nn Brown ’77 has achieved many “firsts” in her life and career, but she carries her status as a pioneer lightly.
She was among the first class of women to enter UVA as undergraduates in 1970 after coeducation was established, and in 1974 was among the first University alumnae to go on to attend the Law School.
In fact, noted Brown, now a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Troutman Pepper, she decided to attend UVA for the same reasons many others have, before and since: Her father, 1934 College alumnus Leverett W. Brown, and friends from her hometown of Mobile, Alabama, encouraged her to apply.
“I was somewhat oblivious to the implications of it, honestly,” Brown said of being in the first class of undergraduate women. “I went to a small private girls’ school, and I was very much ready to venture somewhere larger and co-ed.”
Being a female law student could be challenging at times, Brown said.
“There were a few students—male students—who were somewhat vocal about the fact that the women in our class were taking a place that could have gone to a man,” she recalled. “But I never sensed that from anyone on the faculty. They were very receptive and welcoming to the women students.”
In her class, 18% were women, while in the past two classes of entering students, women have comprised a once-inconceivable majority (see p. 10).
Get Brown talking about her time in law school, and she mentions two other things: hers was the first class to occupy North Grounds and, accordingly, was also the class that introduced softball.
The class soon bonded because second- and third-years remained in Clark Hall on Central Grounds for a few weeks until the Law School’s final construction details were complete.
“We really got to know each other quickly,” Brown said. “We were all stressed out together without any upperclassmen to tell us it would be OK.”
After graduation, Brown joined Phelps Dunbar, leaving to become vice president of legal affairs for a nonprofit group organizing the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition in New Orleans. Though she began her career as a litigator, her experience at the World’s Fair taught her that she preferred transactional work, which has since been her specialty. Brown joined the Northern Virginia office of Miles & Stockbridge in 1986, and in 1998 moved to Mays & Valentine, which has since merged into what is now Troutman Pepper Hamilton & Sanders, where she practices in its Washington office.
Brown’s list of clients is long and diverse. She has represented lenders in a wide range of financial transactions but has a particular focus now on senior housing and skilled assisted nursing facilities. She has also overseen multimillion-dollar deals, including a $67 million conversion of Baltimore’s landmark Bank of America building to residential mixed use, and helped secure financing for arts and cultural organizations such as the Red Cross and the Shakespeare Theater.
Brown’s connections to UVA have remained strong. She has served on the Law School’s Alumni Council and her daughter, Maggie Birkel, graduated from the Law School in 2018.