The Brooklyn Law School Legacy
I was proud to hear Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor pay tribute to our great law school during our April 8 event at the historic Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights. This was an extraordinary evening that will long be remembered by our students as a highlight of their experience at Brooklyn Law School. She applauded our strong commitment to diversity, acknowledged our stellar faculty “whose depth rivals any in the nation,” and praised the outstanding quality of our students, mentioning in particular Sparkle Sooknanan ’10, her former law clerk and currently an associate at Jones Day in Washington, D.C. Speaking to our students, Justice Sotomayor said of our graduates: “They care about you. They do everything in their power to make sure that you’re following your passions in life.” (Full coverage of the event will appear in the fall 2016 issue of Brooklyn Law Notes.)
Justice Sotomayor is right about the people of Brooklyn Law School. They make the Law School truly one of a kind and the best of its kind, as it has been for 115 years. Our graduates make an enormous difference in the careers and lives of our students, supporting scholarships, serving as mentors, opening doors, and helping them navigate the job market. They are at the forefront of an astonishing range of fields and leaders with influence and impact. Every day, we learn of a graduate who has been honored for public service; has won a landmark case; or is blazing a trail in a business, high-tech, or entrepreneurial enterprise. They are shining beacons of what our students can accomplish with their J.D. in a time of unprecedented and constant change in the legal field and beyond.
Many graduates I speak with say how much they admire our current students for their talent and achievements, and some confess they do not think they would be accepted at Brooklyn Law School today. I disagree. But their point is well taken. We have first-rate students who enrich us all. They come from all walks of life and backgrounds. They compete at a very high level in national and international moot court and trial advocacy competitions; they take part in myriad student organization and service activities; they participate in clinics, externships, and internships; and, of course, they excel in the classroom. The fact is, however, it is our students who are in awe of our alumni and the breadth of their accomplishments. Our students see themselves as part of an enduring legacy of Brooklyn Law School graduates who have used the power of law to make a positive difference in the world.
The success of our graduates nationally and in New York City has been recognized in recent months and has brought distinction to the Law School. Here are a few notable mentions:
- • The National Law Journal placed Brooklyn Law School 36th in the nation on its list of 2016 Go-To Law Schools—those schools with the highest percentage of 2015 J.D. graduates hired as first-year associates at the nation’s 100 largest law firms. We placed 23rd in the nation for alumni promoted to partner in 2015.
- • The New York Times listed us among the top law schools in the nation with alumni who are partners in New York City firms.
- • The Law School was ranked fourth—one spot above Harvard Law School—for having the most alumni (500) selected to the New York Metro Super Lawyers List.
In this issue of Brooklyn Law Notes, you will meet some of the alumni who are making their mark in astonishingly diverse fields. We share the stories of six graduates who are the power behind the scenes in New York City’s burgeoning film, television, music recording, and live entertainment industry. Although their job duties range from legal affairs to talent development, and from corporate social responsibility to bringing Bruce Springsteen to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, these graduates acknowledge that their degree from the Law School has given them the competitive edge in their careers.
The other alumni we profile in this issue similarly stand out as prime examples of the diverse careers our graduates pursue. William Gladstone ’55 went from a long career as a leader in the accounting business—retiring as co-CEO of Ernst & Young—to become the proud owner of a baseball team. He spoke to students in February about his remarkable career and answered their questions about the current state of baseball. The business world also drew Michael Prior ’92, who runs Atlantic Tele-Network, a company that provides telecommunications services to rural and other underserved markets in the United States and abroad. Government service called Karyn Kenny ’95, who serves for the U.S. Justice Department and the State Department as the resident legal adviser in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Back in Washington, D.C., Ashley Allison ’11 works for President Barack Obama as a deputy director in the Office of Public Engagement. Christian Capece ’99 serves as the federal public defender for the Southern District of West Virginia and is a judge advocate in the West Virginia Air National Guard. Linda Lightman ’87 took a different path, starting what became a multimillion-dollar online consignment business: Linda’s Stuff. During Business Boot Camp in January, she told our students that her law degree from Brooklyn has been essential to her success.
Alumni like these and many more have been critical to our reputation for offering one of the most innovative legal programs in the nation, one that serves as a model for other law schools. We created ACES—Alumni Committed to Employing Students—to encourage and recognize graduates who dedicate their time and efforts to the career success of both current students and fellow alumni. With the help of our ACES participants and other graduates, today more than 90 percent of the Class of 2015 are employed in meaningful professional positions. That so many of our graduates look for jobs in the highly competitive New York City market makes this success even more impressive. Now we must build on this success with the involvement of even more alumni in the ACES program and participation in annual giving. I promise you that what you give to support scholarships, mentor students, and help your fellow graduates in their careers, you will get back 1,000-fold—in personal satisfaction as well as by advancing the already stellar reputation of your law school. As the late Ron Brown, who served as U.S. commerce secretary, said: “You have to get involved to get ahead. Most important, when you reach that level of success, keep the door open and the ladder down for others to follow.”
I can think of no better way to honor the Brooklyn Law School legacy.