The entire legal community mourns the loss of Marian Meyer Berkett, a legendary legal mind in Louisiana, who passed away on June 5, 2017 at age 104. Ms. Berkett began her legal career in 1937 with Deutsch Kerrigan LLP (Deutsch and Kerrigan as it was known then) as an associate with the firm and was the first female attorney to be employed by a firm in Louisiana.
She practiced in a time before concentration working on many issues and practice areas, finally narrowing her diverse practice to construction law, fidelity and surety law, and successions (probate matters). Over the course of her career, she had phenomenal success as a trial lawyer, bringing to successful conclusion approximately 97% of a multitude of cases in which she has often defended the unfavored client. Judge Alvin Rubin, lately of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, said of her:
"Her achievements as a trial lawyer are legendary. Beginning at a time when there were few, if any, women trial lawyers in the United States, she tried lawsuits with superb ability, skill, intelligence and strategy, yielding no ground to any opponent. She was a strong advocate without becoming hostile or aggressive yet ever vigilant to protect the interest of her client."
Berkett achieved notable favorable outcomes in the field of Air Law in Chicago and Southern Air Lines, Inc.v. Waterman Steamship Corporation, 333 U.S.103, 68 S.Ct.431, 92 L.Ed. 568 (1948) and in Construction Law in Lambert v.Maryland Casualty Co., 418 So.2d 553 (La.1982). She also authored and published “Workmen’s Compensation Law in Louisiana” (Louisiana State University Press, 1937), a comprehensive history of workman’s compensation in Louisiana.
Highly decorated, Ms. Berkett received awards throughout her career from the American Bar Association Martin J. Andrew Award for Lifetime Achievement in Fidelity & Surety Law, 2010, Federal Bar Association Jack Martzell Professionalism Award, 2009, Special Designation Award of the New Orleans Bar Association, 1999, and was a Tulane Law School 2013 Hall of Fame inductee.
Berkett grew up in Baton Rouge and earned her undergraduate degree in journalism, a master’s degree in political science from Louisiana State University, and then a law degree from Tulane University Law School. She graduated at the top of her class during the Great Depression.
For more on Ms. Berkett's life, see her Nola.com article.