My Chicago Law Moment: Patricia Latham, ’66, Found Joy in Following Her Curiosity

In the 50 years since Patricia Horan Latham, ’66, graduated from the Law School, she’s practiced corporate and securities law, worked as an arbitrator, taught business planning at a law school, advocated for students with learning disabilities, and written books on legal issues in education and employment.

She said she owes the diversity of her professional experience to the Law School, where she learned to challenge her own plans and remain open to new paths. When she first started law school, there were “possibilities that I hadn’t considered ahead of time,” she said.

For instance, she’d expected to prefer criminal law. Instead, it was contracts law that lit her up.

“I just loved it,” she said of her first-year Contracts class, which she took with then-Professor Malcolm Sharp. “It was absolutely fascinating to me—and not just because contracts law is very logical [and] very well put together. I also realized the importance of contracts law in terms of the functioning of a society, the functioning of an economy. Where would you be if you didn’t have a very well-thought-through contract law system? You wouldn’t get a lot done.”

After that, she studied corporations and taxation, courses she’d never expected to take. She found she was interested in shipping law, so she took a class on admiralty law, too.

By the time she graduated, she’d learned to revel in—and follow—her curiosity. And that became a guiding principle that opened up opportunity after opportunity.

While working at a law firm, she became interested in securities law. “So I spent some time at the Securities and Exchange Commission learning more about that,” she said. “Then I went out from there and practiced in the area of corporate and securities.”

Later, her husband mentioned that he enjoyed doing arbitration work, so Latham tried that, too. She now serves on the panel of arbitrators and mediators of the American Arbitration Association, handling cases in the employment and commercial areas, and serves as an arbitrator for Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

For a decade, she also worked as a lecturer teaching business planning at the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America, where she discovered that she loved interacting with students. She also served as president of the Learning Disabilities Association of America and was a founding member of Beacon College, the first institution of higher education in the country accredited to award bachelor degrees exclusively to students with learning disabilities, ADHD, and other learning differences. 

She also began writing books with her husband, Peter, related to learning disabilities, including Special Education Law and Learning Disabilities/ADHD and the Law in Higher Education and Employment.

“All these things that I tried I enjoyed enormously, and [my willingness to try so many things goes] back to my Law School days,” she said. “It was a tremendously broadening experience.”

My Chicago Law Moment is a series highlighting the Law School ideas, experiences, and approaches that have impacted our students and alumni. Video produced by Will Anderson.