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Holzman Center speaker on the power of persuasion

Kathleen Sullivan, a highly regarded lawyer and law professor, offered students lessons on ethics and the power of persuasion during an assembly on December 13 as part of the school’s Holzman Center of Applied Ethics Distinguished Speaker Series. The former professor of law at Harvard and Stanford Law School Dean reflected on her career in law, her experience arguing eleven cases before the Supreme Court, and the importance of building a “portfolio of arguments” that speaks to an audience of varied decision-makers.
Director of the Holzman Center and Associate Head of School John A. King, Jr. introduced Sullivan, who took the stage in conversation with John O’Sullivan P'14, '21, co-founder of the Holzman Center and notably, Sullivan’s colleague at the law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.

Drawing from experience as an appellate lawyer, Sullivan shared examples where she had to find common ground with her audience and play the long game, understanding that there are always ups and downs.

Remarking on her career in law, Sullivan said, “John and I are privileged to be partners at a law firm where we have such a diverse range of cases. We go in to work every day knowing that what we do with words can change outcomes. I think that’s what motivated me to go into this great profession of the law. It was the notion that words and persuasion and reasonable discourse can change outcomes and can change lives.”

Sullivan told students that she had never betrayed her personal code of ethics for a client, even when she could have made a lot of money, and left students with parting words of advice, “The most important thing you can take from your Ransom Everglades education is critical thinking and trying to listen to the other side… Be contrarian, use critical thinking, try to learn more from this vast universe of information.”

Following the conversation with O’Sullivan that ranged from free speech issues to discrimination cases, Sullivan took questions from students in the audience, met individually with students and visited with students in our Applied Ethics in the Humanities class, taught by Jenny Carson ’03. There, she told students that “character is the most important thing.”

The Holzman Center of Applied Ethics Distinguished Speaker Series opened in November 2021 with the goal of empowering students to engage in ethical decision-making and to act with honor, excellence and integrity at RE and beyond. The Holzman Center’s next scheduled speaker on January 31, 2023, is Josephine Linden, principal of Linden Global Strategies, LLC, chair of the board of directors at Land’s End, and formerly the head of Global Equities Compliance at Goldman Sachs.
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.