Susan Herman was born in Brooklyn, New York and grew up on Long Island. She attended o Goucher College in Towson, Maryland for two years, and transferred to Barnard College where she graduated in 1968. After college, she worked as a reporter and writer for Bravo Magazine in New York. In 1971, Herman went to New York University to study law. She came to work for the American Civil Liberties Union National Office after she graduated from law school. She worked first as a staff attorney and then Associate Legal Director of the Prisoners' Legal Services of New York. Additionally, Herman has served on the ACLU National Board of directors and Executive Committee for almost twenty years. She worked as general counsel for the ACLU for ten years before being elected President of the American Civil Liberties Union in 2008.