Nancy Lieberman is a Partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. She knew she wanted to be a lawyer since she was 12 and realized this goal when she graduated from The University of Chicago Law School in 1979 at the age of 22. After law school, she clerked for Judge Henry A. Politz in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and then received an LLM in taxation from New York University School of Law. She joined Skadden, Arps in 1981 and, five and a half years later, became the firm’s youngest-ever partner soon after her 30th birthday.
Nancy was one of the first women partners specializing in mergers and acquisitions law at a U.S. law firm. Now in her fourth decade at Skadden, Nancy has worked on every type of merger and acquisition transaction possible, including sales and purchases of publicly owned corporations, privately owned businesses, private equity transactions, proxy contests, joint ventures, corporate governance matters and corporate restructurings. Her practice also has spanned many industries, including health care, retail, energy, chemicals, apparel, manufacturing, telecommunications and insurance. She also frequently has lectured on these topics. Over the span of her career she has received numerous honors, including being named one of “the 50 most influential women lawyers in America” by the National Law Journal (1998).
Unlike today, when Nancy attended law school in the 1970s courses in the field of corporate law were minimal. Moreover, when Nancy started as an associate at Skadden, the prevailing system at large law firms required young attorneys to “sink or swim” on their own. To remedy this situation, Nancy has worked hard to teach young associates working on her transactions the “ins and outs” of practical lawyering in an attempt to demystify the practice of corporate law. She has served as a mentor to younger lawyers and also as a sounding board with respect to the issues they have faced in balancing career goals with personal goals.
On Christmas Eve 2007 while on a family ski vacation, Nancy suffered a life-altering accident that rendered her quadriplegic. She was determined at the outset to resume her practice full time at Skadden and accomplished that goal one year later when she returned to work. During an interview with Crane’s New York Business in 2012 she remarked, “At the end of the day, my clients have all come back, and I’ve been able to win new clients. To be able to think clearly, spot issues and solve problems, it really does not matter if you are in a wheelchair or in a regular chair.” In fact, Nancy has advised on some of the most complex and significant transactions of her career since returning to work, including representing Amylin Pharmaceuticals in its effort to end a partnership with pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, and then representing Amylin in its $7 billion sale to Bristol-Myers in 2012. Nancy’s work for Amylin earned her a “Dealmaker of the Year” award from The American Lawyer in 2013.
Nancy’s situation has driven home the point to her that diversity in the legal marketplace is essential. From her own experience, she deeply understands what it is like to be treated differently for no good reason other than her disability, which has had virtually no impact on her ability to represent clients zealously.
Nancy has channeled her energies to support research that will culminate in a cure for spinal cord injury. She learned that under New York state law, a surcharge on speeding tickets was required to fund spinal cord injury research and that such funding was improperly eliminated in 2010. She co-founded in 2013 and serves as a director of New Yorkers to Cure Paralysis, an umbrella organization that helped persuade the New York State Legislature to restore $7.9 million in 2014 to fund the state’s Spinal Cord Injury Research Program. Nancy continues to lobby for restoration of the full $8.5 million annual amount of funding required by law. In October 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Nancy to serve as a director of the New York State Spinal Cord Injury Review Board, which determines which research teams will be funded each year.
Nancy also serves as a director of the National Center for Law and Economic Justice; a trustee of her undergraduate college, the University of Rochester; and a director of the Pacific Council on International Policy. In 2014, The University of Chicago Law School named Nancy “Alumna of the Year” and invited her to give the commencement address at the law school’s graduation ceremony. In 2012, the University of Rochester gave Nancy its “Distinguished Alumnus Award.”
In the words of the HLS community member who nominated Ms. Lieberman, “She is personable and has a great, strong, inspiring perspective and tenacity.”