Trailblazing Seton Hall Law Women
Margaret Brinig ’73 went to law school knowing her end goal was to teach; so it is no surprise that she is the first woman graduate of Seton Hall Law to become a law school professor. It did not take her long – she clerked and worked as an Assistant Deputy Public Defender for two years before commencing her academic career. Now at Notre Dame Law School, Brinig is the Fritz Duda Family Chair in Law specializing in family law and economics.
In addition to her scholarship, Brinig loves spending time with her five children and seven grandchildren, “I most enjoy the relationships with students and colleagues at the three schools I’ve taught at,” says Brinig. “It’s wonderful to be in class and get students excited about an idea and help them get started on their journey.”
Of her time at Seton Hall Law, she recalls late nights and early mornings on the Law Review, and courses with Professors Robert Diab and Ahmed Bulbulia. Looking back, Brinig originally wanted to help the disadvantaged, and she is gratified that her life’s work has had “a direct impact on disadvantaged families.”
Judge Katharine S. Hayden ’75 was anxious to make her mark when she entered law school; and this fall she will have made her mark on the bench for 21 years. She is a federal judge for the United States District Court, District of New Jersey whose previous experience includes serving as partner at two firms, Assistant U.S. Attorney, and Law Clerk for the Honorable Robert Clifford on the New Jersey Supreme Court.
“I still feel molded by my practice years and what I learned at Seton Hall Law,” says Judge Hayden. “The Law School was breaking into the big time, there was an interesting arc, and it was a wonderful time for women to prosper in the field.”
The real lesson, Judge Hayden says, is that her career was a mix of hard work, timing, and the firm desire to help people. “This wasn’t happenstance,” she says. “I had a limited three-second moment of ‘I can’t do this,’ and then I never fell into feelings of despair again.”
Paulette Brown ’76 didn’t enter college wanting to be a lawyer; in fact she thought she would end up in a career as a social worker. But throughout her college career at Howard University, she realized just how much more she could do with a law degree. Seton Hall Law was the place to earn it and after 42 years of practicing law, she hasn't looked back.
Brown is Senior Partner at Locke Lord LLP and was recently named its Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer. In August 2015, she became the first woman of color elected President of the American Bar Association.
What she most enjoys today is interacting with young lawyers. She encourages them to “step out and be brave, to try something new. You have talent and won’t get certain places without those capabilities.”
While Brown says that being part of the legal profession has been a rewarding experience, she recognizes, “There are still significant strides to be made.”
“Statistics show women have not made as much progress as we should,” Brown says. “There needs to be constant education and contribution to pay it forward.”
Lynn Fontaine Newsome ’81 always had the mindset to attend Seton Hall Law. As an undergrad at Seton Hall interested in government, political science, and history, she knew her path would eventually lead to law school. She does not consider herself a trailblazer, however, as “there were many women ahead of our class. We came out in numbers and were soon a force to be reckoned with.”
Newsome, partner at Newsome O’Donnell LLC and past president of the New Jersey Bar Association, is currently Chair of Seton Hall Law’s Board of Visitors. “The law has been good to me; I want to be good to it. My Law School has been good to me; I want to be good to it.”
Decades later, Newsome is proud of her Law School and the network that it’s celebrated for. Her son, Brian is a 2018 graduate, and she encourages him and all alumni to “value those around you and the relationships you’ve built.”
Karol Corbin Walker ’86 likes to say “I didn’t choose Seton Hall Law, Seton Hall Law chose me.” She is a proud Legal Education Opportunity (LEO) graduate, which she says “opened the door to law school; but it was ultimately my own talent and hard work that sustained me throughout. I tell students that regardless of the route they take, once they are in school, everyone is on the same footing and it is up to them to chart the course of their legal education.”
Today, Walker is known as the first African American woman to attain partner at a major New Jersey firm at LeClairRyan, the first African American President of the NJSBA (in 2003-2004), and the first African American President of the Association of the Federal Bar of New Jersey in 2015.
Despite her firsts, Walker wants, “to ensure I’m not the last and that anyone can strive for excellence.” She was very involved during her time at Seton Hall Law in numerous activities and remains connected years later.
One continuing concern is how big of a pay gap there still is between men and women in the working world regardless of industry. “We shouldn’t allow history and what has transpired to oppress segments of society. I want to keep the wheels of justice moving forward.”