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Ex-law dean passes bar on second try

By Sandra Gonzales
Mercury News
May 23, 2006

For Kathleen Sullivan -- the former dean of Stanford University's law school -- the California bar exam wasn't so tough the second time around.

Sullivan stunned the legal community last year when she failed her first go at the difficult three-day test. But a statement released Monday night by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, where Sullivan works, confirmed that Sullivan had passed the February exam. Her name also was on the California Bar Examination pass list that was released this weekend.

``I am very happy about becoming a member of the Bar of California,'' Sullivan said in the statement. ``Having practiced law for nearly 25 years as a member of the New York and Massachusetts bars, I am extremely excited about new opportunities to practice in California.''

After Sullivan resigned her post at Stanford Law School in 2004 to become an appellate attorney in the Redwood Shores office of the Los Angeles-based firm, she took the state's bar exam and failed. Sullivan had been licensed to practice law in New York and Massachusetts, but not in California.

Her failure at the time was particularly surprising, considering Sullivan's reputation as a nationally noted scholar who wrote a leading constitutional law textbook. California's examination is among the nation's toughest: According to the National Conference of Bar Examiners, only 44 percent of applicants passed the test in 2004, the lowest mark in the country.

She was the first woman to lead one of Stanford's schools when she was named dean in 1999, and she has repeatedly been mentioned as a potential nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sullivan, who was a professor at Harvard Law School before moving to Stanford, also has briefed and argued appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In March, she was named California Lawyer of the Year by the magazine California Lawyer for her appellate work in 2005. Among her work was her successful representation of California vintners and Michigan consumers before the U.S. Supreme Court in a dispute over the vintners' ability to ship wine to other states and consumers' ability to purchase out-of-state wines. Although Sullivan had yet to pass the California Bar Examination, she was licensed to practice law in federal courts, meaning she could work on cases affecting the state.

John Quinn, managing partner of the law firm, credited Sullivan for raising the firm's profile by helping it have the largest U.S. Supreme Court practice in California.

``Her work with Quinn Emanuel has elevated our firm's reputation with clients, fellow attorneys and law students,'' Quinn said in a statement.

Sullivan still teaches at Stanford's law school, where she leads the university's Constitutional Law Center.