Our ten nominees for 2013 Lawyer of the Year honors were a distinguished and diverse group. They included a Supreme Court justice, a U.S. Attorney, a governor, a law school dean, and some of Biglaw’s brightest stars. They also included a plaintiffs’ lawyer accused of awful acts, a shameless self-promoter fond of letting it all hang out, and a young attorney with a problematic sideline. We cover it all here at Above the Law.

Our prior winners have come from the savory rather than salacious side of the ledger. Here are ATL’s past Lawyers of the Year:

For 2013, who will join their distinguished ranks? Let’s find out….

Unlike last year, this year was a blowout; our victor took almost half the vote (in a field with 10 contenders). Congratulations to Roberta A. Kaplan, our 2013 Lawyer of the Year!

Robbie Kaplan is the Paul Weiss partner who won a major victory on behalf of Edith Windsor in the landmark case of United States v. Windsor, in which the Supreme Court struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. Although most famous for the Windsor case, Kaplan, a graduate of Harvard College and Columbia Law School, has a long and impressive track record as a litigatrix (especially for a relatively young partner). Her Paul Weiss bio sums it up nicely:

A partner in the Litigation Department, Roberta (Robbie) Kaplan has been described as a “powerhouse corporate litigator” and “pressure junkie” who “thrives on looking at the big picture” whether “in the gay-marriage legal fight or high-profile corporate scandals.” Although she has been described as a “new hero to the gay rights movement,” Robbie has credited her friends and family “for helping her get through the ‘out-of-body experience’ and historic, high-stress litigation work for which she is noted.” Robbie has been selected as one of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers” and one of the top “40 Under 40” lawyers in the United States, as well as a 2013 “Litigator of the Year” by The American Lawyer.

We spoke with Robbie Kaplan about her Lawyer of the Year win over the phone this afternoon. “Thank you very much,” she said. “I’m obviously honored.”

Where is she going next — Disney World? Actually, no; she’s just going uptown. She told us that she’s looking forward to appearing tomorrow night with her fabulous client, Edie Windsor, at the 92nd Street Y, where they will discuss (along with actress and comedian Judy Gold) the continuing struggle for LGBT equality. You can order tickets here.

Robbie Kaplan is the second woman to win Lawyer of the Year honors — the first was Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who summered at Paul Weiss, actually — and our first honoree who won while still in Biglaw. Some of our prior winners have done stints of varying length at large law firms — e.g., John Roberts was a partner at Hogan & Hartson, Barack Obama was a summer associate at Sidley Austin — but Kaplan is the first to win while still working at a major firm.

And congratulations to that firm, Paul Weiss, which has been racking up some great publicity as of late. Last month, we named it one of our top 10 firms for 2013, based on responses to our ATL Insider Survey. The month before that, it won an even more important honor: New York’s sexiest law firm (based on employee attractiveness).

Congrats again to Robbie Kaplan, and thanks to her for her tireless work on behalf of marriage equality. The fight is far from over, but with advocates like Kaplan — as well as the runners-up for 2013 Lawyer of the Year, David Boies and Ted Olson — it’s only a matter of time before victory is complete.

P.S. Speaking of high-powered, history-making Paul Weiss partners, we hear that Jeh Johnson (whom we previously profiled) sent out a great departure memo when he left the firm to become Secretary of Homeland Security. If anyone has a copy they’d be willing to share, please feel free to send it our way.

Edie Windsor and Roberta Kaplan with Judy Gold [92nd Street Y]

Earlier: ATL’s Top Rated Firms For 2013
Bow Before New York’s Sexiest Biglaw Firm
Above the Law’s 2013 Lawyer of the Year Contest: The Finalists!
Above the Law’s 2013 Lawyer of the Year Contest: Nominations Needed


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