Tribute to Joan Ellenbogen
By Ellen Holtzman
Joan Ellenbogen, Founder of WBASNY, was a visionary and leader among leaders. But what sets Joan apart is that she accomplished amazing things in her lifetime while forever being open and genuine. My personal story of Joan illustrates who she was and what made her the legend among WBASNY leaders.
It happened one day early in my career, shortly after I became involved in WBASNY and revered the name “Joan Ellenbogen.” I was working for a firm in Manhattan, doing commercial litigation. I had never represented a client in a matrimonial case. One day, the partner who did matrimonial law, called to tell me that he was stuck on Long Island and that I would have to appear in the Matrimonial Part in Manhattan that afternoon. The file was on his desk. I went into his office, found the file, and saw on the front of the file, where the adversary was listed, emblazoned in bold letters: “Joan Ellenbogen.” To this day, I am convinced that flashing lights were circling her name.
I rode the subway to lower Manhattan, found the client, and sat down in the courtroom. The swinging doors flew open and in walked Joan Ellenbogen and her entourage. All I could think of was the President of the United States entering the U.S. Capitol to deliver the State of the Union address. She looked around, saw my client and then saw me – and she knew, oh did she know! What happened next defines who Joan Ellenbogen was. She did not send one of her associates to bring me to her. She, Joan Ellenbogen, walked over to me.
Joan: “Ms. Holtzman, how good to see you. Can we speak for a moment?”
Me (knees knocking): “Of course.”
Joan: “Ok. Here is what we are going to do.” Joan then laid out our presentation to the Court.
Court Officer: “Smith v. Smith.”
Joan: “Good Afternoon, Your Honor. My colleague, Ms. Holtzman, and I talked, and if acceptable to the Court, this is what we would like to do.”
Joan Ellenbogen could have wiped the floor with me. She could have scored points with her client. But instead, she took me under her wing. She became my mentor that day because that was who Joan Ellenbogen was and continued to be throughout her storied career.