale as an Associate and later became a partner of that firm. At Isham, Lincoln, and Beale, I represented electric utilities in Federal tax controversies, which included briefing and arguing a tax case in the United States Supreme Court that resulted in overruling a unanimous decision in the Seventh Court of Appeals. Later, I subsequently became a Partner at Sidley Austin LLP in Chicago. I was involved in both the Bar Association and Pro Bono activities throughout my years in private practice.
How did you first get involved with LCBH?
My first involvement with LCBH came about around 1997. I do not recall precisely how I learned about LCBH and its excellent work, but I do remember how intrigued I was with the Attorney of the Day program and the opportunity for hands-on involvement. I signed up for the LCBH Attorney of the Day program, which provided a direct experience with the difficulties tenants faced in the Eviction Court without legal representation. This was the beginning of a long involvement with the work of LCBH. I served on the Board for many years, first as Treasurer and ultimately as President. During that time, I had the privilege of working with outstanding staff and volunteers and have seen LCBH grow into the genuinely remarkable organization it has become. I am pleased to have been honored by LCBH as a recipient of the Founder’s Award in 2006 and the Legacy Award (now the Sharon L. King Legacy Award) in 2012.
Your leadership as a board member helped LCBH to endow the Brach-Brodie Legal Fellowship. It allows LCBH to hire a recent law school graduate for a one-year position. Why was creating this important to you?
I was instrumental in the establishment of the Brach-Brodie Endowment in 2008. It funds a fellowship that allows LCBH to hire a recent law school graduate each year for a one-year position. The establishment of this endowment was important to me because it allowed LCBH to continue attracting young lawyers to its mission and encouraging them to help continue the work of LCBH.
What advice do you have for new attorneys just starting in their careers?
American author and poet Maya Angelou said it best: "You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you." I would add that your law degree offers you many opportunities to represent clients and help others less fortunate through pro bono activities. LCBH is an excellent example of a not-for-profit organization where lawyers can make a significant difference.