January 06, 2021 Feature

Lessons from My Grandmother

Justice Ginburg's granddaughter writes about her life and influence.

Clara Spera

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My grandmother, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, did not attend law school expecting to become an “impact” litigator. (The term “impact litigation” may not have even existed at the time she set off for law school, in 1956.) She did not start representing clients in gender equality cases—or any cases—until a decade after she graduated from Columbia Law School. While my grandmother was an undergraduate at Cornell, Professor Robert Cushman, who had suffered harassment during the McCarthy period, taught her that the law could furnish a means to resist oppression. She did not translate that insight immediately into a career path. But the work that she, and others, later did made it possible for me to envision a career as a litigator, even well before I started law school.

Image by Mary Woodin.

Image by Mary Woodin.

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