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Law School Welcomes Incoming Class at On-Campus Convocation

08/18/2021

Brooklyn Law School marked its return to campus Aug. 16, welcoming 439 new students at the annual Convocation ceremony. The event featured remarks from Alphonzo Grant ’98, managing director at Morgan Stanley, Dean Michael T. Cahill, Vice Dean Christina Mulligan, and Professor Neil B. Cohen.

The ceremony was held in four locations around the Law School, with a featured speaker at each site and the event livestreamed to all.

Cohen, the Jeffrey D. Forchelli Professor of Law, was introduced by Associate Dean Edward Janger, who noted Cohen’s extraordinary influence on intellectual life at the Law School and on the fields of commercial law and international business and trade law. In his remarks, Cohen reinforced the vital importance of lawyers and legal education in rebuilding a post-pandemic economy and responding to political crises.

“There’s never been a better time than now to become a lawyer, and there’s never been a better time to do so here at Brooklyn Law School,” he said. “The world is evolving, we are evolving, and the law is evolving. No matter one’s career goal, there’s no better place to be than in the profession that develops and applies the ground rules of our free society.”

Grant, who also serves as head of the Global Litigation Group’s special investigation unit for institutional securities and investment management at Morgan Stanley, offered advice from his own experience as a first-generation law student and urged the aspiring attorneys to focus on building professional and personal relationships that would support them as they built their careers.

“You must commit to giving back, sharing what you learn, and supporting your colleagues,” he said. “Not only the ones in this room, but the ones who will come after you, and the ones who have gone before. This profession is a circle of giving. You will find that it is rare in our field for a lawyer to be called on to invent a new wheel. Everything that you do is based on something that worked before.”

Cahill enthusiastically welcomed the students to campus, noting that, while much has changed over the last 18 months, legal education remains a valuable and worthwhile pursuit. He emphasized the commitment made by the faculty and staff to support the new students in their time at the Law School.

“Our classes are formed to create a shared conversation,” he said. “Always with the goal of intermingling the professors and their interlocutors to collectively arrive at a better shared understanding of something we might call justice, and a shared opportunity to develop and strengthen a form of wisdom.”

The incoming class includes 425 J.D. students and nine LL.M students. They are graduates of 181 colleges and universities, and they pursued 71 different academic majors. The new students speak a total of 43 languages and dialects other than English, with 48 speaking at least three languages. Nearly 20 percent are first-generation Americans.

The new students also bring an impressive breadth of previous experience—36 have postgraduate degrees, and many have held positions at blue chip firms, prestigious organizations, and all levels of government.

Kaitlin O’Connell ’25, of Bucks County, Pa., decided to attend Brooklyn Law after three years of hands-on experience as an investigative analyst at the Office of the Manhattan District Attorney. “I attended one of the information sessions … where I learned what [Brooklyn Law School] is all about,” said O’Connell. “I want to be a lawyer to help people who are sometimes intimidated by the legal system, and it seems that my values and passions are in line with the Law School’s.”

The start of law school also meant major geographic changes for some students, who come to Brooklyn from six continents, 31 countries, and 35 U.S. states. One week before Convocation, Ashley Velasquez ’25 moved across the country from Los Angeles to Bedford-Stuyvesant to begin her legal education. “I chose Brooklyn Law School because I feel New York is a great place to learn about what it means to practice law in a big city and at large firms,” she said. “I knew that Brooklyn Law would be a place where I would be pushed out of my comfort zone and reap the benefits of law school.”

Returning students will join the new students on campus as fall semester classes begin Aug. 23.

View photos of the Convocation Ceremony here