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Karen Tokarz

Charles Nagel Professor of Public Interest Law & Policy; Director, Negotiation & Dispute Resolution Program and Director, Civil Rights & Mediation Clinic

Professor of law in the Washington University School of Law since 1987, Karen Tokarz is an internationally recognized expert in dispute resolution, civil rights, and clinical legal education. In 2008, she was named the inaugural Charles Nagel Professor of Public Interest Law and Policy at the law school.

Professor Tokarz’s scholarship addresses a broad range of public interest law and policy issues, including civil rights, international human rights, mediation, and women’s legal history. Director of the law school’s Negotiation & Dispute Resolution Program, Professor Tokarz has been named to Best Lawyers in America in the field of Mediation multiple years since 2010. In fall 2019, she was inducted as a Distinguished Fellow in the International Academy of Mediators. Past director of the school’s highly ranked Clinical Education Program, she currently serves as director of the law school Civil Rights, Community Justice & Mediation Clinic.

Professor Tokarz is the co-founder and President of the St. Louis Mediation Project, a free program helping tenants, homeowners, landlords, and lenders solve housing disputes in and out of court. An integral part of the law school Civil Rights, Community Justice & Mediation Clinic, the Project has provided free mediations in St. Louis Housing Courts for almost 15 years. In 2022, clinic students and lawyer mediators assisted 1500 households with community and housing court mediatons. The mediations are free, impartial, confidential, and voluntary. The Project received a $1.4 million grant in 2021 from the Missouri Housing Development Commission to provide mediations in eviction court and to expand pre-filing eviction mediations in the community. www.stlmediationproject.org

Professor Tokarz was instrumental in the development of the law school’s Public Interest Law & Policy Speakers Series and the reincarnation of the Washington University Journal of Law & Policy, both in 1999. She continues to serve as the coordinator for the speaker series and the faculty advisor for the Journal.

Founder of the law school’s Global Public Interest Law Fellows Program, Professor Tokarz has coordinated field placements for more than 200 law students with legal aid offices, human rights organizations, and tribunals in countries in Africa, South America, Europe, and Asia for more than 15 years. She has served as a Fulbright Senior Specialist at the University of Kwa Zulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, consulting on international dispute resolution.

Professor Tokarz has received several teaching and community client advocacy awards, including Washington University’s Distinguished Faculty Award at Founders Day 2005, the Student Bar Association Experiential Professor of the Year, the Black Law Student Association Instructor of the Year, Focus St. Louis Whats Right for the Region Award, Association of Missouri Mediators Presidents Award, Mound City Bar Association Community Service Award, and Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement Award for Ethic of Service.

Professor Tokarz served on the Ferguson Commission Municipal Courts & Governance Working Group and currently serves on the Missouri Supreme Court Commission on Racial & Ethnic Fairness. One of the founders of the Women Lawyers Association, she previously served on the Missouri Supreme Court Task Force on Gender and Justice. She served for two years as a Missouri Supreme Court municipal court monitor and was a member of the Advisory Committee for the National Center for State Courts National Task Force on Fines, Fees, and Bail Practices.

A 1970 graduate of Webster University in St. Louis with a major in social and behavioral science, Professor Tokarz received her Juris Doctor degree from Saint Louis University in 1976 and a graduate law degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1985.

Global Public Interest Law Fellows: Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia

Negotiation & Dispute Resolution Program

Tokarz Named Nagel Professor of Public Interest Law and Public Service

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  • Education
    • B.A., Webster University, 1970
    • J.D., St. Louis University, 1976
    • LL.M., University of California, Berkeley, 1985
  • Courses
    • Introduction to Negotiation and Dispute Resolution
    • Mediation Theory & Practice
    • Employment/Civil Rights Mediation Theory & Practice
    • Civil Rights, Community Justice & Mediation Clinic
    • International Justice & Conflict Resolution Externship
    • Human Trafficking & Labor Migration Seminar
    • Comparative Employment Law Seminar
    • Public Interest Law & Policy Seminar
    • Employment Discrimination
    • Pretrial Practice & Settlement
    • Faculty Advisor for:
  • Publications

    SSRN Author’s Page:


    • Grillo’s Path to Intentional, Mindful Mediation, in DISCUSSIONS IN DISPUTE RESOLUTION: THE FORMATIVE ARTICLES (Art Hinshaw, et al, eds.) (Oxford Univ. Press, 2021).
    • A Three-Year Curriculum That Engages Law Students and Prepares Them for Practice, in BUILDING ON BEST PRACTICES: TRANSFORMING LEGAL EDUCATION IN A CHANGING WORLD (Deborah Maranville, et al, eds. 2015).
    • Advancing Social Justice Through ADR and Clinical Legal Education in India, South Africa, and the United States, in THE GLOBAL CLINICAL MOVEMENT: EDUCATING LAWYERS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE (Oxford University Press, 2011) (with V. Nagaraj).
    • ELDERLAW: ADVOCACY FOR THE AGING (2 vols.), with Joan Krauskopf, Robert Brown, and Alan Bogutz (Thomson West, 2nd ed. 1993, Supp. 1994-2021).


    • Addressing the COVID-19 Eviction Crisis Through Court and Community Mediation, 67 St. Louis Bar Journal 26 (Spring 2021) (with Elad Gross).
    • Addressing the Eviction Crisis and Housing Instability Through Mediation, 63 Washington University Journal of Law & Policy 243 (2020) (with Sam Stragand, et al).
    • Introduction, New Directions in Domestic and International Dispute Resolution, 63 Washington University Journal of Law & Policy 1 (2020).
    • Pioneering Women Lawyers Who Changed the Legal Profession and Influenced the Practice of Law, Including Mediation Practice: From Barkeloo and Couzins to the Present, 62 Washington University Journal of Law & Policy 15 (2020).
    • Advancing the Remedy of Implied Warranty of Habitability in Missouri, 53 Washington University Journal of Law & Policy 169 (2017) (with Zachary Schmook).
    • Legal Education at a Crossroads: Innovation, Integration, and Pluralism Required! 43 Washington University Journal of Law & Policy 11 (2013) (with Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, Peggy Maisel, Robert Seibel).
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