Haub Alumni of the Month: Elizabeth Citrin '94

Opening up brand new horizons

Elizabeth Citrin graduated from the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University in 1994. She is the founder of her law firm, Elizabeth A. Citrin, P.C. in Alabama. Her primary practice areas include personal injury, bad faith insurance claims, business interruption claims, and more. After graduating from Vanderbilt University, Ms. Citrin started her career as a television producer and writer, working for CBS News, Channel 9, Lifetime, WWOR TV, and others before going on to attend law school. After law school, she completed a clerkship for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit as a Motions Law Clerk. She then worked as Assistant Corporation Counsel for the NYC Law Department. Afterward, Ms. Citrin briefly returned to television to work on a start-up court show for CBS Inc./King World before she started practicing complex litigation defense work in South Alabama. Ms. Citrin has been identified as one of the Top 100 Civil Plaintiff Trial Lawyers in Alabama.

A Q&A with Elizabeth Citrin '94

Can you briefly describe your career path? 

My first job out of college at Vanderbilt University was for an advertising photographer as a photo assistant and location scout.  I then took an entry-level job for CBS Newsradio 88, working my way up to producing segments for The CBS Morning News.  I also produced for WWOR-TV and Lifetime Television, among others.  In my late twenties I started thinking about getting a law degree and was fortunate to be accepted in Pace’s evening program, which allowed me to keep working for a taped formatted show (Attitudes) for Lifetime. I had previously worked in live television and going to law school at the same time would not have been possible because the hours were unpredictable (i.e., taping in London for a War Correspondent’s Roundtable with Dan Rather for CBS, or flying to Cape Canaveral at a moment’s notice to cover the tragedy of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion after liftoff).  I did not know that getting a law degree would lead to me becoming a full-time lawyer, but as it turned out, I enjoyed becoming a lawyer very much and have been able to utilize this position to earn a good living and help change the world in small ways.

How did the desire to go to law school evolve for you?

The idea of going to law school and becoming a lawyer evolved over time.  Having a law degree opens-up so many doors.  I cannot imagine anybody regretting the decision, even if he/she chooses a different path after obtaining the degree.  It makes you a sharper thinker and gives you an edge that others without a law degree may not have.  As a woman in the business world, running a law practice, and litigating civil cases in state and federal courts, there can be challenges.  Being a lawyer helps bridge the gaps.

How did you choose Pace? 

I was working as a producer on a television show at the time and I needed an evening program for law school.  I loved the location and campus and everybody I met was down to earth and accessible, which was important to me being an older student.  My then husband had a branch office in Westchester County, and it made sense that I choose Pace (there were only a few evening programs back then).  I was 30 and had been out of school for nine years, having graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1981.  When I went to Vanderbilt, I thought I would become a photographer traveling the world for National Geographic.  My first job out of college was for an advertising photographer on Madison Avenue and eventually I became a producer for network news (CBS) and cable shows (Lifetime, WWOR-TV).  I started studying for the LSATs while recovering from an injury, applied to law school, found out I was pregnant with my first daughter in the first semester, and so slowly phased out the television job so I could focus on law school and caring for my baby.  Pace was super progressive even then.  When my daughter, Jackie, was born on April 25, 1991, during the spring semester right before finals, Pace let me sit for the exams late and take breastfeeding breaks during the exams while I kept track of the time limits.  Remember this was 1991, so that type of accommodation was not common.  Pace was way ahead of the curve!  I was able to attend law school, have a newborn, and ultimately get a law degree that enabled me to earn a good living and provide for my family, sending both of my daughters to top notch colleges and in turn help launch their successful careers, presently at Condé Nast and TikTok.  Pace understands that we live in the real world and meets the needs of its students.

During your time as a student at Pace, who were your favorite professors? 

This past fall, I attended the Law School reunion, which was possible this year because of Zoom. I live in South Alabama on the Gulf Coast and my older daughter, who I normally could stay with in NYC, has been telecommuting from here since March for Condé Nast at the World Trade Center during the pandemic.  One of the presentations that I participated in during the reunion was with Professor Bennett Gershman. It immediately reminded me of the high-quality professors I had at Pace when I attended there from 1990 to 1994. The presentation was on constitutional law, which is especially timely given recent events and issues that remain historically relevant. I think of those classes often, particularly due to my filing and involvement in a federal race case against a multi-billion-dollar chicken company. Also see here.

During the presentation, I was filled with warm memories and grew increasingly sentimental, even teary, about my time at Pace as Professor Gershman gave his talk.  I remember the engaging discussions that we would have in his class during what seemed like, in retrospect, simpler times (daily living and politics were certainly easier to grasp). Professor Gershman was my favorite professor and I still remember him saying, and have repeated it through the years, in the criminal law context that nothing good ever happens if you are out after midnight (an important lesson that I taught my two daughters, now in their twenties, when they were younger).  I emailed Professor Gershman after his talk and he expressed how much he missed the community, given the changes brought on by the pandemic. Sharing in his teachings made me feel part of the Pace community again after so many years and inspired me to continue trying to make my mark through my legal work.

Similarly, what were your favorite classes?

My favorite classes were those with Professor Ben Gershman. And, also, the Pace Environmental Law Clinic, which at the time was run by Bobby Kennedy, Jr.  The Clinic gave us the opportunity to roll up our sleeves and dig into actual cases involving the Clean Water Act and the Hudson River.  I have worked on sewage spill cases using what I learned during Bobby’s Clinic.

As a student, you were a member of the Pace Law Review - can you talk about that experience? 

I was the Casenote and Comment Editor of Pace Law Review.  I had endless energy in those days, and this position gave me the opportunity to focus on quality legal writing, blue booking citation skills, and hunting for the most compelling topics that students, scholars, and practitioners would want to find and read.  It is not enough to just be a good legal writer.  It is critical to pick interesting topics to write on and areas of the law that will be useful in the real world and helpful to practitioners.

How did your time at Pace prove useful to your future career?

The experience of attending Pace, learning a new way to think, honing new skills, and gaining a law degree, opened-up brand new horizons for me.  I unfortunately went through a divorce after attending Pace and my two daughters were young at the time. I decided to apply for law firm positions in South Alabama where I had family living, including two of my brothers, and later my parents and sister.  I was already admitted to practice law in New York and Connecticut and was then able to take and pass the Alabama and Mississippi Bar exams. This enabled me to carve out a completely new life for myself and my daughters in a beautiful area where the cost of living is much lower than in Manhattan, and the ability to earn is high.  While I have missed living in New York City tremendously (my father’s family is from the Bronx), and yearn to see my friends there more often, I have enjoyed the independence and ability to provide for myself here that the law degree from Pace allowed me.

What is your advice for future/current law students? 

Haub (Pace) Law will open-up many career horizons.  Getting a law degree will be your ticket to a stimulating, rewarding and secure career.