A Separation

Nooshin Namazi’s journey from Iran to Long Island

Published in 2014 New York Metro Super Lawyers — October 2014

In the early 1970s, Nooshin Namazi often made courtroom arguments in Iran. Except the courtroom was the family living room and she was 8.

“My poor parents and two sisters were my guinea pigs,” she says, “serving as mock jurors and enduring my arguing cases to them. I would just sit them down after dinner and I had a little ruler that I used to get their attention, waving it in the air, and I would just make up cases and try cases in front of them.

“I don’t really have an explanation,” adds Namazi from her office at the Wall Street-based maritime firm of Nicoletti Hornig & Sweeney. “Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer.”

The Ayatollah Khomeini had different ideas. In 1979, when Namazi was 16, the Iranian Revolution and its leader relegated girls and women to second-class status.

“Everything was different all of a sudden in terms of how to dress as girls and everything else,” says Namazi. “We were raised in a very Westernized society and all of a sudden we had to transition into something that was completely different.”

Namazi’s parents reacted quickly to the revolution and sent their daughter to a boarding school in Stony Brook, Long Island. Namazi knew little English, but her roommate took her under her wing for the duration. After four years of college, two years of graduate school, and three years working as a psychiatric social worker, Namazi enrolled in law school.

“The toughest challenge for me during this period of time was the absence of any parental supervision or direction, which meant that I made every life decision on my own,” she says. “But somehow I never panicked. I just persevered, tried to learn from my mistakes. I sought the counsel of select mentors, remained calm in times of crisis, and became tough-minded.”

In her last year of law school, she interviewed with Nicoletti Hornig & Sweeney, and was introduced to maritime law. Her father had worked as the safety attaché for the National Iranian Oil Co., so she felt a connection with the maritime world.

She also feels connected to New York. An avid Knicks fan, she loves hosting dinner parties. She doesn’t have much opportunity to speak Farsi, but she still returns to visit her family in Iran.

“There is a little bit of a misconception about what women are entitled to and not entitled to in Iran,” she says. “They go through high school and college and get jobs. You will find women in universities, teaching, studying, obtaining jobs, driving.

“I still feel very connected, emotionally, and to some extent culturally, to Iran,” she adds. “I’m very proud of it, too. … As a culture it has a very wonderful, very old tradition.”

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