story BY Laurence Roy Stains
DEGREE: JD, Beasley School of Law, 1993
OCCUPATION: Prosecuting pioneer
LOCATION: Clarks Summit, Pa.
On Nov. 6, 2012, Kathleen Kane, LAW ´93, made history twice in one night: The 46-year-old prosecutor from Scranton, Pa., was the first woman and the first Democrat to be elected attorney general since Pennsylvania´s voters began deciding that office in 1980.
Quite literally, she worked her way up from the bottom: She made her way through the Beasley School of Law by mopping floors.
Each Friday after class, she would hop in her Toyota Celica and drive back to Scranton. "I´d clean office buildings in Scranton on my way home," she recalls.
"I´d clean again on Saturday, then drive back to Temple on Sunday. Some nights, I would actually clean in my suit."
But the hard work and travel was worth it. "I loved Temple," Kane says, and recalls the Law School´s practicums—coursework in which students work with lawyers on real-world problems—as a particularly good fit for her learn-by-doing style. Her first experience was with the Philadelphia Homeless Advocacy Project.
"We went into homeless shelters in North Philadelphia and acted as [residents´] lawyers," she recalls. Another practicum brought her to the U.S. Attorney´s Office in Philadelphia, but that was not her first taste of the prosecutorial side of the law. When she was 13, she and her sister got summer jobs transferring criminal cases to microfilm through a federal program that introduced low-income students to the public-service sector.
After graduation, Kane worked in the Philadelphia law firm of Post & Schell for two years before returning to her hometown to become an assistant district attorney in Lackawanna County. She spent 12 years working as a prosecutor on sex-crimes cases before deciding to run for office. Kane faced an uphill primary battle against a popular former congressman, Patrick Murphy, and a Democratic Party whose local officials had never heard of her.
"When I first decided to run, people asked me, ´Why don´t you run for the school board?´" she says. "And I would say, ´I´m a prosecutor, not a teacher.´ Everyone was surprised that this was my first election, but I believed I could do it. I believed I had a lot to offer." And that is her message to other women who face uphill battles of their own: "If you believe you have a lot to offer, go for it."
Kane will spread that message to future lawyers this spring, when she returns to Main Campus to speak at the Law School´s Commencement ceremony in May.
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