A trailblazer, Plevan was accused of unfairly closing doors to women

Bettina Plevan, a litigator known as a trailblazer who took women on the New York City bar into the 21st century, has died at the age of 75. “The litigator’s death shocked us, but…

A trailblazer, Plevan was accused of unfairly closing doors to women

Bettina Plevan, a litigator known as a trailblazer who took women on the New York City bar into the 21st century, has died at the age of 75.

“The litigator’s death shocked us, but his political influence and the scope of his influence in the legal community will continue to reverberate into the future. A wake was held today and we’ll know more about a funeral and memorials as we learn more. The legal community has lost a legend,” said Michael Downing, former Bronx District Attorney and a close friend of Plevan’s who oversaw a legal inquest into Plevan’s death.

Plevan’s partner at an important defense firm named Ivan Basile told the New York Daily News that Plevan died on August 18, citing “a building collapse in Manhattan.”

Plevan entered the New York legal world in 1970 as an associate at Goldberg Kohn. By the time he was 32 years old, he was managing a team of three lawyers in The Bronx who defended business people against alleged wrongdoing in the courts, and was a member of the Bronx Bar Association.

Plevan was elected to the Law Department in 1973 and became chief lawyer and a trial attorney in the Legal Services Corporation in 1977. He served as chief counsel of the D.A.’s office from 1983-84.

In 1990, Plevan launched his own firm, Burnham, Plevan, White & Smolinski, P.C., and joined the powerful Wagner & Weiss law firm, also in 1990.

In 1990, his firm handled the defense of

Cosmos Wertman, a Philadelphia hedge fund manager accused of market manipulation, who was paid $2.5 million in legal fees to the tune of $3.5 million in fees. The case was ultimately resolved in Wertman’s favor.

In that same year, Plevan helped the legal department of Citizens Bank serve as legal counsel for Credit Suisse First Boston/CBOT Electronic Trading & Markets Corp., a firm that represented Credit Suisse First Boston and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in the infamous Herbalife case.

Plevan’s team was based in Boston, New York and Seattle.

Plevan was widely credited with helping set a solid foundation for women lawyers as a “model minority” and one of the first minority partners of a major firm. He championed diversity as a basis for superior representation of both the client and the lawyers who represented them.

John Williamson, Vice President of the National Women’s Law Center and a former colleague of Plevan’s, told the Daily News that the litigator’s death was a “loss to the community.”

“Because of his leadership, the bar started to make strides in taking diversity seriously and openly, while also partnering more successfully,” Williamson said.

Following Plevan’s death, a petition began to be circulated to name a scholarship fund in his honor at Suffolk University Law School.

Eileen Campbell is Editor of Trixiebird, and Executive Director of the Women in Law Network. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and on Instagram.

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