A Powerful Attorney Who Just Happens to Use a Wheelchair

A story in last week’s WSJ had a photo of a pretty blond woman in a wheelchair…but you couldn’t see the top of the chair as you usually would in such a photo. It was deliberate, said Nancy Lieberman, because as a powerful attorney, a partner in the world’s largest and most prestigious law firm, she didn’t want her corporate clients to be reminded that she was handicapped.

Five years ago her life suddenly changed, after getting off the ski lift in Telluride, Colorado ready for her first run on a Christmas skiing vacation. She hit a grove of trees and before she knew it, she was writhing in pain, unable to yell for help. She became paralyzed, unable to use her legs and barely able to use her fingers. A year later she was back at Skadden Arps helping clients make billion dollar mergers and acquisitions.

Today while she is back in court doing the tough negotiations with drug company mergers, she’s also fighting for the rights of the disabled; challenging City Hall to promote more handicapped accessible taxis and pushing for funding of spinal cord injury research.

Using voice recognition software and small plastic nubs that serve as thumbs, Lieberman today is back at the top of her game, and her clients have no doubts that a woman in a wheelchair is savvy enough to bet their companies on.