Honorable Janet M DiFiore Chief Judge of State of New York





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.



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.