Cassandra L. Feeney, Esq. and Etie-Lee Schaub, Esq.
This series was inspired by Roger Williams University School of Law’s annual Women in Robes event, and was created in alliance with their exciting new project The First Women, which recognizes and honors the first women of the Rhode Island bar.
I wanted to change the world and help those in need,” explained Lise Iwon when describing why she left her job as a teacher in Wisconsin to attend law school in New Hampshire. As a 1L at the Franklin Pierce Law Center, she met Margaret “Peg” Laurence, who later became her partner in life and in law. Together, they were committed to leading their lives in the pursuit of helping others.
After law school, Peg and Lise founded Laurence & Iwon in Wakefield, RI. While Peg worked primarily in real estate law, Lise focused on family law, working at times as a court-appointed advocate for abused or neglected children and working for the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”).
As a lesbian litigator, Lise bore witness to shocking incidents of unconscionable behavior performed by members of our bar.
In one case where she sought a restraining order on behalf of her client, opposing counsel requested a chambers conference. Lise had never participated in a chambers conference, but was appalled when opposing counsel alleged that Lise’s client was performing sexual services for money. Lise clarified for the judge that the statement was untrue and said, “If this is how chambers conferences go, I am walking out,” which she did. Outside of chambers, opposing counsel confronted her about why she left. She explained that he had lied to the judge—to which he then threatened her, saying Lise should “watch her back.”
During another chambers conference held to discuss an agreed-upon dismissal of a traffic ticket, a judge, while smoking a cigar, ordered Lise to spit out her mint because he “hated the scent of mint.” He stated he recognized her as working with the ACLU and “marching in a gay pride parade.” He revealed...