Pioneering Lawyer Shirley Cherin Sigler ‘40C, 42L Fulfills a Calling


Sipping a cup of tea at home in New York City’s Peter Cooper Village, Shirley Cherin Sigler says, “I was a pioneer!” It’s an apt observation as the spritely 102-year-old reflects on her education at St. John’s Law with pride.

Raised in Flatbush, Brooklyn, Sigler always wanted to be a lawyer. After excelling as a St. John’s undergraduate, she earned a full-tuition scholarship to attend the Law School, where she was one of only a handful of women in her class. “I didn’t have time to breathe,” Sigler recalls about the rigorous course of study. But on her daily trolley commute to Schermerhorn Street in downtown Brooklyn, she was buoyed by the support of parents who told her, “if this is what you want, go and get it!”

Even with family championing her, Sigler admits there were times when she was tempted to give up and become a journalist. But her husband, the late Michael Sigler ’37, talked her out of it. Then, once again, she rose to the academic challenge and was selected to serve on the St. John’s Law Review, eventually becoming the journal’s Legislation Editor. The experience was “very much a dream set,” Siglar says, noting that her fellow students were kind, intelligent, and collaborative.

After graduation, Sigler practiced law at Galef & Jacobs, where she became a senior partner focused on Trusts and Estates and a Fellow of the American College of Probate Counsel. Over the years, she always looked to hire St. John’s Law graduates and to mentor other alumnae. Looking back, Sigler is pleased with her long career in the law. “I liked the profession,” she shares. “I helped people, and that’s what we are put here for.”