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Updated 1:00 PM June 24, 2003



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The legal team: Liz Barry

Liz Barry spent part of an afternoon last week filling out an alumni survey for the Law School. A 1988 graduate, Barry saw the exercise as a time to reflect on her days at the University 15 years ago.

Now the managing director of the Life Sciences Institute, Liz Barry was instrumental in many stages of the defense of the lawsuits. (File photo by Bob Kalmbach, U-M Photo Services)

At the same time, Barry also found herself looking back on a time when she dealt with legal issues at U-M in a different capacity. As the campus awaited the Supreme Court's decision in the two affirmative action lawsuits, Barry recalled her involvement in the cases when she worked for five years in the Office of the Vice President and General Counsel.

"When we first started [defending the lawsuits], no one knew they would become as important as they have, but we did understand the importance of the issue," says Barry, who served as the primary in-house lawyer and media spokesperson for the cases from their inception through April 2002. "When the cases started, many people thought affirmative action was a dead issue. The University can take a lot of credit in reacquainting people to the value of diversity."

Barry currently serves as managing director of the Life Sciences Institute. The last time she was involved with the cases was at the appeals court level; she later attended the oral arguments April 1 in Washington, D.C.

"It is great to see something you worked on argued before the Supreme Court," she says. "It is a dream come true for any lawyer."

Because she is so involved in the University—as an alumnus of LSA and the Law School, and as a U-M employee—the cases are not just any litigation for Barry. After working as an attorney at Harvard University, Barry and her husband returned to her hometown of Ann Arbor in November 1996. She took a position as director of academic human resources.

Later, she served as interim co-general counsel from February 1997-November 1998, and associate vice president and deputy general counsel from 1998-2002.

Barry says while she was a student, she was affected profoundly by the University's diversity. "I had never been exposed to it on such a large scale," she says. "It opened up a whole new world for me."

Barry continues to see the value of diversity while teaching a higher education law course as an adjunct professor in the Law School. "I have an overwhelming feeling of pride," she says. "This is my university, and I am proud of the stance U-M took on such an important issue."

For the past 18 months, Barry's focus has been the Life Sciences Institute. She says everything is coming together for the institute's fall opening.

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