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Nifty 50, continued

Susan EstrichThe term "Renaissance woman" still cannot be found in Webster's dictionary. The editors clearly haven't met Susan Estrich ' 77, a woman who can write and speak with equal facility on disparate topics such as rape and murder, diet and health, and politics and power. And her work has been published in publications ranging from the Yale Law Journal and the New England Journal of Public Policy to Harper's Bazaar and USA Today. She also ran a presidential campaign--for Michael Dukakis '60 in 1988--and now runs a classroom as a professor at the University of Southern California Law School. At HLS, she was the first woman president of the Harvard Law Review and, at 33, the youngest woman to receive tenure at the school. In her fifth and most recent book, "Sex and Power," Estrich writes on how women still face a glass ceiling in the business and political worlds and advises them on how to break it. It's advice she practices as well as preaches.

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Debora de HoyosDebora de Hoyos ' 78 was part of the generation of women who changed law firms from nearly all-male enclaves of attorneys. But she did much more than that. In 1991, she became the first woman named managing partner of a large U.S. law firm, a position she has held ever since, at Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw in Chicago. She joined the firm right out of law school and has "grown up with the firm," as the previous managing partner said. The firm, too, grew since she started as an associate, from 150 lawyers to one of the 10 largest law firms in the world, with more than 1,300 attorneys in seven U.S. and six European cities.

Before gaining the position, de Hoyos was known for her transaction work, including complex international debt-for-equity swaps. "I still get excited by deals," she told The New York Times when she became managing partner.

At first, she says, she didn't much appreciate being recognized because of her gender rather than for her work. But that changed when a male client told her how happy he was when she got the managing partner job. He was thinking about his two daughters.

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Sheila KuehlYou could call her story "The Many Lives of Sheila Kuehl ' 78." First was the child actor who played the spunky Zelda Gilroy on "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis." Then the Harvard Law student, the second woman in the school's history to win the moot court competition, who graduated in 1978. Then the civil rights attorney and co-founder of the California Women's Law Center and law professor and, finally, in what has become her best-known role, a state legislator in California. The first woman to be named speaker pro tempore of the California Assembly and the first openly gay or lesbian state legislator in the state's history, Kuehl has authored scores of bills passed into law, many to prevent domestic violence and discrimination and to expand health care and education. "When I first entered law school at Harvard in 1975, there were very few, if any, who were truly out," she said when nominated to the Harvard University Board of Overseers, on which she now serves. "In fact, it was a time of fledgling feminism--to be a woman was to struggle for full citizenship." Kuehl has done her part to make that struggle a thing of the past.

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Annette LuNot many HLS graduates have served hard time. And fewer would make that ordeal a part of their resume or, indeed, a badge of honor. But for Hsiu-lien Annette Lu LL.M. ' 78, a prison sentence was the result of her passionate advocacy for democracy, a passion that culminated in her own election three years ago as vice president of Taiwan. A leader of the opposition movement after she returned home from HLS, she spent five years in prison on the charge of sedition after criticizing the government in 1979. Known as a feminist and women's rights activist, Lu has always spoken out for what she believes in, calling the new government a symbol of "social equality and harmony" and "political rule by both sexes." She has traveled the world promoting these ideals and in 2001 became the first woman to win the World Peace Prize from the World Peace Corps Academy. As much as anyone, Lu understands the importance of freedom.

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Irene KhanIrene Khan LL.M. ' 79 will not be afflicted with compassion fatigue. That's because she is inspired over and over again by the personal stories of those she meets as secretary general of Amnesty International, like the Afghan woman in a refugee camp wearing a torn, dirty burka, who spoke about her dream of returning home and becoming a scientist. "Our challenge is to mobilize millions of people across the globe in solidarity with the victims, to know their names, their faces, their identities, their stories," said Khan when she was named head of the London-based international human rights organization in 2001.

The first woman, Asian and Muslim to lead Amnesty, Khan relies on a million members from 140 countries to send the message that they care about victims of political persecution and imprisonment. In the post-Sept. 11 environment, she has also spoken out against human rights violations committed in the name of security, and in meetings with world leaders, she has emphasized better protection of women's rights. After spending much of her career with the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Khan knows how to speak for the victimized and to those who can help them.

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Debra LeeWhen Trent Lott wanted to speak to Americans--particularly African-Americans--after praising Strom Thurmond's segregationist run for president, he appeared on Black Entertainment Television. It was a coup for the cable station and for Debra Lee '80, who has helped make BET the chief outlet for news and entertainment geared to the black community. Currently president and chief operating officer, Lee joined the then fledgling station in 1986 as vice president and general counsel. She has overseen the construction of BET's new corporate headquarters in Washington, D.C., and the steady ratings growth of a station now available in more than 70 million homes. BET stepped in where network television wouldn't, Lee has said: The networks still too frequently depict black people as criminals and drug addicts. "We've filled a void in the marketplace and increased opportunities on both sides of the camera," she said in a speech. The recipient of the 2001 Woman of the Year Award from Women in Cable and Telecommunications, Lee wants to ensure that the picture will keep looking better.

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Wilma LewisWilma Lewis '81 had never been a criminal prosecutor before she took one of the toughest prosecution jobs: U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, where she led the largest office of its kind in the country and was responsible for both federal and local criminal investigations and convictions. The first woman in that job, she made community outreach a priority and worked to stem drugs and gangs. For her efforts, she won the Founders' Award from the National Black Prosecutors Association for service to the legal profession. Previously the inspector general for the U.S. Department of the Interior, Lewis served as U.S. attorney until 2001, when she became a partner in the litigation group at Crowell & Moring in D.C. Securing convictions is a prosecutor's priority, she told the Bulletin in 1999, "but there's a growing sense among prosecutors that we have a much larger role to play in crime-prevention activities and in contributing to the overall goal of improving the quality of life." The prosecutor's responsibilities are always evolving, she said. And so are hers.

