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Soia Mentschikoff was a distinguished legal scholar and educator whose career encompassed several "firsts"for women in the legal profession.
Mentschikoff was born April 2, 1915, in Russia where her father, a resident of New York City, was working. In 1918 her family returned to New York where Mentschikoff graduated from Hunter College in 1934 and from Columbia Law School in 1937.
At Columbia Mentschikoff met karl llewellyn, a professor of law and the chief reporter, or drafter, of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) for the American Law Institute (the Uniform Commercial Code is a model for laws dealing with business and commercial transactions that has been adopted, at least in part, by all the states, except Louisiana, and the District of Columbia). Initially, Mentschikoff worked with Llewellyn on the UCC as his research assistant; from 1949 through 1954 she was the associate chief reporter of the code. Subsequently, she became a consultant to the Permanent Editorial Board for the UCC.
After the UCC was completed, Mentschikoff became increasingly interested in the international aspects of Commercial Law. In 1964 she was one of the U.S. representatives at a diplomatic conference held at The Hague to consider a uniform law on the international sale of goods. She later became an adviser to the State Department on matters involving international sales and international Arbitration.
In 1947 Mentschikoff joined the faculty at the Harvard Law School, the first time a woman had taught at that school. Three years earlier in 1944, she had achieved another first by becoming the first woman partner at a major Wall Street firm. In 1951 Mentschikoff and Llewellyn, whom she had married in 1947, joined the faculty at the University of Chicago Law School. To satisfy the school's anti-nepotism rule, Llewellyn was named a "professor" while Mentschikoff was a "professorial lecturer" until his death in 1962 when she became a professor. In 1974 Mentschikoff became the dean of the University of Miami School of Law, a position that she held until 1982.
Mentschikoff died June 18, 1984, in Coral Gables, Florida.