IIT Chicago-Kent student Tamara Starks awarded first Sandra P. Zemm Labor Law Prize

Seyfarth Shaw LLP established prize in memory of Labor & Employment department partner

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tamara Starks, a third-year student at Chicago-Kent College of Law, has been awarded the first Sandra P. Zemm Labor Law Prize. The prize was established last year at Chicago-Kent by the law firm of Seyfarth Shaw LLP to honor the memory of Sandra P. Zemm, who died in September 2008 after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Third-year student Tamara Starks, winner of the inaugural Sandra P. Zemm Labor Law Prize
Third-year student Tamara Starks, winner of the inaugural Sandra P. Zemm Labor Law Prize

A Chicago native, Sandra P. Zemm earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois. She received her J.D. from the Florida State University, where she served as managing editor of the law review.

Sandra Zemm joined Seyfarth Shaw in 1975 as the first female associate in the Labor and Employment practice. In 1982, Ms. Zemm became the firm's first female equity partner in Labor and Employment. Her practice concentrated on traditional labor matters and on matters involving employment discrimination, wage-hour, and employment litigation. She negotiated collective bargaining and/or shutdown agreements with major labor unions, and represented management in more than 200 hearings before arbitrators, the National Labor Relations Board and various state labor agencies. In 2002, Ms. Zemm was elected to the American College of Labor and Employment Lawyers.

"Sandy was a unique combination of a tough-as-nails advocate and an elegant, sophisticated woman. She inspired many of us who came to the firm after her, as she was a model lawyer who could thrive in the trenches in her work life and still conduct her personal life with style and grace," said Allegra Rich, Pro Bono and Philanthropy Partner at Seyfarth Shaw. "We miss Sandy, and are happy to be able to honor her by establishing this award."

The Sandra P. Zemm Labor Law Prize is awarded annually to a third-year Chicago-Kent student in the labor and employment law certificate program who exemplifies the qualities that Ms. Zemm possessed: "a commitment to pursue a career in labor and employment law, a pioneer spirit and willingness to take the initiative whenever possible, and a gracious and generous attitude toward helping those in need." Recipients are selected by Chicago-Kent faculty who teach the law school's Program in Labor and Employment Law.

"I have been privileged to work with Tamara since she began law school in August 2007. She is never less than a consummate professional in everything she does," said Professor Mary Rose Strubbe, assistant director of the Institute for Law and the Workplace and director of the Legal Research and Writing Program. "But 'professional' does not begin to do justice to her contributions to Chicago-Kent.

"Tamara works full time in a demanding job," Professor Strubbe continued. "In addition, she mentors other students in the Program in Labor and Employment Law, works with the evening law students' group and with the Student Bar Association, and has been my teaching assistant this year for Legal Writing I & II. She works incredibly hard, is a perfectionist in everything she does, and still finds time to care about other students' success. She is a wonderful person, will be a great lawyer, and is a worthy recipient of the inaugural Sandra Zemm Prize."

Tamara Starks earned a bachelor of science in communications from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a graduate degree in history from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Starks has worked for the Associated Press in various positions since 1990, and is a member of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association's board of directors. In addition, Starks currently works as a law clerk at the Chicago firm of James D. Montgomery and Associates.

At Chicago-Kent, Starks has regularly been named to the Dean's List. She is a member of the Black Law Student Association and has held executive positions with the Labor and Employment Law Society, Evening Law Student Society and Student Bar Association. In April 2010, Starks was named to Chicago-Kent's Bar & Gavel Society for students who have distinguished themselves through outstanding service to the law school, the community and the legal profession. She will begin a judicial externship in August 2010 with the Honorable Amy St. Eve of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Seyfarth Shaw is home to more than 750 attorneys located in ten offices throughout the United States, including Chicago, New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento, as well as Brussels, Belgium. The firm provides a broad range of legal services in the areas of labor and employment, business services, employee benefits and litigation. Seyfarth Shaw's practice reflects virtually every industry and segment of the country's business and social fabric. Clients include over 300 of the Fortune 500 companies, financial institutions, newspapers and other media, hotels, health care organizations, airlines and railroads. The firm also represents a number of federal, state and local governmental and educational entities.

Chicago-Kent College of Law is the law school of Illinois Institute of Technology, a private, Ph.D.-granting university with more than 7,700 students in engineering, sciences, architecture, psychology, design, humanities, business and law. With more than 1,100 students, Chicago-Kent offers full-time and part-time J.D. and LL.M. degree programs as well as joint-degree programs with other IIT units. Chicago-Kent's Program in Labor and Employment Law allows students to specialize in the law governing the workplace.