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Brooklyn Law School welcomes first-year students during 118th convocation

August 21, 2018 By Andy Katz Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
First-year students march behind the school banner through Cadman Plaza. Eagle photos by Andy Katz

Brooklyn Law School performed its 118th convocation as more than 300 first-year students assembled on the campus’ Joralemon Street courtyard on Monday before marching across Cadman Plaza to the U.S. District Court on Cadman Plaza East.  

The mass of students, guided by Brooklyn Law School Interim Dean and Professor of Law Maryellen Fullerton, Vice Dean Steven Dean and Dean of Admission Eulas Boyd Jr., walked behind the school’s distinctive red banner.

“After my son was born, I felt as though I’d reached a glass ceiling, career-wise,” said Michael Blackmon, a University of Iowa graduate. Blackmon worked as a school teacher. “But I want do more,” he said.

Passing through security comparable to 1 Police Plaza or the United Nations, students surrendered their cellphones before heading upstairs to the Eastern District Courthouse’s Ceremonial Courtroom. Extra chairs filled the gap between the spectators’ gallery and bench. Portraits of stern judicial miens, many of whom were Brooklyn Law alumni, looked down on the gathering from both walls.

Already present were some very special guests: the Hon. Robert Katzmann, chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; and U.S. District Judge Leo Glasser of the Eastern District of New York. Judge Glasser, 93, in addition to being a Brooklyn Law alumnus, class of 1948, had also served as dean of Brooklyn Law School from 1977 to 1981.

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Fullerton’s brief biography of Judge Glasser, which included participating in the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp during World War II, the entire courtroom rose for a standing ovation.

“People have always said I’m argumentative,” said first-year student Alisha Patel. “I feel my talents are best-suited to courtrooms and the law.”

Judge Katzmann said, “Your journey into the law will be renowned and consequential, because you are part of this amazing community … You will become detectives of language, clarifying what is ambiguous. And always remember to do good.”

“Brooklyn Law really exceeds in several areas,” Fullerton told the Brooklyn Eagle. “In particular, we offer a complete legal writing program, and that’s important because letters, motions, filings, etc., are often an attorney’s first contact with the public. We offer a full-time legal writing staff, and our program continues on from year to year. We also excel in our clinical law program, which puts students into courtrooms, into the legal scene, working on filings and motions, often on behalf of immigrants, asylum seekers, employees, discrimination and many other areas. Just look at the number of courtrooms within walking distance from the campus.”

“I was unemployed,” said first-year Sukany Basak. “[I was] not really doing anything. Brooklyn Law was what I was looking for.”

“As lawyers, it’s our job to uphold the law to the best of our ability,” said Associate Dean of Professional Legal Education Stacy Caplow. “It’s our job as teachers to provide you with the tools to reach that level, to meet that goal. Whether your course is two, three or four years, at the end you will all be different.”

Of the 360 first-year students, Jordan said, “You come from 15 different countries, including Jordan, Russia, the Dominican Republic, Switzerland and France. Sixty-four percent of you speak at least three languages. Your median age is 24. Your degrees range in 62 different academic fields, with 31 of you having earned MAs MFAs or PhDs. You’re entrepreneurs, you’re accomplished artists and athletes.”

“Brooklyn Law is the gateway for women, people of color [and] the disabled,” Fullerton told the students. “Our very first class in 1901 admitted one woman. By 1916, there were 36 women in the class. Harvard Law wouldn’t admit women until 1950.”

First-year student Michael Cooper, who holds a degree in political science, said, “The intellectual aspect of law appeals to me. I love to read about law, legal cases, trials. Today it’s clear that our society is legally fraught. These are very interesting times.”

 

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