Katherine A. Macfarlane
39 • Associate professor •
University of Idaho College of Law • Boise
Katherine Macfarlane has found success in law practice and teaching through compassion and hard work. She is a tenured law professor who also advocates for individuals with disabilities.
Macfarlane was born in Toronto, and lived in Chicago before her family relocated to Italy when she was 5 years old.
After she moved back to the U.S., she would fly to Rome every summer and every other Christmas with her two younger sisters (but no adult) to visit their father. She is fluent in Italian and Spanish, which made it a bit easier to navigate international airports as a kid.
“I always knew I wanted to help people, and I think the most influential part of my upbringing was appreciation for other cultures,” says Macfarlane.
Macfarlane attended middle school and high school in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She lived with her grandparents, and was inspired by her grandfather’s work ethic.
She graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Northwestern University and cum laude from Loyola Law School.
Following law school, Macfarlane served as a law clerk for the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She went on to practice at one of the top firms in the U.S., Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.
In 2011, Macfarlane joined the New York City Law Department.
She started her teaching career at Louisiana State University’s law school. She later joined the University of Idaho College of Law, where she teaches constitutional law, civil procedure and civil rights litigation.
Macfarlane has written about civil rights and disability issues for various scholarly journals, including the Yale Law Journal Forum, Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and the Michigan Journal of Race and Law.
Here in Idaho, she has volunteered with DACA recipients and the Arthritis Foundation.
Her interest in disability advocacy was inspired by her own experience with a chronic autoimmune disease — Rheumatoid Arthritis — which she was diagnosed with at age 1. Many people with a similar diagnosis are unable to work full-time, let alone pull the long hours Macfarlane always has.
Macfarlane is determined to live her best life despite her physical challenges. She enjoys swimming and dancing.
“I’m actually a pretty good merengue dancer,” she says.
Macfarlane’s life has also been enhanced by her travels and the many places in which she’s lived.
“I’ve seen everything from a bayou to the streets of downtown Manhattan,” she says. “In the next 20 years, I’d like to not move as much,” she says, adding that she wants to help those from less privileged backgrounds succeed at the University of Idaho.
Editor’s note: The Idaho Business Review regrets several errors that were made in the original reporting of this profile, and we extend our sincerest apologies to Katherine. This article reflects the corrected version.