Incoming Law School Class Receives Warm Welcome at Campus Convocation
The Brooklyn Law School campus brimmed with new faces August 22, as a class of 411 students gathered for the annual Convocation, celebrating the start of their first year on a warm summer night.
The incoming class includes a mix of recent college graduates and those who migrated to law from a wide range of professions, including media, accounting, entrepreneurship, investment banking, not-for- profit organizations, and the military. Convocation speakers welcomed students to a thriving, tight-knit community.
“I hope you realize the students sitting next to you and whom you have met today are quickly becoming your friends, and they will become your colleagues, your support group, and eventually your legal network,” Vice Dean and Centennial Professor of Law Miriam Baer said. “We professors and administrators also like to think we are part of that network, because we are your mentors and often will be your strongest cheerleaders. But without question, your classmates are your greatest assets here at Brooklyn Law School.”
The incoming students include 370 in the 3-year program, 25 in the 4-year program, and 16 LL.M. students. The J.D. class alone hails from 5 continents and 30 countries, and its members speak 40 languages and dialects other than English, ranging from Farsi to Spanish to Vietnamese. In addition, 79 students (20 percent) are first-generation Americans.
President and Joseph Crea Dean Michael T. Cahill told students that being a lawyer is a “profession of hope,” with serving others, especially those who are marginalized, and conveying a sense of respect, civility, and inclusiveness in communications among its key tenets.
“Other professions have their own goals and pursuits,” Cahill said. “Our goal, our fundamental mission as lawyers, is to promote and pursue justice, and to do that, we must in turn believe in justice. We must believe that we hold it in our collective power to create a society that is more fair, more harmonious, and more humane.”
Deborah Riegel ’93, president of the Brooklyn Law School Alumni Association, urged students to take advantage of living in a community that is the most diverse in the world—from culture to religion to food—and joining a Law School community where generosity is abundant. As a second-year real estate law associate, she recalled desperately needing guidance for researching a tort case for her firm’s largest client.
“It was crisis mode, and it was like a law school exam,” Riegel said. She phoned Jerome Leitner, her former Brooklyn Law tort professor, who summoned a colleague, Professor Richard Farrell. Before Riegel knew it, she had Leitner and Farrell on the line, brainstorming on research methodology and plotting out her next steps. While both these professors from nearly 30 years ago have passed away, the community spirit remains, says Riegel, an attorney in Rosenberg & Estis’ litigation department.
“That’s what Brooklyn Law is about,” Riegel said. “And then you get to the larger community of alumni…we take care of our own, we’ve been there, we’ve all benefited from this incredible community here, and it’s all about giving back.”
Professor of Law Steven Dean told a moving story of how, as a young tax law associate at a big law firm, he thought he “knew everything,” but learned otherwise after he joined colleagues who were representing a Liberian asylum seeker named Joseph, who taught him unexpected lessons about courage and the role of racism in tax law. Dean encouraged students to try areas of law that may seem outside of their interests.
“If you really want to just make the most money or achieve the most success, I’m going to encourage you to take a step back and consider service, whatever that might look like to you,” Dean said. “Because you should do it, but also because you might learn something important that you don’t expect to learn.”
Among the incoming class were Jacob and Joshua Dana, two brothers in a set of triplets, from Hewlett, N.Y. Living in New York City and family tradition played a role in their decision to enter Brooklyn Law.
“I chose to come to Brooklyn because of its prime location near Manhattan, which is where I want to work after graduation,” said Joshua Dana, who graduated from Ohio State University and hopes to help people navigate the intricacies of the legal and justice systems.
Jacob Dana, a Hofstra University graduate, added that he was inspired by their father, who is a practicing attorney, and he wanted to “follow in his footsteps.” Brooklyn Law attracted him because “I wanted to experience all that New York City had to offer while receiving the best possible education,” he added.
While they anticipate some friendly brotherly competition during Law School, “We’re rooting for each other to succeed,” Jacob said.