Gabrielle E. Tenzer
Gabrielle Tenzer is a partner at Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, resident in the New York office.
Her practice focuses on representing universities in some of their most pressing legal challenges. She also represents a diverse array of commercial clients, including companies such as Fitch Ratings, T-Mobile, Uber, and WeWork in a wide range of civil litigation matters.
In 2022, Chambers ranked Gabrielle as one of New York’s top commercial litigators, with their sources describing her as “like the calm in the middle of a storm,” “really solid even in challenging negotiations,” and “very diligent, very smart and good at balancing all the different factors that need to be considered.” Gabrielle was also named to the National Law Journal's list of Employment Trailblazers in 2022. In 2021 and 2022, Gabrielle was recognized by Lawdragon as one of its 500 leading plaintiff employment and civil rights lawyers.
At Kaplan Hecker, Gabrielle has represented Columbia University, Brown University, and other higher education clients in a number of Title IX (related to both gender-based misconduct and college athletics), student discipline, COVID-related, and other litigation and pre-litigation matters. She has successfully secured the dismissal of several of these lawsuits for both Columbia and Brown, including claims under Title IX, the New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws, Article 78, and contract law. Gabrielle handles gender discrimination cases for other clients under Title IX and Title VII, and conducts high-stakes internal investigations on matters related to discrimination and allegations of sexual misconduct.
Gabrielle’s higher education practice includes helping top universities like Columbia and Brown to navigate complex and high-profile legal challenges. For Brown, Gabrielle recently secured the settlement of a case involving alleged violations of a 1998 agreement that requires the university to satisfy certain gender proportionality requirements in its varsity athletics programs. Critically, the settlement sets an end date to the 1998 joint agreement, which the University noted in a statement had become “a significant obstacle to the University’s ability to offer women’s and men’s teams the competitive experience athletes deserve and expect.” Gabrielle also recently secured the dismissal of breach of contract and related claims against Columbia in a high-impact litigation seeking tuition refunds related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, Gabrielle also helped in fighting off another high-profile lawsuit related to Brown’s squash team that saw her named one of the runners-up for Litigation Daily’s “Litigator of the Week.”
Gabrielle advises clients on their most sensitive, high-profile investigations, from matters on the front pages to those that remain confidential. As to one recent investigation that garnered national attention, Gabrielle was part of a team that conducted a comprehensive external review of gender equity issues in connection with the NCAA, focusing on the NCAA championships. The review yielded two published reports which resulted in the adoption of several recommendations, including using the “March Madness” brand for both the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments, updating the NCAA’s logos and social media, and expanding the women’s basketball tournament to 68 teams. Gabrielle also recently conducted an internal investigation for a prominent NYC non-profit in response to allegations of sexual misconduct by one of its employees.
Gabrielle maintains a strong commitment to the firm’s public interest work. She was part of the legal team representing plaintiffs who sued twenty-four neo-Nazi and white supremacist leaders responsible for organizing the racial- and religious-based violence in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017. In that case, the firm obtained an historic trial verdict and $26 million damages award for the plaintiffs, ensuring that the organizers of Unite the Right will be held accountable for their actions.
Gabrielle is a member of Kaplan Hecker’s diversity and inclusion committee. She was also the firm’s 2019 Fellow to the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity.
Gabrielle joined Kaplan Hecker & Fink from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, where she spent more than ten years in the Litigation Department. During her tenure at Paul, Weiss, Gabrielle worked on multi-billion-dollar commercial cases involving complex legal issues and extensive discovery. Gabrielle also represented some of the nation’s largest financial institutions in securities litigation, shareholder derivative suits, and adversary proceedings in federal bankruptcy court. While at Paul, Weiss, Gabrielle also spent a decade working to free a pro bono client who had been wrongfully convicted of murder after egregious police and prosecutorial misconduct. Those efforts paid off after her arrival at Kaplan Hecker, with the client winning his freedom after 24 years in prison.
Before becoming an attorney, Gabrielle spent almost a decade working in the federal government in Washington, D.C. As a Legislative Assistant to then-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Gabrielle helped draft and negotiate legislation on a broad array of issues, with a focus on public works, environmental protection, and environmental health. She had a particular commitment to addressing the health concerns of local residents and first responders in the wake of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. As Associate Director of Environmental Protection at the White House Council on Environmental Quality and Communications Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water, Gabrielle worked to build consensus among federal agencies and outside constituencies in developing and promoting national environmental policies that preserve our nation’s resources and protect the health of all Americans. She also worked for several years in the Office of Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) as a legislative assistant and legislative director.
Gabrielle clerked for the Honorable Robert W. Sweet of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. She received her law degree from New York University School of Law, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the NYU Journal of Legislation & Public Policy. Gabrielle received an M.S. in Geology from the University of Michigan and a B.A. in Geology from Yale University.