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Anthony Louis Burns: Founder, Brooklyn Law School Democrats

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<<Burns founded the group during the second half of his first year, after he met Julia Cervantes, a fellow classmate who had previously worked as an event planner. The two talked with their student government and filed the required papers; a brand-new student organization was born.

Although the group didn't have any official funds for the first year, it was able to co-sponsor events and get its name out among the student body.

"That [first] year, we had meetings, and it was more like a discussion group," Burns said. "We had a bulletin board—a Yahoo! group—where everyone could post messages and stuff, and we discussed political issues and talked about things that were important to us."

It was during the organization's second year, which happened to be a presidential election year, that Burns said he had the most fun.

"We did two trips out of state, one a few months before the election. We went to Allentown, PA, and knocked on doors to get voters registered and stuff like that," he said. "About 10 or 12 of us went there for that. On Election Day, 8 of us went to Bucks County in Pennsylvania and knocked on doors to get out the vote."

The first time the group went to Pennsylvania, it worked side by side with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN); and the second time, the students worked with the Democratic Party. In addition, during Burns' presidency, the group participated in phone banks, lunches, and discussion groups. It also hosted Brooklyn D.A. candidate Arnie Kriss and a partner from Lake Research Partners, Daniel Gotoff, as speakers.

Burns originally decided to attend law school after working as a computer programmer because he thought it would be interesting. He chose Brooklyn Law School for both its convenience and academic reputation and said he really enjoyed the basic and theoretical aspects of his first-year courses.

During his summers in law school, Burns interned at the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs Adjudication Division, at the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, and for L. Blake Morris, a solo practitioner. He said the internships taught him valuable writing skills and gave him a realistic picture of the differences between federal courts and state courts.

"The federal court is a lot more like you learn about in law school, because it's very formalistic; and they do it the way you learn it's going to happen," he said. "With even the state courts—and definitely with the Department of Consumer Affairs—it's very informal. People aren't up for criminal charges, so there aren't as many issues. In the state court, you can postpone anything whenever you want."

Even though his internships weren't exactly what he was interested in doing upon graduation, Burns said he still had a good time meeting other interns and learning more about the law.

Now that he has graduated, he hopes to go into finance. In fact, he has already passed the first part of the Chartered Financial Analyst Exam, a recognized credential for finance jobs.

"I would like to work for one of the big investment banks," he said. "Eventually, I'd like to move to the business side and work at a trading desk."

"I found the corporate law and the organizational law courses interesting in school," he said. "I feel like I'd like to build something, and I think knowing the law helps you know how to build an organization. So, I wouldn't necessarily be as interested in litigation as I am in how to create an organization."

Burns encourages law students who are interested in starting their own student organizations to talk to their student governments, find out what needs to be submitted, and be diligent.

Even if they say no at first, he said, if you show resolve, you'll eventually gain legitimacy and be just as important as any other organization.

"You just have to be dedicated and keep at it," he said. "Keep doing things, because the most important thing is building a community."

Burns thinks student organizations are valuable because they illustrate the fact that even a small group of people can make a difference. He said it teaches you that you are really no different from government leaders and that everyone can effect change if they are devoted to it.

"Organizations and companies and everything that's built in the world are just built by people really not that different from us," he said. "It empowers you. It makes you realize that you can go out there and change things."

Upon completing his courses, Burns proudly passed on leadership of the Brooklyn Law School Democrats to Brandon Smith and Pooja Agarwal, two students he feels will do a great job in further developing the organization.

"They seem really enthusiastic and excited to get involved. I think these two people are really excited to make it bigger and better next year. I feel pretty confident it will keep going. And I'll be in the area, so I'll make sure they keep it going too," he said.

Brooklyn Law School


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