HONORABLE JANET M. DIFIORI CHIEF JUDGE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK
WILLIAM NELSON CROMWELL AWARD ACCEPTANCE SPEECH AT NYCLA’S
103RD ANNUAL DINNER
NYCLA Annual Dinner
William Nelson Cromwell Award
December 11, 2017
Thank you, Judge Lippman, for that very kind introduction. I am honored to receive the William Nelson Cromwell Award . . . for many reasons.
First, on a personal level, it is quite remarkable that I stand here sharing this honor with one my dearest friends, Chief Judge Colleen McMahon. We have shared so much with each other over the years,– our dreams and desires; … our fears and frustrations; … our successes and failures; … and now here we are.
And, professionally, what a humbling — and satisfying — experience, particularly given this year’s theme — honoring women in the legal profession and celebrating the centennial of Women’s Suffrage.
And, of course, while we know that achieving any position of responsibility requires hard work and a commitment to excellence, I am keenly aware that I would not be addressing you this evening but for the strength and commitment of so many women who came before me, and the selfless generosity, grace and support of the women who took the time and the energy to extend themselves on my behalf, and on whose shoulders I now stand.
I once heard it said:
“When women have a level playing
field, there is no limit, — and
I mean no limit — to what women
can achieve in our society.
We can do anything; — and
And that is indeed true. But even though joining us this evening are many enormously accomplished women — general counsel of major corporations; leaders of top law firms; Judges; government officials; and business executives — the struggle to ensure a level playing field is far from over.
If you read the State Bar’s July report on Achieving Equality for Women Attorneys in the Courtroom, or Judge Scheindlin’s eloquent op-ed piece in the New York Times last August, you know that progress remains elusive in our business — women lawyers are under-represented in the courtroom and in professional leadership positions.
And for my part, I believe that it’s up to each one of us to work to change that culture. And while there are surely things we can do at our institutional levels, the real and lasting change needs to happen at the personal level.
So, let’s not miss the many opportunities we are presented to do our individual part to create an environment where we guide and mentor women colleagues; groom and prepare those who demonstrate leadership abilities for important positions of responsibility; and promote and recognize those who deserve to be promoted and recognized.
And, for all the many women who aspire to be leaders, I leave you with these words of wisdom from the former Chief Judge of the State of New York, Judith S. Kaye, who, for all her outward grace and gentility, possessed a backbone made of steel . . .
“My life experience, personal and
professional, has shown me that credit
and opportunity go to people who claim
them, demand them, absolutely insist on
their right to have them and who never,
ever give up. If you want something, you
cannot be passive. You have to ask for
it. Rarely do advantage, credit or
opportunity simply flow naturally from
talent or good deeds.– It’s something
women especially need to know . . . .”
Congratulations again to my fellow honoree, Chief Judge Colleen McMahon, and thank you to the New York County Lawyers Association for this wonderful honor; and for all that you do — and have been doing for over 103 years — to nurture, mentor and support the careers and dreams of women lawyers.