New York State Bar Association Women In Law Section Bestows Prestigious Awards to Pioneering Lawyers

By David Alexander

New York State Bar Association Women In Law Section Bestows Prestigious Awards to Pioneering Lawyers

1.11.2023

By David Alexander

Elizabeth A. Wolford and Jamie Levitt - WIL Section Winners 2023

The Chief United States District Judge of the Western District of New York Elizabeth A. Wolford and Jamie Levitt, New York managing partner at Morrison & Foerster, will be honored by the Women In Law Section of the New York State Bar Association during its Annual Meeting Jan. 18-24 in New York City.

Judge Wolford will receive the Ruth G. Schapiro Memorial Award and Levitt will be honored with the Kay Crawford Murray Memorial Award.

“Hon. Elizabeth A. Wolford and Jamie Levitt are two exceptional lawyers who have long been at the forefront of expanding diversity and elevating the role of women in our profession,” said Sherry Levin Wallach, president of the New York State Bar Association. “They are transformative leaders who have spent their careers selflessly dedicating their time towards helping others.”

Judge Wolford was appointed by President Obama as the first female U.S. District Court judge  in the Western District of New York. In 2021, she became the first woman to become the chief judge of the Western District.

“Hon. Elizabeth Wolford has been instrumental in developing a new pro bono plan designed to diversify legal representation. She has mentored numerous women attorneys and has promoted legal services and funding for programs benefiting women and their families through her work with bar associations and as a board member of legal and service organizations. Judge Wolford considers it a priority to open doors for women in the law and in the community at large,” said Sheryl Galler, chair of the Women In Law Section.

In response to a 2017 report entitled “If Not Now, When? Achieving Equity for Women Attorneys in the Courtroom and in ADR,” which encourages judges to adopt policies that would result in more women having the opportunity to take lead roles in court, Judge Wolford was among the first to implement a rule in her chambers that “strongly encourages litigants to permit more junior attorneys to examine witnesses at trial.”

Although the rule applies to all attorneys, its impact has been a positive one for women.

Judge Wolford is a past president of the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys and the Monroe Country Bar Foundation and served as a member of the Board of Directors for Just Cause. In addition, she is a past recipient of the association’s Root/Stimson and the Outstanding Young Lawyer awards.

Levitt is chair of the Morrison & Foerster Foundation. She served as head of the New York Litigation Department, co-chair of the firm’s Complex Litigation and Trial Practice, chair of the firm’s global Pro Bono Committee for a decade and a member of the firm’s board of directors.

“Jamie Levitt exemplifies the spirit of Kay Crawford Murray. She creates new pathways for diversity and inclusion in her professional and personal life by mentoring young lawyers and creating diverse litigation teams, working pro bono on dozens of cases in the areas of reproductive rights, race discrimination and asylum, and supporting funding to protect voting rights and fair elections. She is a catalyst for change and a force for good,” Galler said.

In 2022, Levitt was recognized by the publication Corporate Counsel as a Managing Partner of the Year in recognition of her outstanding commitment and dedication to the promotion of women and diversity in the law.

The Ruth G. Schapiro Memorial Award recognizes exemplary achievement by a male or female member of the association in addressing the concerns of women. It was established in honor of the Committee on Women in the Law’s first Chair, Ruth G. Schapiro.

The Kay Crawford Murray Memorial Award is bestowed upon an individual for valuing diversity in the legal profession and dedicating their time to advancing the professional development of women attorneys.

The Women In Law Section will be sponsoring the 19th Annual Edith I. Spivack Symposium on Thursday, Jan. 19, during the Annual Meeting. The symposium’s central theme is “The Perpetual Gender Pay Gap: How Unequal Pay Negatively Impacts Women, Society, and the Profession.” Journalists are invited to attend but should email David Alexander at [email protected].

Honoring attorneys who render extraordinary service to the public and the profession is part of NYSBA’s Annual Meeting tradition. The 146th Annual Meeting takes place from Jan. 18 to 24 with in-person events at the New York Hilton Midtown from Jan. 18 to Jan. 21 and virtual sessions Jan. 23 and Jan. 24.

Highlights of the Annual Meeting include the Presidential Summit, “Mental Health and the Justice System: Impacts, Challenges and Potential Solutions,” held  from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 18. The Presidential Gala honoring civil rights attorney Sherrilyn Ifill will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 20, at the Rainbow Room.  For more information on NYSBA’s Annual Meeting, click here.

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