Thelma Brook Simon (1940)  

First I must scoff at the tales some tell about law Schools being anti-feminist at that early time. My experience was quite the contrary, and I do not regard myself as a pioneer even though there were less than 5 women in our class of about 150. My initial contact with our Law School was when Dean Harry Bigelow helped me to regain my working half tuition scholarship I initially rejected. My assigned job was translating for Prof. Max Rheinstein pertinent French labor law articles for the book he was writing. It couldn’t have been a better job. Since I had been a French major in my undergraduate work at the university of Illinois in Urbana, and professor Rheinstein was a patient teacher. The following year when I had him for Wills we all learned what an employer, “if we were lucky enough to graduate, pass the Bar and get a job” – would expect of a law clerk in terms of research, writing, and being on time “regardless of the weather.” From him I learned to prepare legal memoranda, which I later utilized fully as Law Clerk for the Illinois Supreme Court, a job I held for about 20 years.

My most challenging class that first year and perhaps throughout our Law School, was in Professor Edward Levi’s course, “Elements and Materials of the Law.” His wit was sharp, but so was his mind. He had no favorites among the large class. Nor did he demean any of the students, men or women, for not thinking as fast as he did. He directed our attention to the history of the law, to its philosophy, to the great scholars, to applying philosophical concepts to practical legal problems. I shall never forget the all night sessions of writing and rewriting the multitude of papers he requested. And he read each paper-even wrote remarks on them. I kept the major project I wrote on the history of Minimum Wage Laws—analyzed in terms of all the facets of the law that we had studied. I later used that “paper” as research when I wrote the memoranda on the validity of the Illinois law for our Supreme Court.

Winning the Moot Court competition in which our entire class had to compete was a highlight, and I enjoyed writing for the Law Review. As a Note writer I spent hours of original research downtown interviewing the lawyers adjudicating a new administrative law, to ascertain the problems involved. However, the Assistant Editor assigned to my Note failed to take cognizance of that aspect, and told me, on completion of the Note, that the subject had been covered by another Review. Time waster? No, for I never became that kind of an Assistant Editor myself in my senior year.

The most brilliant highlight was graduating from the majestic Rockefeller Chapel knowing that I was ready to take the Bar, and hopefully make a difference eventually in the quality of justice—or at least help level the playing field of the Law. I hope I did; as Law Clerk for the Supreme Court of Illinois for over 20 years; as elected Trustee on the Village Board of Wilmette for 8 years; President of the Women’s Bar Association in 1956; and a Professor Law teaching Administrative Law and Torts at The John Marshall Law School in the early ‘70’s; and by rearing two sons, one an honored Professor of English Literature, and one a “respected Washington Attorney,” in the words of the New York Times.