Accepting the 2023 Alumna of the Year Award from OUTLaw—the NYU Law student group that brings together self-identifying LGBTQ students, alumni, faculty, and staff, and their allies—Julie Fink ’05 was humorously self-effacing. “I was not an outstanding law student during my time here,” she said, adding, “I quit my journal because I didn’t think it was fun.”
Fink’s tongue-in-cheek self-deprecation at the January 26 presentation belied the breadth of her accomplishments. (Fact check: she graduated magna cum laude.) Fink leads a robust commercial and public interest litigation practice and is managing partner at Kaplan Hecker & Fink, the high-profile litigation boutique that she co-founded almost six years ago.
Fink specializes in cases involving sexual assault and discrimination, and works with organizations to execute anti-harassment policies. Formerly the global pro bono lead at Pfizer Inc., she also maintains a strong commitment to pro bono work. Fink has sued white supremacists and neo-Nazis who played roles in the violence in Charlottesville in 2017 (yielding a $26 million verdict), represented several former National Women’s Soccer League players alleging rampant sexual harassment and abuse in the league, and successfully defended a woman sued for defamation by a Hollywood director after writing a #MeToo Facebook post about her experience of being sexually assaulted. Earlier, as an associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, Fink was on the team representing Edith Windsor in her successful challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, which had banned federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Fink had joined Paul, Weiss after hearing then–Paul Weiss partner Roberta Kaplan speak on a panel about her pro bono work.
In her remarks at the OUTLaw event, Fink spoke to the power of an NYU Law education, despite her purported indifference to her studies. Her experience at the Law School, Fink explained, empowered her to take risks such as leaving Pfizer in 2017 to co-found a firm with Kaplan.
“My experience is that you just let people know what you want to do, say yes when you get the right opportunity, then be prepared to take chances,” said Fink. She added, “One of the best gifts going to a place like NYU can give you—the experience and the education you’ll get here—is the freedom to take chances.”
With that freedom, Fink said, come certain responsibilities: “The number-one part of my job in working for the firm…is upholding the values that we started with, and our values are to be excellent advocates for our clients; to do important, progressive public interest work that might otherwise not be done; and to be an equitable place.”
Posted February 14, 2023