In the fall of 1967, Janice Martin Foster walked into Tulane Law School as one of only four women – and the only African-American female -- starting courses that year.
“It took me a little while, but I didn’t realize that I was the only black woman until I got to class and no one looked like me,” she recalled.
Foster graduated in 1970, two years after Michael Starks became the first black student to earn his Juris Doctor. She was only the second black law graduate.
A full 50 years later, with a career that has been spent at Jones Walker practicing estate planning, estate administration and tax law, Foster’s legacy will include membership in the 2020 Class of the Tulane Law School Hall of Fame.
“We’re enormously proud of Janice Foster’s accomplishments and leadership in the legal profession, and deeply grateful to her for helping to open doors through which hundreds of other talented students and alumni have followed,” said Law Dean David Meyer.
Joining Foster in the 2020 Hall of Fame Class are Prof. Oliver Houck and Prof. William Lovett, both iconic academics at Tulane Law; the Hon. L. Felipe Restrepo (L ’86); Susan Talley (L ’81); and The Hon. Walter F. Marcus, Jr., who is receiving the honor posthumously.
Being a among the first, and a woman, wasn’t easy in the post-segregation era.
Foster sought friends and support throughout law school, she said, but mostly, she worked hard. No one treated her poorly, but she does remember one professor who didn’t expect any of the women to get top grades in his class.
“I just listened and moved on,” Foster said. “And, with anonymous grading, I was one of the top grades in his class after all.”
Not just in one class – Foster was tops in a number of classes. Her grades enabled her to join the staff of the prestigious Tulane Law Review – and eventually become associate editor. She graduated Order of the Coif, an honor bestowed on the top 10 percent of the graduating class.
“I know some older students paved the way for me into the city’s law firms,” she said, which led to her clerkship at Jones Walker. Over the years she has advised clients on the preparation of wills, marital trusts, exemption trusts, life insurance trusts, powers of attorney, and charitable gifts.
She has been widely recognized for her civic and professional leadership, including the Young Leadership Council Role Model Award in 2007, the New Orleans CityBusiness Leadership in Law Award, the Michaelle Pitard Wynne Professionalism Award from the New Orleans Women Attorneys Association in 1996, and the Monte Lemann Award for distinguished contributions to the Louisiana Civil Service System in 1984.
In between her illustrious career, she raised two children and was active in civic organizations.
“The law has been good to me, and I really enjoyed those first years practicing,” she said. “Whether it was Tulane, or the firm or the courthouse, people were always helpful and kind. I would not have changed my choice of going into law.”