Helping Individuals Who Have Been Hurt By Others

Headshot of attorney Roxanne Barton Conlin

Roxanne Barton Conlin


Rated by Super Lawyers

Practice Areas

  • Trial and Appellate Practice
  • Personal Injury
  • Employment Discrimination
  • Medical Malpractice Law


Roxanne Conlin has her own law firm in Des Moines, where she exclusively represents people who have been harmed by others, whether by discrimination, products, doctors or vehicles.

She entered Drake University in 1961, when she was only 16, and graduated from law school with honors five years later at the age of 21.

From 1969 to 1976, she was an Assistant Attorney General for Iowa, where she was head of the Iowa Civil Rights section and fought race and sex discrimination. She also rewrote Iowa's inheritance laws; toughened the state's assault laws and blocked a merger of two major utilities that would have hurt the average consumer.

She left the Attorney General's Office to become a consultant to the United States Department of State for International Women's Year.

In 1977, she became one of the first two women ever to be a United States Attorney. Roxanne put heroin dealers behind bars and prosecuted white-collar crimes and corruption in public office. She also served as President of the Federal Executive Council, which is composed of the heads of all seventy federal agencies.

Roxanne has devoted much time to individual organizations and causes and community service. She founded and was the first chair of the Iowa Women's Political caucus, and was president and general counsel of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. She has been named by the National Law Journal as one of the fifty most influential women lawyers in America, one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America and one of the top 10 litigators.

Her achievements have brought such honors as induction into the Iowa Woman's Hall of Fame and national attention such as selection in 1975 as one of the 44 Women Who Could Save America and in 1976 as one of 44 Women Qualified for Cabinet Position.

In June of 1982, Roxanne won a three-way primary and became the Democratic nominee for Governor of Iowa. She was narrowly defeated in her effort to become that state's first Democratic governor in 14 years, and its first woman governor.

She has had many other firsts. She was the first woman president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, a 60,000 member organization of consumer attorneys. She was the first woman to chair the Roscoe Pound Foundation, a trial lawyers think tank. She was the founder and first chair of the Civil Justice Foundation, which provides direct support to grass roots organizations and disabled individuals.

She was inducted in 1995 into the Inner Circle of Advocates, limited to only 100 of the best plaintiff trial lawyers nationwide.

Recently, she was thrilled to have a law school scholarship named after her at the University of Missouri. She also received the Rosalie Wahl Award from the Minnesota Women Lawyers Association.

She married her husband, James, on March 21, 1964. They have raised four children and have five grandchildren.


Past Positions

  • Private Practice, 1966 to 1967
  • Deputy Industrial Commissioner, 1967 to 1968
  • State of Iowa, Assistant Attorney General and Director, Iowa Civil Rights Section, 1969 to 1976
  • Southern District of Iowa, U.S. Attorney, 1977 to 1981
  • Galligan and Conlin, P.C., 1983 to 1990
  • Roxanne Conlin & Associates, 1991 to 2020


  • Drake University Law School, Des Moines, Iowa
    • J.D. - 1966
    • Honors: Fischer Foundation Scholar
    • Honors: Representative, American Law Student Association
    • Honors: Dean: Kappa Beta Phi Legal Sorority, 1964
  • Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa
    • Master's Degree in Public Administration - 1979
    • Honors: Pi Alpha Alpha, Honorary Society in Public Affairs & Administration, 1978
  • Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa
    • Bachelor of Arts - 1964
    • Honors: Phi Beta Kappa
    • Honors: Alpha Lambda Delta, Women's Honorary Sorority
    • Honors: Chi Omega Social Service Award
    • Honors: National Merit Scholarship Finalist
    • Honors: Reader's Digest Scholar
  • Harvard University
    • Honors: Recipient, Seminar Grant: Limits of Positivism: Certainty & Justice in the Law


