Response Magazine | Seattle Life | Student Life

BrittaLisa Gess: Sociology major with a global and intersectional focus

BrittaLisa GessConflicts Counsel at Lane Powell PC


Islamic Studies (student-designed) and Sociology majors 2008 


As conflicts counsel and manager of conflicts at Lane Powell, Gess reviews the firm’s new matters for conflicts and resolves conflicts of interest, while developing risk management policies aimed at bringing new business into the firm in an efficient and ethically responsible manner. Gess is a member of the Firm Management team and has spent much of the past six months designing and rolling out an entirely new conflicts and intake system for the firm. In addition to her efforts soliciting feedback from stakeholders and training users on this new system, a typical day involves advising firm attorneys on ethics issues, drafting waivers and other client correspondence, and adapting firm strategy to the changing landscape of the Pacific Northwest legal industry.

How does your time at SPU connect to the work you’re doing today?

SPU gave me the opportunity to better understand the world both through study abroad and courses in Seattle taught by globally minded professors. This process helped me learn how to think critically about my own potential and how I might use my abilities to positively impact marginalized communities in my immediate environment. I am grateful for SPU for empowering the faculty associated with these classes to provide a place where difficult issues could be discussed and preconceived notions could be challenged.

Who made a difference in your SPU education?

Drs. Kevin Neuhouser, Don Holsinger, and Jennifer McKinney immediately come to mind when I reflect on those who really impacted my time at SPU. Dr. Holsinger supported me in my initiative to write a new major and graduate as SPU’s first Islamic studies major while Dr. Neuhouser helped me navigate the waters of concurrently majoring in sociology.

Their guidance and encouragement was pivotal as I faced push back from many in the SPU administration at the time. Dr. McKinney’s sociology classes were those stereotypical “blow your mind” type of experiences where I was given the space to question preconceived notions of gender and I believe made me into the feminist I am today.

What advice do you have for students about life after graduation?

Have a plan, but don’t forego risk in the pursuit of predictability. And maintain skepticism when somebody tells you that something can’t be done; examine whether you might just be the first person to do it.

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