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Olympian attorney joins Rochester law office

Thorsness won gold in 1984

By: Bennett Loudon//March 24, 2023

Olympian attorney joins Rochester law office

Thorsness won gold in 1984

By: Bennett Loudon//March 24, 2023

Attorney Kristen J. Thorsness has joined the Rochester office of Bond, Schoeneck & King as of counsel, concentrating on Title IX federal athletics regulations and gender equity in college and scholastic athletics.

Thorsness, 63, is a 1984 Olympic gold medalist as part of the first U.S. women’s rowing team ever to win Olympic gold. She is a former Division I collegiate rower and she won three World Championship silver medals as a member of the U.S. national rowing team.

Kristen Thorsness

In addition to her litigation and employment law work, Thorsness is an arbitrator for the Court of Arbitration for Sport, an international body for sports-related disputes, and she has served on adjudicative panels for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

“Kris is a fantastic addition to Bond’s Rochester office, and the firm’s nationwide higher education practice group,” said Jennifer M. Schwartzott, deputy managing member of the firm’s Rochester office.

“Her experience with Title IX, both personally and professionally, is unparalleled, and her bright spirit adds positively to the dynamic of our office and the firm,” Barrett said.

Thorsness’s experience as an athlete, along with her experience working with national and international athletic bodies, makes her specially qualified to provide practical guidance to universities, colleges and school districts navigating Title IX’s regulatory requirements for athletic programs.

“We are excited to have Kristen join the firm and bring her first-hand experience as an elite athlete to our higher-ed clients,” said Monica Barrett, co-chair of the firm’s higher education practice.

“She understands, both as a lawyer and as a former collegiate athlete, the nuances of Title IX and gender equity,” Barrett said.

Thorsness, who joined the firm on Jan. 16, previously worked remotely with her brother, a lawyer in Alaska. Thorsness grew up in Anchorage and received her undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin.

“I’ve done a lot of civil rights work in other arenas before, primarily in employment. This is my first opportunity to put a lot of my other types of experience at play and mix it with my legal background; to take my athletic background and my legal background and mix the two of them together,” she said.

Thorsness first started rowing in college where she was part of an eight-member team that won one national championship, finished second twice, and fourth once.

After college, Thorsness made the U.S. national team. As part of that team, she won silver medals in the world championships in 1982 and 1983. In 1984 she was on the gold medal winning Olympic team in Los Angeles.

Thorsness was injured in 1985 and didn’t compete that year. In 1986, she was on a team that finished fourth in the world championships. In 1987, she earned a silver medal at the world championships.

In 1988, she was injured again and served as an alternate on the national team.

Thorsness’s father was a lawyer and she started planning to become a lawyer when she was in high school.

“I had that kind of analytic mindset, and I liked the intellectual work a lot,” she said.

Thorsness took a leave of absence from Boston University School of Law for the 1988 Olympics, and she received her juris doctor in 1989.

Her first job was at a large firm in San Francisco. She later went on to work as an in-house attorney for Alameda County in California.

Thorsness moved to New York state when her wife was doing a fellowship at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva. Thorsness received a master’s degree in public administration at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

She has worked in economic development for the city of Geneva and as a staff attorney for the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, Fourth Department.

She worked in the Ontario County attorney’s office for 10 years. During that period interacted professionally with Bond Schoeneck and King, which eventually led to her joining the firm.

“We’re developing a new service for Bond’s education clients, both higher education and scholastic clients, to perform an audit of their facilities and programs on the athletic side to assess their compliance with Title IX requirements in athletics,” she explained.

Title IX prohibits sexual harassment and sex discrimination in education programs that receive federal funding, Thorsness explained.

The new service performs an audit to identify any significant disparities that can be remedied.

“It’s a pretty complex regulatory scheme and more and more it’s important for these education entities to ensure that they are compliant with Title IX,” she said.

[email protected] / (585) 232-2035

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