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Verna L. Williams

CEO

Verna L. Williams (she/her) is the CEO of Equal Justice Works. In her role as CEO, Verna has continued to advance the mission of Equal Justice Works to create opportunities for leaders to transform their passion for equal justice into a lifelong commitment to public service.

Verna brings with her an extensive background of experience teaching and practicing law, as well as researching civil and women’s rights. Verna previously served as the dean of the University of Cincinnati College of Law, where she was a professor prior to becoming dean, and taught courses on family law, gender discrimination, and constitutional law. Additionally, she founded and co-directed the Judge Nathaniel Jones Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice at the University of Cincinnati.

Before her work at the University of Cincinnati, Verna was the vice president and director of educational opportunities at the National Women’s Law Center, where she focused on gender equity in education. In this role, she was the lead counsel and successfully argued before the United States Supreme Court Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, which established that educational institutions have a duty to respond to and address complaints of student-to-student sexual harassment.

Verna clerked for the Honorable David S. Nelson, U.S. District Judge for the District of Massachusetts. After the clerkship, she practiced law at Sidley Austin LLP and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Verna also has a background in research, which examines the intersection of race, gender, and class in law and policy. She has authored and co-authored many articles and essays on her area of expertise.

Among her other achievements, Verna has presented papers at the Latina/o Critical Race Theory Conference and meetings of the Association of Law, Culture, and the Humanities. She also served as a consultant for the Ford Foundation, where she chaired the convening of a national conference at UC entitled Women Coming Together: Claiming the Law for Social Change. 

Verna received the Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 2004 and 2011. She was recently honored by the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati, the Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati, and the Cincinnati Bar Association, which presented her with the Themis Award for exemplary service to the law and the community.

Verna is a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School and Georgetown University.

If you have a media inquiry for Verna, please reach out to Lakeshia Garrett at [email protected]

Media

How Lawyers Can Help Communities Prepare for Disaster: An Interview with Verna Williams

Public Interest Attorneys Are Key To Preserving Voting Rights

Law360 Announces The Members Of Its 2024 Editorial Boards

A Year Full of Gratitude: A Message from Equal Justice Works CEO Verna Williams

Equal Justice Works Shares an Excerpt from Verna Williams’ Remarks to the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati’s Annual Racial Justice Breakfast

2023 Coen Lecture: Let's Talk About Race, Featuring Verna Williams

Affirmative Action Counteraction Requires Philanthropy to Step Up

The 65th Annual John R. Coen Lecture Addresses Affirmative Action in Universities

Over Half of Forbes’ 2023 ’50 Over 50′ List Are Black Women

Forbes 50 Over 50: Verna Williams

Forbes 50 Over 50: Impact 2023

He Crushed the Bar Exam, but the Legal Profession Remains Disproportionately White

Asians in a World Without Affirmative Action

Law Firms Can Go Beyond Pro Bono to Expand Access to Justice

Equal Justice Works CEO on Diversifying Public Interest Law

Only Five Percent of Lawyers are Black. This Attorney Wants to Change That.

Historically Diverse Supreme Court Hears Disproportionately From White Lawyers

Equal Justice Works Names Verna Williams as CEO

New Equal Justice Works CEO Aims to Increase Public Interest Fellowships

Equal Justice Works Names Law School Dean As New CEO