Before taking up entertainment law, Marilyn G. Haft worked
for the ACLU, Bella Abzug, the White House and the U.N.
INTERVIEW CONDUCTED AND EDITED BY ERIK LUNDEGAARD
Q: You graduated from NYU School of Law in
1968. How many women were in your class?
A: There were 30 out of 300. That was the largest
class of women anywhere at that point.
Q: Any particular attitude that you encountered
there? Like, “What are you doing here?”
A: Not really. I was not called on for almost the
entire [first] year. I wasn’t somebody who was
looking for trouble—I didn’t raise my hand—
but they normally look at the roll and call
people to answer questions to make sure we’re
participating. And not until May of the first year
was I called upon.
Q: What about a sense of camaraderie with the
A: There wasn’t much opportunity for
camaraderie. [But] there were a few notable
women in my class. Carol Bellamy. She became
the first female president of the city council in
New York. She even ran for mayor. And we had
the mayor: Rudy Giuliani was in my class.
Q: And you. Eight years later, you were in the
A: It was pretty crazy.
Q: How did you get interested in the law?
A: When I was 6 years old, I was shown a film
about the Holocaust in school. And I sat there and
I said, “I’m going to make sure that never happens
to anybody in the whole world ever again.” I’m 6.
And I didn’t know how to do it, but—
Q: Wait, I’m sorry. A Holocaust film? At 6?
A: Well, I went to Hebrew school. It was crazy that
they showed it to young children like that. They
showed it to the whole school.
Then when I was 8 or 9 years old, I had gone
Q: What did your parents do? And what did
to the U.N. on a school trip and was like, “OK,
this looks like a good place to tell the world what
to do.” Then when I was 10, I heard somebody
on the radio, and his name was Louis Nizer, and
he was talking and it seemed like everybody was
paying attention. And I said, “Wow, that guy’s a
lawyer. I’m going to be a lawyer because people
will pay attention to me, and I’m going to stand
in front of the United Nations and tell people to
stop this nonsense.”
What I wanted to do was go to the American
Civil Liberties Union to do that. And so I
graduated law school.
they think of your ambitions?
A: My mother was a teacher. She had gone to
college, which was also odd for her time. My
father was in business, manufacturing. They were
frankly not excited about me [going into law], to
say the least. They thought nobody would want
to marry me, and they wanted me to be a teacher
because they thought that was the best thing. So
I did get a teaching degree and I did do substitute
teaching. [But] they were very unhappy that I was
going to become a lawyer. I had to send myself to
Q: Did they show up at graduation?
A: Oh yeah. I was not cut off or anything like that.
But they expected me to be self-reliant.
I didn’t have any contacts for the ACLU, but one
day I was sitting in the library, and some guy who
was a graduate student in tax at NYU, he said,
“If you don’t start interviewing, you’re not going
to get a job.” And he took me into one of the best
tax firms in the country: Roberts & Holland in the
Chrysler building. And lo and behold, they hired