Spotlight on Alumnae Who Lead Local Bar Associations

As “New York’s law school,” NYLS takes great pride in training the next generation of lawyers who lead across the profession—especially in New York. In honor of Women’s History Month, NYLS pays tribute to alumnae who lead local bar associations.

Miguelina Camilo '11, Dana Catanzaro '09, Natoya McGhie '11, Frances Nicotra '91, Sherbune Paul '16, and Rosa Tragni '91

Brandeis Bar Association 

Hon. Mojgan C. Lancman ’94 leads the Executive Board of the Brandeis Bar Association. The Queens-based association of Jewish legal professionals was established in 1969. Its purpose is “to encourage friendship and culture among our members, to foster respect for law and legal institutions, and to vigorously assert its interest in justice and fair play in the County of Queens and in the City and State of New York.” The Association hosts special educational and networking events, provides an annual community service award, and has maintained a scholarship fund. Learn more about the Brandeis Bar Association.

Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association

In June 2020, Natoya McGhie ’11 became President of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association (BWBA). At 103 years old, BWBA is the state’s oldest incorporated women’s bar association. When it was established in 1918, the 19th Amendment had not yet been passed, and women were not permitted to serve as jurors.

In her President’s Message, McGhie explained that the theme of her presidency is “Paving the Way Through Mentorship.”

She wrote, “The advice, encouragement, and support of my mentors have been invaluable to my growth and professional development. … Now, in these trying times, it is important that we continue to support diversity and inclusion in our legal community, and guide and mentor each other.”

McGhie, who immigrated to the United States from Jamaica at age 14, said she did not have mentors until well into adulthood. She found out about the BWBA as an NYLS student, and through it, she “met mentors and friends who changed the trajectory of my personal and professional life.”

Now, she is determined to help other rising professionals. The Brooklyn Eagle wrote about the importance of McGhie’s theme in the era of COVID and about BWBA’s efforts with its own mentoring program, which McGhie has helped lead.

In addition, BWBA will award two scholarships at its annual dinner in May—one to a law student and the other to a 2020 graduate.

Numerous other alumnae play leading roles in the BWBA, Lisa Michael ’03 is a Vice President. Susan Mauro ’96 and Marea Wachsman ’00 are members of BWBA’s Board of Directors. Elaine N. Avery ’95, Helene Blank ’77, and Carrie Anne Cavallo ’99 are Past Presidents and current Delegates. (Avery is also a Past President of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York.) Learn more about the BWBA.

Bronx Women’s Bar Association

Miguelina Camilo ’11 became President of the Bronx Women’s Bar Association in June 2020. No stranger to leadership roles, she is also Past President of the Dominican Bar Association.

“When I started my year as President, I chose the theme of ‘The Strength of the Bronx Women’ and set out to create virtual programming that would highlight the strength of our members, even during the difficulties we faced with COVID-19,” Camilo said.

During her tenure, the Association has hosted monthly virtual lunches with judges and has created a new series, “Bronx Women Lead,” which honors female leaders in the Bronx. Speakers have included Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark. In November 2020, Camilo led the Association in hosting its first-ever virtual gala, which raised funds for Siena House, a shelter for women and children in the Bronx.

“I will continue my Presidency into next year and hope to continue to highlight the Bronx woman for all our work in and outside the legal profession,” Camilo said. Follow the Bronx Women’s Bar Association on Instagram.

Columbian Lawyers Association

Dana M. Catanzaro ’09 is President of the Columbian Lawyers Association, which aims to promote Italian Americans in the law and judiciary. She was installed as President in December 2019 and for a second term December 2020.

“While most of my presidency has been virtual, I was grateful to have Justice George Silver, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for the New York City Courts, and Justice [and 1997 NYLS graduate] Anthony Cannataro, Administrative Judge of the Civil Court of the City of New York, present our first in-person CLE of my presidency in January 2020 on New York State’s Presumptive ADR Initiative,” Catanzaro said. The event was covered in the Brooklyn Eagle.

Soon after, the Association pivoted to hosting virtual CLEs without slowing its pace. Catanzaro plans to offer a minimum of 12 virtual CLE credits this year.

“I am proud that since my term started, we have been collaborating with other bar associations,” Catanzaro noted. “Our most recent virtual CLE course was co-sponsored by the Haitian American Lawyers Association of New York, the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, and the Brehon Law Society.”

The Association, which celebrates Italian culture, recently published a first-ever book of family recipes from its members. Learn more about the Columbian Lawyers Association.

Dominican Bar Association

Doralyn DeDios ’16 is President of the Dominican Bar Association (DBA). As DeDios notes in her bio, she joined the DBA as an NYLS student in 2014.

She found a pathway to leadership roles in the legal profession during her time at NYLS, where she served as Chair of the Robert F. Wagner Moot Court Competition, Admissions Committee Chair for the Latin American Law Students Association, and Mentoring Committee Chair for the Black Law Students Association. DeDios is also a board member of the Association of Black Women Attorneys of New York and is Co-Chair of the Latin American Affairs Committee for the Hispanic National Bar Association.

In addition to DeDios, fellow alumnae Keila Espinosa ’16 and Hon. Bianka Perez ’00 are Directors of DBA. Learn more about the DBA.

Haitian American Lawyers Association

Earlier this month, Sherbune Paul ’16 became the new President of the Haitian American Lawyers Association of New York (HALA-NY). Her priorities include building HALA-NY’s membership, funding a law student scholarship, and providing access to legal services for New York City’s Haitian community. She has established a theme in Haitian Creole that translates to “Stand together, rise together.”

In addition, fellow alumna Kimberly Gay ’17 was installed as Chair of HALA-NY’s 2021 Board of Directors. Gay was a featured speaker in a June 2020 panel discussion hosted by HAHA-NY on the topic “Tackling the Virus of Racism: A Call to Action.” The panel also included Professor Kirk Burkhalter ’04.

HALA-NY’s latest work, according to Paul, includes “supporting Haitian immigrant rights and advocating on behalf of the extension of TPS [Temporary Protected Status] benefits and creating a path to permanent residency, the reinstatement of the Haitian Family Reunification Parole program, as well as bringing more light to the devastating political crisis happening abroad in Haiti.” Learn more about HALA-NY.

Hudson County Bar Association

Frances Nicotra ’91 is President of the Hudson County Bar Association. The Association, founded in 1877, is based in Jersey City, New Jersey and counts more than 600 members as participants in its social functions, seminars, and volunteer legal services. The Association has numerous committees. This month, its Women in the Law Committee hosted timely CLEs: “Overcoming the Pandemic—Female Legal Professionals in the Time of COVID” and “Authenticity in 2021: How to Achieve it and Why it Matters.”

In addition to Nicotra, Sotiria Makrogiannis ’03 is Immediate Past President, and Christine Fitzgerald ’06 is Membership Secretary. Learn more about the Hudson County Bar Association.

Staten Island Women’s Bar Association

Rosa Tragni ’91 is President of the Staten Island Women’s Bar Association (SIWBA), a chapter of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York. She previously served as Treasurer.

“As President of the Staten Island Women’s Bar Association, our mission is the advancement of women in society and of women in the legal profession, promoting the administration of justice, and giving voice to issues of particular importance on a statewide and nationwide level,” Tragni noted.

SIWBA, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary hosts CLEs, health and wellness events, a breast cancer walk, and mentoring programs. Learn more about the SIWBA.