Twists and Turns on the Fast Track to Partner Tammy Bieber ’95
A year ago, Tammy Bieber ’95 was named a partner at Shearman & Sterling. In a conversation with Alumni Affairs Director Barbara Birch, she disclosed that the path was not direct nor was making partner a lifelong dream.
Q: You had a career prior to attending law school. What was it?
A: I spent eight years working in the hotel industry after graduating from Cornell University’s hotel management program. I decided to take the LSAT when the job market was weak and I found myself in a job I didn’t love. When I was applying to law school, Cardozo was particularly good at identifying law students who may not have done well as an undergraduate, but had good work experience and would be good lawyers.
Q: Did you enjoy your Cardozo experience?
A: I loved law school. I was a relaxed student compared to my classmates who just completed their undergraduate degrees. While other 1Ls were concerned about making Law Review, I was just enjoying the new environment of law school. I even had the option to transfer to NYU after my first year, but I chose to stay at Cardozo. I felt the emphasis should be on the quality of education, not the name recognition of the school.
Q: What opportunities were afforded you as a result of attending Cardozo?
A: I was an Alexander Fellow, which gave me the opportunity to intern full-time for Judge Jack Weinstein in my second year, which helped me to get my postgraduate clerkship in the Ninth Circuit.
Q: How did you like clerking?
A: Clerking was a tremendous experience both at the district court level and the circuit court. You see the inner workings of the court system. I recommend it to students and recent graduates.
Q: You also earned an LL.M. degree?
A: Yes. I have an LL.M. in tax from NYU because Laura Cunningham encouraged me to start the program in my third year. I finished the degree at night while clerking.
Q: Did you know you wanted to join a large firm?
A: Not at all. Even with the LL.M. in tax, at heart I was a litigator. I thought I’d be an assistant US attorney, but decided to spend a few years at a big firm to earn some money and pay off some loans.
Q: When did you join Shearman & Sterling?
A: In 1997. I didn’t expect to stay long, only as long as it was tolerable. But once there, I enjoyed the work and especially the people I was working with. I was pleased to find that Shearman was a collaborative, not competitive environment, without the stereotypical “yelling” that I heard about at some big firms.
Q: Did you think you’d stay to become a partner?
A: I did explore the possibility of leaving, but realized that Shearman was where I wanted to be long-term, and in February 2004 I was made a partner.
Q: Do you feel that there are barriers for women in the field?
A: There are few women who are partners at the large law firms. I’ve noticed that many women self-select out after four or five years. Law firms, including Shearman, are making efforts to retain women. I never felt there were barriers to my succeeding at the firm based on my gender.
Q: Have you been involved in pro bono work?
A: I’ve done some pro bono work for the National Endowment for the Arts and am on the legal advisory committee for Sanctuary for Families. It was very rewarding. Also, early on in my career at Shearman, I was sent to try cases for the City of New York for six months, which gave me great courtroom experience.
Q: Do you have any advice for current law students?
A: Be open minded. I didn’t think a big firm career was for me, but here I am. Sometimes you have to give things a chance.