  • Adjunct Professor of Law, University of Iowa Law School, 1977 to 1979

Professional Associations

  • NITA, Board of Trustees, 2003 to 2006
  • National Center for State Court Lawyers Committee, 2003 to 2009
  • Roscoe Pound Foundation, President, 1994 to 1997
  • American Law Institute, Elected Membership, 1994
  • American Jury Trial Foundation, Trustee, 1993
  • Association of Trial Lawyers of America, President, 1992 to 1993
  • Association of Trial Lawyers of America, President-Elect, 1991 to 1992
  • Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Vice-President, 1990 to 1991
  • Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Secretary, 1989 to 1990
  • Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Parliamentarian, 1988 to 1989
  • Association of Trial Lawyers of America, ATLA-PAC Board of Directors, 1987 to 1989
  • Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Chair, Organization Review Committee
  • Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Chair, Education Committee
  • Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Chair, Membership Oversight Committee
  • Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Consumer and Victims Coalition Committee
  • Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Chair, Safety Conference Committee
  • Roscoe Pound Foundation, Member, Board of Governors, 1986 to 1992
  • National Association of Former United States Attorneys, Board of Directors, 1991 to 1999
  • Older Iowans' Permanent Fund Foundation, Advisory Board Member, 1991 to 1997
  • Animal Rescue League of Iowa, Honorary Board Member, 1990 to 1995
  • Blackstone Inn, American Inns, Master of the Bench, 1989
  • Higher Education Task Force of the State of Iowa, Co-Chair, 1988 to 1992
  • Coalition for Women's Appointments, Advisory Board, 1988 to 1990
  • Civil Justice Foundation, President, 1986 to 1988
  • Council on Judicial Selection, Appointed by Chief Justice Reynoldsen, 1986 to 1986
  • YWCA, Board of Directors, 1986 to 1988
  • Drake University Law School Endowment Trust, Chair, Board of Governors, 1985 to 1986
  • Association of Trial Lawyers of Iowa, Board of Governors, 1984 to 1995
  • NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, Board of Directors, 1983 to 1989
  • NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, President, 1986 to 1988
  • NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, General Counsel, 1985 to 1986
  • Dowling High School, Board of Directors, 1981
  • Federal Executive Council, President, Vice-President, 1979 to 1981
  • Des Moines Chamber of Commerce, Member, 1979
  • Iowa Shares Program, Board of Directors, 1978 to 1980
  • National Women's Political Caucus, Advisory Board, 1977
  • Drake University Law School, Law Board of Counselors, 1977 to 1985
  • Upper Midwest Council - Critical Choice Project, Panelist, 1976 to 1977
  • Youth for Understanding, Bicentennial Committee of Iowa, 1976 to 1976
  • National Women's Political Caucus, Administrative Committee Member, 1975 to 1977
  • Polk County Rape/Sexual Assault Care Center, Board of Directors, 1974 to 1977
  • Riverhills Day Care Center, Board of Directors, 1974 to 1975
  • Iowa Women's Political Caucus, Founder & State Chairperson, 1973 to 1975
  • Iowa Commission on the Status of Women, 1972 to 1978
  • American Bar Association, Member, 1966
  • Iowa Bar Association, Member, 1966
  • Iowa Bar Association, Member, Bar Review Committee, 1987 to 1992
  • Iowa Bar Association, Career Day Panel, Member, 1987 to 1992
  • Iowa Bar Association, Member, Federal Practice Committee, 1987 to 1992
  • Iowa Bar Association, Member, Uniform Court Instructions Committee, 1987 to 1992
  • Iowa Democratic Party, Chair, 1998 to 1999
  • Senior Women's Strategy Council - Mondale/Ferraro Campaign, Member, 1984 to 1984
  • Women for Harkin Committee, Co-Chair, 1984 to 1984
  • Food & Agricultural Policies for Democratic National Committee-Philadelphia, Chair of the Panel, 1982 to 1982
  • Carter for President, Headquarters Volunteer, 1976 to 1976
  • National Mid-term Convention, Vice-Chair of Iowa Delegation, 1974 to 1974
  • Iowa Democratic State Conventions-Delegate, Member of the Platform, Rules and By-Laws Committee, 1964 to 1974
  • Polk County Democratic Party, Precinct Committeewoman, 1966 to 1972
  • Hughes for United States Senate, Volunteer, 1968 to 1968
  • Iowa Young Democrats, National Committeewoman, 1965
  • Polk County Young Democrats, President, 1964 to 1966
  • Hughes for Governor, Volunteer, 1966 to 1966
  • Hughes for Governor, Volunteer, 1964 to 1964
  • Hughes for Governor, Volunteer, 1962 to 1962
  • Department of Justice, Iowa Civil Rights Section, Director, 1969 to 1976
  • United States Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year, Consultant, 1976 to 1977
  • United States Attorneys, Attorney General's Advisory Committee, 1977 to 1981
  • Attorney General's Advocacy Institute, Consultant, 1977 to 1981
  • Iowa Trial Lawyers Association, Board of Governors

