A Passion for Public Service at BU Law

The Boston University School of Law community has always exhibited a profound passion for and commitment to public service. Members of our faculty are dedicated to inculcating in students an appreciation for the importance of public service, and our students find their own areas of interest by participating in one or more of the many programs available at BU Law.

Just a few weeks ago, during spring break 2014, sixty-two BU Law students traveled to nine cities on pro bono service trips. Students provided legal assistance at a variety of nonprofit organizations in Boston; Biloxi, MS; Harlingen, TX; Los Angeles; Detroit; New Orleans; and other cities around the country. Students worked on a broad range of legal issues – from claims arising from Hurricane Katrina and the Deep Horizon oil spill to challenges to mortgage foreclosure actions to death penalty and immigration detention cases, just to name a few!

From left to right: Matthew Kugizaki ('12), Jodie Koo ('16), Cullan Riley ('16), and Nick Levenhagen ('12)

From left to right: Matthew Kugizaki (’12), Jodie Koo (’16), Cullan Riley (’16), and Nick Levenhagen (’12) with me in Los Angeles

On my own “spring break,” I traveled to Los Angeles and San Diego, meeting with alumni in LA and Orange County, and attending an ABA meeting.  I was delighted to have dinner with our two 1L students working in LA as part of our pro bono service trips.  We were joined by two young alums – one in large firm practice and one working for a public interest organization at a job he obtained as a result of BU Law’s post-graduate fellowship program.

The public service work students perform while at BU Law inevitably continues when they leave the law tower, and we are always proud to recognize alumni for continuing to demonstrate their passion for public service. In February, we honored three of our distinguished alumni that have gone above and beyond in their public service work: Betsy Plevan, Seymour James, Jr. and Glenn Lau-Kee have all served or will serve as presidents of the New York City or State Bar and have all excelled in promoting the ideals of public service through their practices and bar association activities.

We are also delighted to be honoring alum Nina Zolt (’76) at our upcoming DC Public Service reception on April 9 at 6pm at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center Rotunda.  Nina has spent the last 17 years helping children around the world develop and refine their reading skills. Her organization, In2Books, pairs adult volunteers with 3rd, 4th and 5th graders who read and exchange ideas about books online.

Another upcoming event focused on public service is the Public Interest Project Auction on April 3 at 6pm at the GSU Metcalf Ballroom. PIP raises money to fund law students who are pursuing public interest work during the summer. Additionally, at the BU Law Year End Pro Bono Celebration on April 7 at 6pm in Barristers Hall, we will honor alumni Avner Shapiro (’94) and Angela Gomes (’05) for their commitment to pro bono and public service. We will also recognize our 3L and LLM students who have completed the pro bono pledge.

To top it all off, I am proud to announce that two of our 3Ls, Libby Hasse and Elizabeth McIntyre, were recently named Equal Justice Works Fellows. Beginning in the fall, Libby will be working at the Tahririh Justice Center in Houston, TX, while Elizabeth will be working at Greater Boston Legal Services.

These students and alumni epitomize the spirit of BU Law and the best of the legal profession.  We are grateful to their contributions to improving the nation and, indeed, the world, through public service.

Honoring BU Law’s New York Alumni and Welcoming Our Admitted Students

Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to visit the headquarters of Viacom, a company founded by our lead building donor, Sumner M. Redstone, and led in part by General Counsel Michael Fricklas, a class of 1984 alum of BU Law. Viacom hosted a reception to honor three of our most distinguished alums and to welcome admitted students to BU Law.

It was wonderful to see our alumni engaging with admitted students and welcoming them to the BU Law community. We were also happy to have our Assistant Dean of Admissions, Alissa Leonard, our Assistant Dean for Career Development & Public Service, Fiona Hornblower, and Professor Khiara Bridges on hand to answer questions and represent the best law professors in the country!

DSC_6688

Glenn Lau-Kee (’74), Michael Fricklas (’84), Dean Maureen O’Rourke, Betsy Plevan (’70) and Seymour James (’74) at the BU Law reception in New York City

At BU Law, we take tremendous pride in providing our students with the best in legal education and preparing them for today’s competitive legal market – and our alumni are living proof of this. We were thrilled to have our New York alumni with us as living proof of the careers made possible by their hard work and BU Law education.

I was also delighted to honor three prominent alums who have made leadership contributions to the bar associations of New York. All three honorees are pioneers in the law community and we are proud to call them our alumni:

Betsy Plevan (’70), a partner in the Labor and Employment Department at Proskauer Rose, has established herself as one of the country’s top attorneys in employment law.  She is a true trailblazer and an inspiration for women in the law. Betsy was the third woman to hold the office of President of the New York City Bar Association, and the first to serve as a member of the firm’s seven-person Executive Committee.

Seymour James (’74) is the Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Practice division at the Legal Aid Society of New York. Seymour was the third African-American President of the New York State Bar Association, and in that position advocated for criminal discovery reform and the importance of addressing human trafficking in NY.  At the Legal Aid Society, Seymour litigated the major case of Earley v. Murray, which declared the New York Department of Corrections’ post-release supervision policy unconstitutional.

Glenn Lau-KeDSC_6988e (’74) is the current president-elect of the state bar. When his term begins in June, he will be the first Asian-American to hold this position. As a partner at Kee & Lau-Kee, a firm founded by his father in 1956, Glenn has been a strong advocate for greater involvement by the Asian American community in the New York bar.

It was wonderful to show our admitted students the diversity of the BU Law alumni base:  Our honorees came from diverse backgrounds and diverse practice settings.  What united them was their BU Law education.

As we move forward, we must never forget that diversity was a founding value of Boston University, and it is one of the great strengths of our country.  It would be a great help to us if all of our alumni would encourage outstanding diverse candidates to law school to apply to BU Law to honor our heritage and to make us an even stronger school as we move deeper into the 21st century.

Federal Judges, Assistant Secretary of Defense and Leading Academics Speak at BU Law

Boston University School of Law has a deep commitment not only to excellence in law teaching, but also to the highest standards of legal research and scholarship. That’s why we’ve invited a number of scholars, judges, and policymakers to visit the law tower and speak on a variety of timely legal topics.Our most recent events included a symposium on the Affordable Care Act, panels examining the Euro Crisis, and a dynamic discussion on the causes and cures of government gridlock:

How Alumni Can Be Our Students’ Competitive Advantage in the Job Market

Our Office of Career Development & Public Service, now headed by Assistant Dean Fiona Trevelyan Hornblower, as well as our faculty and administrative staff strive continually to offer more resources and create more opportunities that will prepare our students for their future careers. For our students to be successful in today’s competitive legal market, they also need the assistance of the BU Law alumni network. There are more than 23,000 of you practicing in all 50 states and a number of international locations! Read More »

How to Help Residents of Philippines Affected by Typhoon Haiyan

In the wake of the devastating typhoon that recently struck the Philippines, the BU Law community sends its deepest sympathies to all of our students, alumni, faculty, and staff who have loved ones living in that country and to all of our alumni who are currently residing in the Philippines. We in Boston share your grief for the thousands of lives that have been lost during this terrible disaster.

tacloban city

Photo credit: Reuters / Romeo Ranoco via FT.com

For those of you who would like to help the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, there are a number of international organizations that have mobilized to provide assistance to the residents of the Philippines, including the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, with whom BU Law has had a long-standing relationship.

While we can’t always predict when or where a disaster of this magnitude is going to strike, we can always extend our support and sympathy to those who have been affected by it. On behalf of the BU Law community, we send our thoughts and prayers to all the residents of the Philippines and to their friends and family members.