One lawyer’s remarkable life

Although I started the New York Times Sports Section article about Michele Roberts, by Andrew Keh, because she has just been selected as the first woman N.B.A. players’ union leader, I read the whole piece as a compelling history of one lawyer.

Since I am so impressed by her, I regret to inform you that you can’t retain her as your lawyer right now, since she’s no longer directly practicing law.

But she knocks me out and I think she’ll do the same for you.

Maybe it’s sort of a footnote, but like Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Roberts grew up in a New York City housing project.

Here’s the beginning of the article; you’ll want to read the whole thing.  to learn how she handle herself as one of the few black (scholarship) kids at a private school, how her initial choice in law was to do public defender work and how she eventually went into white shoe law firm practice (I’ve bolded one of her bam-bam quotes − spoken in front of an audience of NBA players.)

Last month, inside a grand ballroom at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Michele A. Roberts stood before 117 N.B.A. players — towering international celebrities with millions in their bank accounts — and declared that she should be their leader.

Roberts confidently ran through her credentials — law school at the University of California, Berkeley; a sparkling trial career; partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, one of Washington’s most prestigious law firms — and then addressed the many problems facing the players union that she hoped to lead as executive director.

But as the private meeting went on, she sensed an unspoken question hovering over the proceedings. Keeping with her style, she confronted it head-on.

She said she was all too aware that if she was selected, she would represent several hundred male athletes in the N.B.A.; she would deal with league officials and agents who were nearly all men; she would negotiate with team owners who were almost all men; and she would stand before reporters who were predominantly men.


Roberts, who grew up in the Melrose Houses in the Bronx, will return to New York in her new position. Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times

She did not flinch. “My past,” she told the room, “is littered with the bones of men who were foolish enough to think I was someone they could sleep on.”

Hours later, Roberts drew 32 of 34 votes cast and was named the first female leader of a major North American professional sports union, ending a long and contentious search.

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