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Kathleen SullivanThe story goes that when Kathleen Sullivan '81 was a visiting professor at Stanford Law School, her students wrote a plea on the blackboard before her last class: "Defect to Stanford." She did, much to the disappointment of Harvard Law students, who had given her the inaugural Sacks-Freund Award for Teaching Excellence. A professor at HLS from 1984 to 1993, Sullivan has stayed on the West Coast since her "defection," becoming dean of one of HLS's main competitors in 1999. A constitutional scholar, she teamed with famed Stanford constitutional law Professor Gerald Gunther '53 to write "Constitutional Law," and has lectured and written widely on the topic. She has also put her knowledge into practice, including filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court arguing that President Clinton should not have to defend against a sexual harassment charge while in office. But even in her new role, her enthusiasm and skill as a teacher are still remembered. Gunther, who died last year, said about Sullivan: "She's certainly the most brilliant analyst and the best teacher in the field, period."

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Navanethem PillayWhen Navanethem Pillay LL.M. '82 S.J.D. '88 began handling her first big trial, her clients called her "girl." As the trial progressed and she showed her talent as an attorney, they switched to "woman." It shows, she says, the prejudices but also the opportunities available for women in the law. After all, today she is called "judge."

One of the 18 judges recently elected to the International Criminal Court, Pillay served as president of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, presiding over the trials of those accused of committing genocide in Rwanda in 1994. For her work on the tribunal, she was given the 2002 Woman in Law award from the Centre for Human Rights in South Africa, her home country, where she was the first woman of color to be appointed acting judge of the Supreme Court. As an attorney in South Africa, she defended the African National Congress and others fighting apartheid. She also has fought injustice against women and advocates for greater participation internationally for women in the law to redress the wrongs she has seen all too many of.

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Nancy Josephson SanitskyNancy Josephson Sanitsky '82 began her career in law. But she ended up in a place she was born to star in.

The co-president of International Creative Management in Beverly Hills, Calif., Sanitsky became the first female president of a major talent agency in 1998. Her father, Marvin Josephson, founded ICM in 1955, and she began working there after a stint in an entertainment law boutique in New York City. That is where, in classic talent agent fashion, she discovered unknown playwrights who would be among television's hottest properties. The playwrights later went on to develop the NBC hit "Friends," which is signed through its ninth season.

Sanitsky, who previously was the company's executive vice president in charge of television, oversees one of the industry's top three agencies, which represents actors and directors as well as talent in theater, music, publishing and new media. The roster includes the creator of the "Dilbert" comic strip, about a dysfunctional and depressing workplace--an environment she has steadfastly avoided. As she told the Bulletin in a 1998 interview, "Mine is a ridiculously fun job."

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Nicole SeligmanA lawyer who could defend both Lt. Col. Oliver North and President Bill Clinton has to be tough. As North himself told The Washington Post: "Nobody messes with Nicole Seligman."

Seligman '83 first grabbed public attention not long after graduating from HLS, when she was part of the legal team representing North in the Iran-Contra trial. A former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, she also defended Clinton in impeachment proceedings when she was a partner at Williams & Connolly, saying on the Senate floor: "The moment has arrived where the best interest of the nation, the wise prescription of the framers and the failure of the managers' proof all point to dismissal."

Today, Seligman is executive vice president and general counsel of Sony Corporation of America, overseeing all legal, intellectual property, investor relations, government, regulatory and general affairs for the company. She came to Sony after having represented media interests like CNN, ABC and even occasionally The National Enquirer, showing again that all kinds of clients want her in their corner.

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Dale CendaliIt was a "Perry Mason" moment for Dale Cendali '84 Shortly before she made partner at O'Melveny & Myers in New York City, she defended the right of a TV program to show footage of O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown's wedding. Simpson tried to stop it on privacy grounds until, in televised court proceedings, Cendali noted passages from his own book that described the wedding. The case was dismissed.

Cendali has had many moments in the spotlight since then. Named by the National Law Journal as one of America's top 50 women litigators, she represented the winning side in a dispute over the ownership of choreographer Martha Graham's work, successfully defended the E. & J. Gallo Winery on false advertising charges and stopped the unauthorized sale of necklaces copied from the movie "Titanic." Recently, she argued a case before the Supreme Court alleging a trademark violation in the production of a World War II documentary.

Now chairwoman of her firm's copyright, trademark and Internet litigation practice group, Cendali writes and lectures frequently on those topics. After all, other lawyers may want to copy what she does.

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Deborah WrightDeborah Wright '84 knows the value of empowerment. Appointed president and CEO of Carver Bancorp Inc. in 1999, Wright is today in charge of the nation's largest African-American-operated bank, with assets of $420 million and 120 employees. The once-struggling institution, based in Harlem with branches throughout New York City, achieved its highest level of profitability in company history last year and has shown steadily higher stock prices since her arrival.

It's part of a career in which Wright has worked to bring financial power to an underserved community. She previously was president and CEO of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corp. and commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development in New York City. The daughter of a minister, Wright preaches the importance of bringing financial services to a minority community once ignored by most banks. "The irony is, this tiny institution, whose market was generated by discrimination, now finds itself competing with the very folks who wouldn't give services or set foot in New York's minority communities," she told the Bulletin in 1999. If her company wins the competition, people in the inner city will win too.

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