Of NYU Law’s more than 80 student organizations, the largest by far is Law Women, with a 19-member board, six subcommittees, and a membership that accounts for more than half of the student body (51 percent of NYU Law’s JD students are women). Given the structural barriers such as pay gaps and biased hiring that women can still face in the legal profession, Law Women serves a crucial purpose by supporting and promoting women in the NYU Law community, in the legal field, and beyond with a varied catalogue of mentorship programs, professional development events, and advocacy work.
Co-chair Chelsea Anelli ’18 first got involved in Law Women through the group’s high school mentoring committee, which pairs law student mentors with freshmen and sophomores at local high schools. She also has participated in Law Women’s peer mentorship program.
“As a 1L, it was incredibly helpful to be able to talk to my 2L mentors, particularly for things like finding a job for 1L summer and going through Early Interview Week,” Anelli says. “This year, I’m mentoring two 1Ls, so if they have any questions about law school—whether about the social, academic, or career spheres—they can feel confident that I’ll do my best to help them out.”
In addition to the high school and peer mentoring programs, Law Women runs a professional development mentorship program in which law students meet with NYU Law alumnae working in students’ fields of interest. For co-chair Lauren Nikodemos ’18, who studied psychology before attending law school, the professional development events Law Women hosts have been helpful in exposing her to new areas of the law as she decides on a potential career path.
“I went to a white-collar lunch that the professional development committee hosted where we got to meet assistant US attorneys and other lawyers working in the field and network with them, and I loved it,” Nikodemos says. “I want to continue putting on programs similar to the ones that helped me.”
Heather Cruz ’95, a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, frequently participates in Law Women-organized panels and also serves as a professional development mentor. “These events that Law Women throws not only help people build community amongst their classmates,” she says, “but also give students access to professionals who are currently working in the business and creating career contacts in all different fields of practice, whether boutique law, Big Law, or pro bono.”
In addition to professional development-focused programming, Law Women sponsors a number of annual events. The most prominent include the Law Women Summit, which focused last year on public policy solutions to the barriers women face in the workforce, and the Law Women Alumna of the Year Reception, which honors an NYU Law graduate working at the top of her field.
This year, Anelli and Nikodemos are also particularly focused on coalition-building between Law Women and other student organizations. They have been collaborating with other groups to plan events on a wide variety of issues, including immigration, LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, and policing. Earlier this fall, Law Women worked with the Domestic Violence Advocacy Project to sponsor a screening of The Hunting Ground, a film that explores the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses.
Neelofer Shaikh ’18, one of the co-chairs of Law Women’s advocacy committee, partners with other student groups on advocacy events. Shaikh emphasizes that not every form of advocacy must be tied strictly to lawyerly work.
“Earlier this year, I planned an event with the Women of Color Collective where we went to the Nuyorican Poets Café, which has these great poetry slams every Friday night,” says Shaikh. “It’s one of my favorite spaces in the city in terms of its inclusiveness. I wasn’t sure how many people would want to go, but we were sold out within a day. It was incredible. And it showed that being creative can be a really important form of advocacy.”
NYU Law—which in 1890 became one of the first law schools in the nation to admit women— has a long history of barrier-breaking alumnae, from the first woman justice on the New York Supreme Court to the organizers of the first women’s suffrage march to the first woman commissioner of the SEC. The pursuits of today’s women at NYU Law are no less varied. “The community of female lawyers isn’t just a monolith,” says Anelli.
“When you’re representing a group as big as Law Women does, the organization itself has to be multi-faceted to meet the needs of the demographic,” says Nikodemos. “That is something that really appealed to me when I joined. It’s all of the different elements of Law Women that make it so strong.”
Posted January 13, 2017