Women Taking the Lead in Law and Law Firms: Panel Presentation by Columbia Law Women's Association, March 29, 2004

Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

Women Taking the Lead in Law and Law Firms: Panel Presentation by Columbia Law Women's Association, March 29, 2004


INTRODUCTION BY TONG LI:

Thank you for coming and thank you to all the members of Columbia Law Women's Association and thank you to our sponsor, Kasowitz Benson Tones & Friedman. Today, we are very proud to have such preeminent leaders in the legal profession to come to us. Their achievements have shown and have proven that women are indeed taking the lead in law and law firms. But how did they get to where they are today? That requires some insight, very interesting insight. The first half of our session will be the presentations by the six speakers. The rest of the time will be open to the students. For more information on their backgrounds, please read their brochures and let me just give you brief introductions of our guests.

In alphabetical order, we have Dana Freyer. She is head of the Arbitration and Alternative Dispute Resolution and Corporate Compliance Program practice at Skadden. She is recognized as a leader in dispute resolution and international arbitration. She has been named one of the top fifty women litigators in America by the National Law Journal.

Marcia Goldstein. She is a senior partner at Weil Gotshal and cochair of the Business Finance and Restructuring Department. She has been named in numerous publications of best lawyers in the restructuring and bankruptcy area.

Cathy Kaplan. She is co-head of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood's New York Securitization practice group and a member of the firm's Executive Committee. Ms. Kaplan was named one of the Dealmakers of the Year, 1999, by the American Lawyer.

Yukako Kawata. She is co-head of investment management and the PIE funds group at Davis Polk. Ms. Kawata was the chair of Specialized Investment Funds, the Committee of the International Bar Association from 2001-2003.

Judge Leslie Crocker Snyder. She is a partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman. She was a former justice of the New York State Supreme Court, Criminal Term. She was a founder and chief of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Bureau, co-author of New York's rape shield legislation. Judge Snyder was the first woman to try felony and homicide cases in New York County.

Judith Thoyer. She is co-head of the Mergers & Acquisitions group at Paul Weiss and a member of the firm's Management Committee. She was the recipient of the 2003 Medal for Excellence Award from Columbia Law School.

Please join me in welcoming all these distinguished leaders in law and law firms.

DANA FREYER:

I think I'm supposed to go first. I'm Dana Freyer. I wanted to start out and give you two of the basic, I think, cardinal principles that have impacted my career and where I am today, none of which would have been predictable when I entered Columbia Law School in 1968. The first guiding principle that has stood me in good stead is to follow your passions and your interests, all along the way. The second guiding principle is to remember that the most interesting paths have curves and hills and ups and downs. It's the by-ways that are the most interesting, it's not the highways, the character-less highways we travel, at least in my experience, that we want to necessarily stay on, but it's all the detours and the little side roads that you take along the way and the challenge... It is a great challenge.

I'm just going to very briefly tell you how I got to where I am and what I did along the way and I think it will illustrate why these principles really have formed my career and direction and much of my life. When I entered Columbia Law School in 1968, which, of course, was the height of the Vietnam War, I wanted to be an international lawyer. I came here from the School of International Affairs. Louis Henkin said to me, "Go get a law degree. You can do more with that than a Master's in International Affairs." So I said okay. I took the LSAT a week later and I found out in August that I was admitted. Columbia was the only school I applied to, probably very different from a lot of the thought processes that went into your decision to go to law school. …

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