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    05.11.17 Passing the Torch to the Next Generation: An Inspiration at 103 years old
    Francesca Adamo and Elena Teresa Sanfilippo

    Like the nearly 400 other Brooklyn Law School students graduating on May 18th at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Francesca Adamo will receive her diploma in front of an enthusiastic crowd of faculty, friends, and family. There’s just one small difference: Francesca’s great-great-aunt (her great-grandmother’s sister) Elena Teresa Sanfilippo, who graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1936 and just turned 103, will present her with her diploma and cap.

    “She was the person who convinced me to go to Brooklyn Law,” said Francesca, who has just completed the Law School’s pioneering two-year J.D. program and hopes to pursue a career in family law. “Brooklyn was not even on my radar, but Elena kept talking about how wonderful the law school was and said you have to go and visit and see for yourself, so I went.” For Francesca that one visit changed everything. “I came here, and I fell in love with the area, the proximity to everything, and the incredible opportunities at the Law School.”

    Her aunt’s praise of the school didn’t hurt either. “One of the things she loved so much about Brooklyn, and still does, is that it has always been ahead of the curve,” said Francesca. “When she was going to law school in the 1930s it was one of the few that accepted women. She also felt like she got great experience and was very prepared to practice law because of her Brooklyn education.”

    Elena, who is the oldest living lawyer in the country, was honored in December by the Italian American Law Students Association at its holiday party, where she was given a proclamation from Borough Hall. She started out as a trial attorney on Court Street at the firm of Marcela Turkish and Perlman, where she practiced for several years before having children and becoming a homemaker. Today, she remains bright-eyed and clear-minded and lives with her daughter and son-in-law in New Jersey. Throughout her lifetime, her love of the Law School has remained strong.

    “She has always talked about how Brooklyn was the best time of her life and she loved being in the courtroom,” said Lisa Adamo, Francesca’s mother and Elena’s great-niece. “She had a great experience at Brooklyn Law School and so has my daughter.”

    Francesca says her Law School experience has been incredibly rewarding, in particular her work with children and families. Despite her intense workload as a two-year J.D. student, she has interned at the Children’s Law Center, the South Brooklyn Legal Services Family Law and Domestic Violence Unit, and Sanctuary for Families, in addition to spending two terms clerking for the Hon. Ellen M. Spodek in Kings County Supreme Court.

    It will all culminate on May 18, when, eight decades after she graduated from this Law School, Elena will don cap and gown and walk on stage with her granddaughter by her side to steady her to present her great-great-niece with her diploma.

    “I’m very excited to have her there,” said Francesca. “She has been with me the whole way from application through graduation. She is my inspiration.”