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NYU Law alumnae receive Lifetime Achievement Award

Posted on September 12, 2013 | by Maria Verbaite

File photo by Lauren Strausser


In august, the New York Law Journal awarded 16 lawyers the Lifetime Achievement Award, which is the first of its kind in the law journal’s history.

Among the award recipients were four NYU School of Law alumnae, Helaine Barnett, Sheila Birnbaum, Betty Weinberg Ellerin and Judith Kaye. Each recipient will be featured in the journal’s 125th anniversary issue and honored at a celebration dinner on Nov. 4.

“We were thrilled that the 16 attorneys selected for this high honor include four NYU alumnae [which is] more than any other law school,” NYU Law dean Trevor Morrison said. “It’s particularly noteworthy that all four are women. NYU Law was one of the first law schools to admit women, and many of them have gone on to become leaders in the profession.”

Editor-in-Chief of the New York Law Journal Kris Fischer praised the four NYU alumnae and their contributions to the field.

“[They] are four outstanding women who are role models to the legal community and have contributed vastly to the community at large,” Fischer said.

Barnett, a member of the class of 1964, was the longest serving president of the Legal Services Corporation, which provides vital civil legal aid for low-income Americans.

Birnbaum, who graduated in 1965, one of the nation’s leading product liability defense attorneys, has been a professor and associate dean at NYU Law and currently serves as the special master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

Since graduating in 1952, Justice Weinberg Ellerin became the first woman associate justice of the appellate division of the New York Supreme Court.

Judge Kaye, a law school graduate from 1962, served as the chief judge of the Court for Appeals for 15 years and was the first woman to serve on New York’s highest court.

Kaye expressed her excitement and appreciation for being recognized by the journal.

“It thrills me to be singled out by an organization that I admire so greatly and to be honored for the work I have done over the years,” she said. “I had the opportunity to implement a good judicial system.”

Similarly, Weinberg Ellerin said this award has helped her realize the positive results that have come from her work.

“Receiving this award makes me immensely proud,” Weinberg Ellerin said. “I have had an impact on [the] advancement of women and am very proud of having broken through the gender barrier in many areas.”

Morrison expressed admiration of the recipients, who have become leaders in the legal world and shown commitment to public service.

“I hope the accomplishments of these women will serve as an inspiration to those who follow in their footsteps,” Morrison said.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Sept. 12 print edition. Maria Verbaite is a contributing writer. Email her at


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