TO BE OR NOT TO BE A LAWYER
“It never occurred to me I would be
Gloria Neuwirth, Davidson,
Dawson & Clark, Yale ’58: I
loved physics in high school but I
was told, “Well, you’re not good
in math so you can’t take physics
in college,” and I never was able to pursue
that. Yeah, “Girls don’t do math.” ... [But] I was
fascinated by legal issues and I had a strong
feeling of social justice.
Susan Robfogel, Nixon Peabody,
Cornell ’67: I wanted to be an
attorney since I was 4 years old. It
never occurred to me I would be
anything else, and nobody told me I
couldn’t do it. Now there was reason for that. My
mother was a lawyer, as was my father. It came
naturally to me.
Eleanor Alter, Alter, Wolff & Foley,
Columbia ’64: Both of my parents
were lawyers. My mother stopped
practicing law when I was born
and my father ultimately became
chief judge of the state of New York. They talked
law all the time; we voted on cases over dinner.
My mother didn’t think a woman could do it, but
she and my father believed being a lawyer was
the greatest profession one could have; that it
was a calling. ... She was an attorney during the
Depression and didn’t have much success. She got
out of law school in ’ 28, ’ 29. I think she thought
it was too hard for women to do because they
wouldn’t be accepted. That was her experience.
Sheila Riesel, Blank Rome,
Fordham ’69: We were still
basking in the glow of the
Kennedy years—“Ask not what
your country can do for you”—and
I thought politics was the way to go.
My father was a lawyer and it occurred to me that
law school would give me some tools in a political
career. I also grew up in a household where my
father said he wanted me to do more than stay at
home—as he put it—“wrestling pots.”
Mary F. Voce, Greenberg Traurig,
Virginia ’69: I got into three or
four of the very good [law schools],
but some others I did not get into.
One in particular, several of my
[male] friends had gotten in, and my
grades were higher and my LSAT was higher. So
Hoffman, center, here at a meeting of the International Federation of Women in
Legal Careers, was the first woman professor at her law school. “For many of the
women students,” she says, “I couldn’t do any wrong.”
law school in ‘ 58.
“There was no housing
[for women],” she says.
increased the number of women—so they would
be left with students if the men got drafted.
Riesel (‘ 69): I remember one classmate asking
me if I felt guilty sitting in my seat while some
guy was in a rice paddy in Vietnam.
Pamela Rogers Chepiga, Allen
& Overy, Fordham ’73: I had just
gotten married during my first year
at law school. I had never changed
my name or used my husband’s
name, and the managing editor of the law review
sent me a note saying he wanted to talk to me …
He said, “You know, we’re about to go to press, the
name you have in this publication is the name you’ll
be known as professionally. If I were your husband,
I’d be devastated if you didn’t use my name. Are you
sure you’ve thought this through?”
Alter (‘ 64): This was pre-anything in the modern
women’s movement. We were trying to prove we
were going to be like the guys and do it just as well.
“They would save the most
Kane (‘ 63): There was one professor who
refused to call on women, except once a year
he had what he called “Ladies’ Day.” There
were three women in this section and a couple
hundred men. He’d put us on the stage and we
taught the class; he sat in the front row. I think
it’d be accurate to say he kind of smirked.
I called admissions and said, “Please just explain
to me why.” She was very forthright: “You have to
understand, we have a quota for women.”
LAW SCHOOL SANS RESTROOMS
“This was pre-women’s anything”
Neuwirth (’ 58): Yale was terrific—although we
didn’t have facilities like the men did. We didn’t
have proper restrooms or a lounge or anything like
that. And there was no housing. We had to live in a
graduate dormitory off campus. I always felt that I
missed a lot by not being able to live in the dorm.
Siegrun Kane, Kane Advisors,
Harvard ’63: I had some
luminaries in my class—one
of them was Janet Reno. Also
Dorothy Schrader, who became U.S.
Copyright general counsel. There were
just about a dozen [female students] and the
dean invited us to tea at his house. We sat around
the floor and he was in his chair. He welcomed
us and said he was responsible for women being
at the school, but for the life of him he couldn’t
figure out what we could do when we graduated.
Robfogel (’ 67): There were three women in a class
of 113. That’s the same number that had been in my
mother’s law school class.
Barbara Hoffman, The Hoffman
Law Firm, Columbia ’71: There
were 30 women in a class of 300.
Vietnam was one reason they had