Professor Kat Macfarlane Named Director of the Syracuse University College of Law Disability Law and Policy Program with Founder Professor Arlene Kanter Retiring after the 2023-24 Academic Year

Noted disability rights scholar Professor Kat Macfarlane is the new Director of the Syracuse University College of Law’s groundbreaking Disability Law and Policy Program (DLPP). Macfarlane comes to the College from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights where she was Special Counsel. DLPP founder and director Professor Arlene Kanter is planning to retire next year, after teaching for more than 35 years at the College of Law.

Created by Kanter in 2005, DLPP is the most extensive disability-related law school program in the United States. Students who participate in this program often go on to jobs in the areas of disability, education, special education, children’s rights, civil rights, labor, employment, trusts and estates, and international human rights law. It also houses the nation’s first joint J.D./M.S. degree program in Law and Disability Studies as well as a Curricular Program in Disability Law and Policy. DLPP students also can work in the Disability Law Clinic and at disability-related externships, gaining valuable hands-on experience with real clients.

“Professor Kanter is a globally recognized expert in disability law and a steadfast advocate for people with disabilities. While her retirement is well-deserved, she will be missed by our faculty, staff, students, and alumni,” says College of Law Dean Craig M. Boise. “And we’re all anxious to see the direction Professor Macfarlane will lead the DLPP as she builds on the College’s position as the leader in the disability space in legal education.”

Prior to joining the College of Law faculty, Professor Macfarlane served as an associate professor at Southern University Law Center and the University of Idaho College of Law and as a teaching fellow at the Louisiana State University Hebert Law Center. Prior to joining academia, Professor Macfarlane was an Assistant Corporation Counsel in the New York City Law Department serving as lead counsel in federal civil rights actions. As an associate in Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan’s Los Angeles and New York offices, she represented plaintiffs in securities litigation. She clerked for the District of Arizona and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

One of the accomplishments of the DLPP has been to recruit lawyers from around the world who wish to specialize in disability law by enrolling in the College of Law’s LL.M. and S.J.D. Programs, with Kanter serving as their advisor. Since its founding, hundreds of students have completed the joint degree, certificate program, Clinic, or disability concentration in the LL.M. program.  The DLPP is also the recipient of an international award for innovation in higher education.

“I am happy to know that Professor Macfarlane will continue the important work that the DLPP does in preparing future generations of disability lawyers, policymakers, and scholars,” says Kanter. “As a renowned scholar, Professor Macfarlane brings a deep understanding of disability law and the importance of using the law to  advocate for a more inclusive society.”

Graduates of DLPP now work for federal and state government agencies, private law firms, domestic and international non-governmental organizations, public interest law offices, legal services offices, school districts, policy organizations, and think tanks. Other graduates have started their own law practices or pursued LL.M. or Ph.D. degrees. 

“I am honored to become the new director of the Disability Law and Policy Program. Professor Kanter is a pioneer in the education of lawyers in the field of disability law and I plan to honor the impact she has made on disability law by ensuring the program continues to meet the needs of advocates worldwide,” says Macfarlane.

Both Professors Kanter and Macfarlane are recipients of the American Association of Law Schools’ Disability Law Section’s Distinguished Service Award.