Renee Knake is a Professor of Law and the Doherty Chair in Legal Ethics at the University of Houston Law Center. She also is a faculty affiliate of the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. Her current administrative leadership includes an appointment as the Director of Outcomes and Assessments. In this role, Professor Knake is responsible for leading the development and implementation of the Law Center's compliance with the American Bar Association (ABA) standards on learning outcomes and assessment of student learning. Her expertise and research interests include the first amendment and the regulation of attorney speech; lawyer advertising; legal ethics, especially conflicts of interest; judicial ethics; access to justice; entrepreneurship and innovation in the delivery of legal services; and gender and the legal profession. At the Law Center, she teaches Constitutional Law and Professional Responsibility.
Professor Knake joined the University of Houston faculty in 2016, after serving as the Foster Swift Professor of Legal Ethics and co-director of the 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 over $250,000 in funding for the law school's inaugural program on technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation in legal services, recently recognized as the top program in the nation. In 2015, she was a scholar-in-residence at Stanford Law School's Center on the Legal Profession and a visiting scholar at the American Bar Foundation.
She is an author of the casebook Professional Responsibility: A Contemporary Approach (West Publishing, 3rd Edition 2017) and more than 20 scholarly articles including publications in the Fordham Law Review, Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Ohio State Law Journal, and Washington & Lee Law Review. Her work has been cited in briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court, prestigious law reviews such as the Yale Law Journal, and a range of media including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, the ABA Journal, Bloomberg Law, and the American Lawyer. Professor Knake's forthcoming book, Shortlisted: Modern Lessons from Women Considered for the Supreme Court Before Sandra Day O'Connor, is under contract with New York University Press.
Professor Knake's research primarily focuses on innovation in the regulation of legal services, proposing access to justice reforms. Her article "Democratizing the Delivery of Legal Services" won the 2012 Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Professional Responsibility Section paper competition. Her most recent pieces "The Legal Monopoly, "Lawyer Speech in the Regulatory State," and "Legal Information, the Consumer Law Market, and the First Amendment" explore tensions between professional conduct rules and free speech values. She also studies the media's portrayal of nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court. Her article on this topic, "Rethinking Gender Equality in the Legal Profession's Pipeline to Power: A Study on Media Coverage of Supreme Court Nominees," was selected as a winner of the 2012 AALS New Voices in Gender paper competition.
Professor Knake is an internationally recognized expert on the future of legal services, and has been invited to speak about the topic throughout the United States and internationally in countries such as Canada, England, Guatemala, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates. She became a fellow of the American Bar Foundation in 2016, "an honorary organization of attorneys, judges, law faculty, and legal scholars whose public and private careers have demonstrated outstanding dedication to the welfare of their communities and to the highest principles of the legal profession, … limited to one percent of lawyers licensed to practice in each jurisdiction." In 2013, she was named an American Bar Association Journal "Legal Rebel," an "annual honors program for the change leaders of the legal profession" and a member of the Fastcase 50, an annual award that "recognizes 50 of the smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries, and leaders in the law." That same year she accepted the Innovation Award from the College of Law Practice Management, honoring "lawyers, law firms, and other deliverers of legal services who are currently engaged in some extraordinary innovative efforts." Her work on entrepreneurship and innovation in legal services was funded by a significant grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation from 2012-14.
Professor Knake has been selected for a range of leadership roles nationally and internationally. She currently is Treasurer for the AALS Section on Professional Responsibility. She was appointed as the 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).
Before her academic career, Professor Knake practiced law at Mayer, Brown in Chicago and Hunton & Williams in Richmond, Virginia, 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.