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    08.25.16 Convocation Welcomes New Students to Brooklyn Law School
    Convocation Ceremony 2016

    Brooklyn Law School welcomed a new entering class of 350 students at the annual Convocation Ceremony on Aug. 22, held at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The event kicked off in the Law School plaza, where new students, faculty, and staff gathered for the procession to the courthouse.

    Vice Dean and Professor William Araiza served as master of ceremonies for the program in the Ceremonial Courtroom that featured remarks from Hon. Robert A. Katzmann, Chief Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; Matthew Swaya ’81, Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, Starbucks Coffee Company; Susan Herman, Centennial Professor of Law and President of the American Civil Liberties Union; Karla Cabral ’17, Edward V. Sparer Fellow; and Dean Nick Allard.

    “It is now your time to invest in the hard, fascinating, worthy work of earning your law degree,” Dean Allard told the new students “It will be your time after graduation to spend wisely and to give incalculable value to your life through service to the profession, to society, and to people. Make us as proud of you tomorrow as we are today.”

    Judge Katzmann praised the legacy of Brooklyn Law School, noting the distinguished jurists and lawyers among the school’s graduates. “You are joining a law school community that is renowned and consequential – your futures will be bright because you are part of that Brooklyn Law School community,” he said. “I can speak directly to the excellence of Brooklyn Law School, of its contributions to the administration of justice, of the extraordinary faculty, and the quality of students.” He encouraged the students to become engaged in the important enterprise of civic education and reminded them of their responsibility “to do good, to do justice.” “Your role as a lawyer, as a law student, is to help ensure that there is justice for all,” he said.

    Judge Katzmann’s book, Judging Statutes, was given to every member of the incoming class, and he signed books at the reception in the Courthouse Rotunda following the ceremony. The cost was covered through a gift by Matthew Swaya, who hopes the book “will become a common frame of reference that the entering students can all share.”

    In his remarks, Swaya reminisced about his own Convocation 38 years ago when he asked himself: “What have I done?  Do I belong? Would I understand the cases and handle the workload? How would I perform compared to all these smart people? Would I like my professors?  Do I really want to go to school for three more years?” He encouraged students to take advantage of the many opportunities offered by the Law School and to uphold the values of civility, integrity, and professionalism.

    “At a time when our society lacks good behavior, when confidence in our institutions and our political system is lacking, and with a critical national election coming up, please ground yourselves in these values,” he said. “Never waver. Don’t be cross. Be steadfast and take the high road. You can be civil and do good, using the law as a positive influence for your own good and for the good of your clients and society.”

    Professor Herman recognized new and veteran faculty members in the audience, praising the depth and breadth of the faculty’s teaching and scholarly expertise. “You are going to discover how lucky you are that the chosen job of these people is to teach you,” she said. She encouraged the new students to talk with the faculty, deans, and administrators; use law school as an opportunity to grow; and “find yourself a bridge to build.”

    “Don’t let yourself become distracted by what anyone else thinks is the best way to be a lawyer,” Professor Herman said. “Find your own version of a life in the law that will be meaningful and fulfilling to you, whether it’s working in mergers and acquisitions at a big law firm, or representing internet start-ups, or helping poor people to avoid being evicted.”

    Karla Cabral ’17 involved students and faculty in icebreaking audience participation exercises to emphasize the importance of being keenly observant and taking risks. “For some, teaching and learning the law is about being risk averse. However, I find there is a sort of entrepreneurial spirit to law school, and it starts on the very first day,” she said. “Speak up in class, reach out to your professors, participate in tryouts and pro bono projects, and, most important, build relationships.”   

    Selected from nearly 3,700 applicants, the incoming students are enrolled across the Law School’s flexible 2-3-4 program options. In addition, 31 LL.M. students joined the Law School from 20 countries including China, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, France, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, and Russia.

    The new students represent a wide range of backgrounds:

    • •  They hail from 25 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and five foreign countries.
    • •  They are fluent in 35 languages and dialects other than English, from Azeri to German to Urdu.
    • •  Their birthplaces span five continents and 25 countries.
    • •  They range in age from 18 to 52, with an average age of 25.

    They studied at 163 colleges and universities, pursuing 59 different academic majors, with nearly two dozen having completed an M.A., MBA, CPA, LL.M., or MSW.
    Many incoming students are entrepreneurs who launched their own companies, including: 

    • •  An entertainment media group with an annual revenue of half a million dollars
    • •  A Chinese educational consulting firm that identifies and leverages gaps in high school students applying for college in the United States
    • •  A health coaching business focusing on teaching skills to adults to enable them to lead healthier lives
    • •  An international production and development company for film and stage projects

    Many have been involved in public service projects, including teaching Somali refugees about their legal rights in Egypt; founding an organization to promote emotional health and suicide prevention on college campuses, and engaging in missionary and educational work in Central American and African countries.