Certified Legal Specialties

  • Certified Civil Trial Advocate, National Board of Trial Advocacy, 1991

Current Employment Positions

  • Partner

Bar Admissions

  • Iowa, 1966


  • Association of Trial Lawyers of America, National College of Advocacy, Diplomate of Trial Advocacy, 2005
  • Iowa Juneteenth Observance Liberty Award
  • The Iowa Shares Special Recognition Award
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg Award, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Association of Trial Lawyers of America
  • Mary Louis Smith Human Rights Award, Des Moines Human Rights Commission
  • Very Special Arts of Iowa Award
  • Elected to Membership, College of Labor and Employment Lawyers
  • United Way Award, Young Women's Resource Center
  • Named One of the Ten Most Influential Women Attorneys, National Law Journal
  • Mary Louis Smith Award for Racial Justice, YWCA
  • Marie Lambert Award for Equality for Women , Association of Trial Lawyers of America
  • Selected as One of Twelve Most Influential Women by the Des Moines Business Record
  • Named One of the Fifty Most Influential Lawyers by Des Moines Register
  • Martindale Hubbell Bar Register of Preeminent Attorneys
  • International Society of Lawyers for Public Service
  • Annual Roxanne Barton Conlin Scholarship Established by Kansas City Association of Women Lawyers
  • Rosalie Wahl Leadership Award from the Minnesota Women Lawyers Association
  • Named: 'The Fifty Most Influential Women Lawyers in America' by the National Law Journal
  • Named Woman of the Year by the Metro Women's Network
  • Featured in Best Lawyers in America
  • Elected to Membership in the Inner Circle of Advocates
  • Elected to Membership in the American Law Institute
  • APEX Award Recognizing Excellence in Opinion Column Writing for President's Page in Trial of June 1993
  • Verne Lawyer Outstanding Member Award from the Iowa Association of Trial Lawyers
  • Elected to Membership in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers
  • Life Fellow of the Iowa State Bar Association
  • Featured in the Book, More Strongminded Women, by Louise Noun (ISU Press)
  • Named: One of 100 Most Influential Lawyers in the Nation by National Law Journal
  • Elected to Membership in the Iowa Academy of Trial Lawyers
  • Diplomat of the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys
  • Outstanding Alumni Award, Drake University Law School
  • Woman of Vision Award, Young Women's Resource Center
  • Named: One of the Top Ten Litigators in an Article in National Law Journal
  • Iowa Citizens Action Network Annual Award for Public Service
  • Iowa Women's Hall of Fame
  • Omicron Delta Kappa Alumni Member
  • Award for Outstanding Assistance - United States Secret Service
  • Special Commendation - Director of Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Special Commendation - United States Postal Inspection Service
  • Chosen: McCall's Magazine Article, November Issue as One of 44 Women Who Qualified for a Cabinet Position
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Dubuque
  • Chosen: Redbook Magazine Article as One of '44 Women Who Could Save America"
  • Outstanding Service to Civil Liberties Presented by the Iowa Civil Liberties Union
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Outstanding Service by Amalgamated Meat Cutters & Butcher Workmen of N.A. AFL-CIO
  • Outstanding Young Woman of Iowa
  • Who's Who in America
  • Who's Who in American Law
  • Who's Who of American Women
  • Who's Who in the Middlewest
  • Who's Who in Politics
  • Dictionary of International Biography
  • World's Who's Who of Women
  • The Best Lawyers in America
  • Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers
  • Democratic Nominee for Governor of Iowa
  • Who's Who in Government

Pro-Bono Activities

  • National Pro Bono Effort for the Victims of September 11th Tragedy, Board of Directors Trial Lawyers Care, 2001 to 2004

Representative Cases

  • Gail v. Clark, 410 N.W.2d 662, 1987, Iowa, 1987092443
  • Cedar Rapids Community School Dist. v. Parr, 227 N.W.2d 486, 1975, Iowa, 1975118175
  • State v. West, 252 N.W.2d 457, 1977, Iowa, 1977110459
  • State v. Bartz, 224 N.W.2d 632, 1974, Iowa, 1974119323
  • U. S. v. May, 625 F.2d 186, 1980, C.A.8 (Iowa), 1980118705
  • Doe v. Cherwitz, 518 N.W.2d 362, 1994, Iowa, 1994136198
  • Beeman v. Manville Corp. Asbestos Disease Compensation Fund, 496 N.W.2d 247, 1993, Iowa, 1993051674