Blank Rome Partner Sheila G. Riesel was interviewed in a Q&A published in the October 2017 edition of New York Metro Super Lawyers, which told the stories of nine women attorneys who pioneered the path for women in the legal profession. Super Lawyers describes the interview as "an oral history of those who fought 'we don’t hire women' law firms and handsy judges to make legal history." To read the full Q&A, please click here.
TO BE OR NOT TO BE A LAWYER
Sheila Riesel, Blank Rome, Fordham ’69: We were still basking in the glow of the Kennedy years—“Ask not what your country can do for you”—and I thought politics was the way to go. My father was a lawyer and it occurred to me that law school would give me some tools in a political career. I also grew up in a household where my father said he wanted me to do more than stay at home—as he put it—“wrestling pots.”
BIG CASES, BIG MOVES
Riesel (‘69): Having by default moved into the public sector, because the private sector was really not open to women, I found myself with a job that enabled me to argue regularly before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and three times before the United States Supreme Court. The last case I argued there, I was seven months pregnant. The Supreme Court bench is really almost at eye level; and while you couldn’t see I was pregnant while I was sitting, when I stood up it was very apparent. I heard Justice White lean over to Justice Burger [and] say to him, “Do you believe this?”
Riesel (‘69): The second time I was on maternity leave, I had a scheduled trial that would have resulted in cutting my maternity leave short. I asked the judge for a month’s extension so I could have my full maternity leave and so I could have time to prepare for a three-month criminal trial. He denied my request. He said to me, “You can bounce the baby on one knee and the documents on another.” So I did.