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Liza M. Walsh ’84 Named Distinguished Graduate of 2012, Award Presented By Martha-Ann Alito


“An extraordinary woman adept at balancing family and an exceptional life in the law, Liza Walsh still makes time—all the time— to be there and mentor the next generations of Seton Hall Lawyers,” said Dean Patrick E. Hobbs to a crowd of more than 400 guests at the Short Hills Hilton, where Liza M. Walsh ‘84, Connell Foley LLP, was named Seton Hall Law School’s Distinguished Graduate of 2012 and honored at this year’s Alumni Dinner Dance. (Pictured, from left, Martha-Ann Alito and Liza Walsh)  

A Partner at Connell Foley and Chair of its Finance Committee, Liza Walsh has repeatedly been named a Best Lawyer in America, a Super Lawyer, and has even been the subject of a magazine article which asked the question, “Is Liza Walsh New Jersey’s Most Powerful Woman?”

One of Walsh's partners and a Seton Hall Law classmate, John P. Lacey ‘84, notes, “Liza was destined for greatness from the time she first walked into the law school. You could see it especially when she represented indigent clients in the Seton Hall Legal Services Clinic. The clients put their complete trust in Liza and she never let them down or gave them anything less than her absolute best effort. That same selflessness and complete dedication to the client is something that she still brings to every case every day.”

Although widely acclaimed within the legal community as a “lawyer’s lawyer” and a consummate professional, the evening’s testimonials to Liza Walsh revealed a different kind of power and a staunch commitment to helping others. Born of the hardship and religious and ethnic persecution her family endured in the former Yugoslavia, she takes the time to help others. With the help of Catholic Relief Services, her family made their way to the freedom of America, but first they had to spend two long years in an Italian refugee camp. They arrived in America with a total of $235 and Liza Walsh, age 12, knew exactly one word of English, learned at the airport: “OK.”

Martha-Ann Alito, the wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and Walsh’s closest friend, formally presented her with the Distinguished Graduate Award. Mrs. Alito reminisced about their meeting at their children’s preschool class, where they learned they both attended Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church in Roseland. Mrs. Alito spoke of the unique quality that characterizes her friend: “Because Liza lives fully and totally every day, each day – today, the only day we are granted – she never encounters ‘no.’ All can be accomplished regardless of the finite hours many of us see.”

Liza Walsh came to Seton Hall Law as a student in the Legal Education Opportunities (LEO) program, which was designed to attract and support students who were interested in the law but whose economic or educational disadvantages may have precluded them from even considering a career in law. She remembers the professors who coached her through the program, Professor Wilfredo Caraballo and Professor Bernard Freamon, both of whom influenced and inspired her. “They were exceptional. They had the ability to make you feel like there’s nothing you can’t do. And they made you feel good about what you were doing and the profession you were entering.” She remembers their passion for teaching and their commitment to making a difference in the lives of their students.

Like her professors, Walsh is also renowned for her dedication to making a difference for the young attorneys who follow in her footsteps. Professor Charles Sullivan, who taught Contracts during Walsh’s first year observed, “Liza was an engaged and engaging student, and her success in the legal profession is no surprise to those who knew her then; but what I find most gratifying about Liza is her determination to give back. In mentoring young women, she inspires them to achieve in the same way she has.”

Walsh says, “I’ve always been very conscious of all the people who have helped me along the way. I wanted to help somebody else feel the way that I have felt over the years, opening doors for others the way that so many doors were opened for me. Whether a young woman just got married and is worried about how to juggle a family and still pursue a career, or a young male associate is facing those same challenges, I want to support and encourage them. Ultimately I’ve tried to create an environment where they can thrive professionally and have successful and fulfilling lives.”

The_Walsh_FamilyWalsh’s eldest son, William, Jr., has chosen to following in her footsteps and those of her husband, William T. Walsh, who serves as Clerk for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. William, Jr. just completed finals as a first-year student at Seton Hall Law. Phillip F. McGovern ?84, also a Connell Foley colleague and Seton Hall Law classmate, spoke of Walsh’s professionalism and her devotion to her family. He said, “Liza was then, and remains, one of the most complete persons I know. She is blessed with an extraordinary intellect and a streetwise savviness matched by few. Her unwavering dedication to clients is only surpassed by the level of devotion bestowed upon her husband Bill, and her sons Billy, Mark and Maurice. Liza has built a career to envy and leads a life to emulate." (The Walsh family, pictured from left: William; William, Jr. '14; Liza; Maurice and Mark.)

In accepting the award, Walsh noted that she felt “more blessed than distinguished,” and recalled standing on the stoop of her Bronx apartment with her mother when she opened her acceptance letter from Seton Hall Law. That pathway, she said, “gave me an opportunity to pursue what appeared to be an unattainable dream of becoming a lawyer. That decision changed my life and since that decision, every day, I have tried to conduct myself worthy of the chance Seton Hall took and the trust it placed in me.”

Click here to view the Alumni Dinner Dance photos on Flickr!