Students Begin Law School Journey in Grand Style at Courthouse Convocation


Brooklyn Law School welcomed into the community nearly 400 new students who took their first official step toward becoming lawyers at a Convocation held inside the elegant ceremonial courtroom at the U.S. District Courthouse for the Eastern District of New York.

At the close of the evening ceremony, held on Aug. 21, the students rose to their feet and pledged an oath of professionalism administered by the Hon. Ramon Reyes, Jr. ’92, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of New York and a member of the Brooklyn Law School Board of Trustees.

Earlier, the incoming class received words of welcome and advice from alumni, faculty, and newly appointed President and Joseph Crea Dean David D. Meyer, who told students that he remembers the excitement and anxiety of his own law school convocation.

“I truly envy you for what lies ahead,” Meyer said. “Sure, there will be plenty of hard work. And yes, a little bit of stress…But way more than any of that, what lies ahead for you is the thrill of discovery. I remember being thrilled, genuinely thrilled, to be a law student. And that was because you will find that the first year of law school reveals to you a hidden world of policy and law that lies just beneath the surface of the familiar world of everyday interactions that you probably take for granted.”

It might be a Starbucks transaction, which has all the elements of a legal contract, or the property right implications of scooping up a $10 bill found on the sidewalk, he said, but “beneath every social interaction or transaction, however mundane or profound…there is a legal principle reflecting some policy judgment about the allocation of power. And the discovery of that background policy and the web of unseen social regulation changes the way you see the world,” Meyer said.

Faculty speaker and Stanley A. August Professor of Law William Araiza pointed out that the incoming class begins its legal education during a head-spinning time in history that includes a racial justice reckoning, civilization-threatening climate change, a raging war in Europe involving a nuclear-armed superpower, and a former U.S. president running for election who has been indicted multiple times. Beyond making headlines, he said, these events all involve facets of the law that those in their profession are already addressing.

“It’s trite but it’s true: in America, political issues become legal issues and legal issues become political issues,” Araiza said. “So, if you were worried that there wouldn't be enough work for you to do as a lawyer, stop. There's no shortage of need for dedicated, smart, creative problem-solvers with knowledge of the law.”

Vice Dean and Centennial Professor of Law Miriam Baer shared statistics and fun facts on the incoming class. The 2023 entering J.D. class is comprised of 397 students, including 373 in the three-year program, and 24 in the four-year program. Nine new students join the Brooklyn Law School LL.M. program, which trains foreign lawyers who will study beside the J.D. students. This year’s LL.M. class includes students from India, Jamaica, and Nigeria, among other nations. Eight transfer students join the 2L class, and an additional three exchange students join the Law School this fall from France, the Netherlands, and China.

“In the first year J.D. class alone, your birthplaces spanned five continents and 30 countries,” Baer said. “Sixty-six of you—17 percent of the incoming class— are first-generation Americans. You speak 42 languages and dialects other than English, ranging from Creole to Kazakh to Twi. You hail from 36 United States and six foreign countries prior to the start of law school. Fifty-four of you already resided in the center of the universe, otherwise known as Brooklyn.”

She also pointed out that 25 new students have relatives who are alumni, which is not surprising given there are 23,000 Brooklyn Law School alumni. Among the incoming class are graduates whose internships include working at the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and for Saturday Night Live. Others left previous careers to attend law school, including a chief of staff at the New York City Department of Education, a co-founder of a venture-backed blockchain company, and an executive assistant to The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon.

Reyes welcomed students to “the Brooklyn Law School family,” and said that the term family is a pivotal one. His career as a judge was preceded by a clerkship for the Hon. David Trager, who was a federal judge in Brooklyn and a former dean of Brooklyn Law School. The appointment came about thanks to the recommendations of his then professors, Suzanne J. and Norman Miles Professor of Law Maryellen Fullerton, who also served as an interim dean, and Dean and President Emerita Joan G. Wexler.

“You're preceded by a host of dedicated and distinguished alumni, faculty, and administrators who cared deeply about the success of Brooklyn Law School and its students. About you,” Reyes said.

Students also heard from Jennifer Jorczak ’16, general counsel for Tides Advocacy, who advised, “As you navigate the next few years, try to let the excitement win over the anxiety as much as you can.”

Jorczak, who attended the Law School part-time, also shared valuable advice that she received from the Hon. Timothy S. Driscoll, an adjunct legal writing professor and a state Supreme Court judge in Nassau County, N.Y., who reminded students that they are only human and that they should not neglect the friends and family who support them along the way.

“You're investing a lot of time and money in going to law school, and you will only get out of it what you put into it,” Jorczak said. “So do the reading, pay attention in class, talk to your professors. Laugh at their jokes. Ask questions and use the study system that works best for you.… But there is more to life than the classroom or the courtroom or boardroom. Remember that you're human.”

Among the incoming students was Willis Huynh, a native New Yorker who discovered a strong connection between service and the legal field while attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. While there, Huynh developed a passion for representing those in need.

“I want to be someone people can rely on, a leader, and a decision maker. There’s a clear correlation between those things I learned in the Army and what I’ll learn in law school,” said Huynh.

Another student, Eve Zelickson, is an incoming Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Law Fellow from Minneapolis. After graduating from Brown University in 2019, Zelickson worked at a tech startup that assisted LGBTQ+ individuals in navigating their health. Most recently, she was employed at the nonprofit research institute Data & Society.

“I really love doing research and the idea that you can do a lot of ethnographic social science research and have an impact on everyday people and on a policy scale,” said Zelickson. “But I began to realize that research can be kind of lonely and sidelined, so that’s my reasoning for wanting to come to law school. I want to change policy and be on the front line.”

Reporting by Teresa Novellino and Julia Rafferty