The National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) has awarded its highest honor, the Arabella Babb Mansfield Award, to Harvard Law School Professor of Practice Nancy Gertner.

Gertner, a former judge of the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts, will accept the award at the 2012 NAWL Annual Luncheon on July 19 and speak to an expected audience of approximately 1,000 NAWL members.

“Nancy has demonstrated nonstop commitment to pursuing justice through law in her work as a civil rights and criminal defense lawyer, distinguished federal judge, and inspiring teacher and writer,” said HLS Dean Martha Minow. “I cannot think of a more deserving recipient of this prestigious honor from the National Association of Women Lawyers.”

Gertner, a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer for 24 years and a federal district court judge for 17, focuses her scholarship on sentencing and criminal procedure. She is the author of “In Defense of Women: Memoirs of an Unrepentant Advocate” (Beacon Press 2011), and a longstanding advocate for gender equality.

The Mansfield Award, which is named after the first American-born woman licensed in 1869 to practice law in the United States, is presented annually to a female attorney “whose career embodies qualities of professional achievement, positive influence and valuable contribution to the advancement of women’s interests in and under the law,” according to a NAWL statement. Past recipients of the award include: U.S. Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’56-’58, Elena Kagan ’86 and Sonia Sotomayor; National Women’s Law Center founder and co-president Marcia Greenberger; and retired Chief Judge Judith Kaye of the New York Court of Appeals.

NAWL is the country’s oldest national voluntary legal professional organization devoted to promoting the interests and progress of women lawyers and women’s legal rights. Founded in 1899, NAWL has individual, law firm, corporate legal department, government, military, nonprofit, academic and law school members. NAWL serves as an educational forum and an active voice for the concerns of women lawyers and societal issues confronting women nationally and worldwide. NAWL provides resources, programs, and opportunities for women lawyers to connect, advance, prosper, and enrich the profession.