LOS ANGELES (Oct. 28, 2014) – Bet Tzedek, the respected public-interest law firm, announced today that its Board of Directors has selected attorney Jessie Kornberg as president and chief executive officer. Kornberg’s appointment concludes a comprehensive, four-month nationwide search led by a Board committee and the nonprofit management-consulting and recruitment firm Johnston and Company.
Only the seventh CEO (formerly designated “executive director”) in Bet Tzedek’s 40-year history, Kornberg becomes the first woman to lead the organization. She transitions to Bet Tzedek—which provides legal services free of charge to approximately 15,000 indigent, elderly and disabled Angelenos each year—from Los Angeles civil and white-collar litigation firm Bird Marella, P.C. Kornberg brings experience in nonprofit management, issues advocacy and anti-poverty policy on behalf of low-income tenants and the homeless, as well as leadership in the area of women and the law.
Robert M. (Bobby) Schwartz, chair of Bet Tzedek’s Board of Directors and a partner at O’Melveny & Myers LLP, stated: “In choosing Jessie Kornberg as CEO, Bet Tzedek extends its tradition of outstanding leaders who meld exceptional legal minds and accomplishment in the law with a passion for ensuring access to justice for all. The Board of Directors is confident that Jessie, in every respect, embodies the future of Bet Tzedek. She possesses the intellect, energy, enthusiasm and leadership we need.
“The significance of Jessie as Bet Tzedek’s first woman CEO cannot be overstated,” Schwartz continued. “Since its founding in 1974, Bet Tzedek and its clients have benefited from the counsel, legal acumen, and commitment to justice of outstanding women attorneys, pro bono volunteers, and Board members. Jessie’s selection is both a historic and wholly fitting capstone of the many, varied contributions by women to the organization—now and in the past.”
Kornberg will lead the management and administration of Bet Tzedek, its staff of nearly 60 and an annual operating budget of approximately $7 million. Additionally, the organization relies on nearly 2,400 pro bono volunteers who contribute approximately 85,000 hours each year to deliver legal assistance to the poor.
Kornberg stated: “I am inspired by Bet Tzedek’s meaningful work and enormously proud to be taking the leadership position at such an important juncture in the institution’s life cycle. I have dedicated my professional life to the same issues that animate Bet Tzedek, and I am deeply moved by its work and reputational reach far beyond Los Angeles, serving clients without regard to creed, color or other affiliation.
“Throughout this selection process, I have been struck by the passion and commitment of Bet Tzedek’s attorneys and staff, as well as the unparalleled dedication and support of its Board. They are inspirational and I am looking forward to working shoulder to shoulder with them in pursuit of Bet Tzedek’s core mission—justice for all.”
Commenting on Kornberg’s appointment, Bet Tzedek Board and search committee member Leah E. Weil, senior executive vice president and general counsel of Sony Pictures Entertainment, stated: “Jessie represents everything we sought in Bet Tzedek’s next CEO. She’s not only bright, innovative and forward-thinking, but also impressed our search committee and full Board with her litigation, nonprofit management and anti-poverty policy experience. Most significantly, Jessie brings leadership, vision, her energizing personality and other key skill sets so vital to this position. She is insightful about Bet Tzedek’s rich opportunities, while mindful and undeterred by the challenges of a growing demand for services in an era of funding cuts, particularly from public sources.”
About Jessie Kornberg
At Bird Marella, where she co-chairs the firm’s pro bono committee, Kornberg practices complex business litigation and her experience has encompassed pre-trial, trial and appellate proceedings. Among various recent victories, she helped lead the trial team that prevailed in one of the 10 largest intellectual property verdicts of 2013. She presently is pro bono counsel in a case pending before the 5th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals fighting to protect the safety of inmates at the Angola death-row facility in Baton Rouge, La.
Prior to joining Bird Marella, Kornberg served as the first executive director of Ms. JD, which she established as a national voice on issues concerning women in the legal profession. Among her achievements were growing the organization’s monthly online readership by ten-fold to more than 100,000. She sharply increased donations, while collaborating with women to expand organizational reach to 70 campuses in 35 markets.
Kornberg’s earliest exposure to impact litigation and strategic policy work – which intersect with two of Bet Tzedek’s core strengths – came while serving as a legal fellow with the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund (now known as Legal Momentum).
Following graduation from law school, Kornberg was a clerk to Chief Judge Jon P. McCalla of the U.S. District Court in Memphis, Tenn. She earned her juris doctor from the UCLA School of Law, where she was editor in chief of the Women’s Law Journal. Kornberg holds a bachelor’s degree in American history from Columbia College of Columbia University.
Kornberg is frequently sought as a speaker, panelist and commentator on matters of women in law, and has been recognized by The Recorder and Super Lawyers as a “Lawyer on the Fast Track” and “Rising Star,” respectively.
Kornberg and her spouse, attorney Aaron Lowenstein, reside in Los Angeles with their 14-month-old son Asa.
About Bet Tzedek
Founded in 1974, Bet Tzedek’s mission is to ensure “justice for all.” One of the nation’s premier public-interest law firms, Bet Tzedek, “The House of Justice” in Hebrew, provides free legal services in employment and workplace rights, consumer rights, elder law protections, housing, and public benefits and to low-income, disabled and elderly people of all racial and religious backgrounds. Each year, Bet Tzedek and its staff impact the lives of over 15,000 individuals in the Los Angeles area and beyond, augmented by nearly 2,400 attorneys and paralegals who donate about 85,000 hours in time.
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