Jonathan Blackford

JD Candidate '21

What brought you to law school?

I started my own events business after working in hospitality for many years. Having my own business allowed me the freedom to consider what it is I really wanted to do, not just what I could do. I got my paralegal certificate from Hofstra and began work in the torts department of the MTA. It was a litmus test for me – how would I handle the shift to office work and was the legal world one I would enjoy – and I sure did!

The other push for me personally was a national ideological shift that I never expected. DOMA passed. I was in high school during the Matthew Shephard tragedy, and felt that my orientation was a burden on society that I should work to mitigate. After DOMA, it was the first time that I felt like maybe it was okay to be out and proud. I felt like a whole person.

Then, there was the passage of the ACA. I never forgot what it was like being denied medical care due to the lack of insurance coverage and being denied insurance coverage because I was diagnosed as diabetic at 16 – before I could even seek my own coverage.

These two decisions – DOMA and the ACA – allowed me to get married and obtain insurance through my spouse. My life dramatically changed due to legislation and court cases – and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I feel that when you are blessed – you should spread those blessings. When I looked around and saw other populations that were still persecuted in the law – I knew that it was important that I get the education needed to change the system for them as well.

Why did you choose Haub Law?

I had a colleague at the MTA who graduated from Haub Law. She is a stellar attorney and so when she said I should apply, I did. From the outset, even though I applied, I was hesitant to go.

When I arrived on campus, Cathy Alexander and the admissions staff really changed my mind. She was thoughtful and kind; she did not “sell” the school, but presented the benefits. However, if I am being honest here, what really did it for me was the day I arrived. It was hot and I was a sweaty mess. My phone was dead, and I was stressed out. Before I began my campus tour, Cathy offered me a beverage – and honestly, that is what did it. She offered me a little bottle of San Pellegrino. Her simple, but kind gesture coupled with my previous work in Italian hospitality had me in love with this beverage – and somehow, this seemingly insignificant offer made me feel like Cathy really understood me.

Which professors have made the largest impact on you?  

Well this is a loaded question since I haven’t graduated yet, but each one has been stellar in a way that I love.

Professor Michael Mushlin – if you have to take a 9:00 in the morning civil procedure class then his should be the one you hope to take!  Professor Noa Ben-Asher was amazing for Torts and although I did not take her family law course (I wish I had more time!), she wrote an essay on the SCOTUS bestowing civil rights that really sticks with me. Professor Alexander Greenawalt – I have taken the bulk of my classes with this Professor because of how much I appreciated the classes he taught. To this day, International Criminal Law is one of my favorite classes ever. I could speak endlessly on this topic, but never with the same authority as Professor Greenawalt. Professor Margot Pollans – I was not at all interested in property law, until Professor Pollans. She took us down a deep dive into how interesting and important property and distribution is to our system. Professor Leslie Garfield Tenzer brings a passion that is infectious and that passion really makes you want to learn. Professor Bridget Crawford – I do not even know where to begin. Her classes are amazing. Her teaching is amazing. Really though, it is the genuine interest in every student that is striking. Some people pay lip service to “contact me anytime” – and others mean it. She is one of those individuals. She makes herself a true resource and I think that is so rare. Professor Van Krikorian – he is one of the funniest people I have ever had the pleasure of learning from. He is a subtle joker, but pay attention for the jokes and you will have an endlessly great time. Professor Tom McDonnell is the kindest and most patient person. His breadth of knowledge is so impressive and the fact that he puts so much into every class is not lost on me. I appreciate that his passions run along the same lines as my own, as well. Professor Vanessa Merton is so diligent about giving you the tools you need to succeed. She believes you to be a worthy advocate and pushes you to that end. Her hard work is something to emulate, and her motivation seems to track with my own. I feel vastly more prepared to enter the job market because of the connections she has made between my education and putting that education in motion. Also, although he was not technically a professor of mine – I want to add Professor Lou Fasulo. The advocacy program at Haub Law is outstanding. Professor Fasulo has crafted a program that makes ferocious advocates out of any who participate. It is one thing to learn the substance of the law – it is another to wield that power with might. Professor Fasulo arms us with the skills to really bring the fight where we determine the fight needs to be. Truly, there are facets of each one of my professors that I would love to pull forward with me.

How has the pandemic changed your law school experience?

Remote learning has been different. I think it was just another challenge to overcome. It excites me on some levels because it has forced the profession to accelerate the adoption of technology. Although commuting back and forth was a little pain, I do miss being on campus, however I have appreciated being able to sleep a bit later. I will say that several professors (notably Professor Crawford!) have been incredibly diligent in mitigating the impact. It has shown and once again aids in the gratitude I feel for choosing Haub Law.

What do you plan to do post law school?

I am currently at a smaller Trusts and Estates firm in Brooklyn, and if all goes as according to plan, I will be there for a good while. However, I will never turn my nose up to an opportunity and if I could choose one that speaks to me: I jokingly say that I would like to take Judge Judy’s place, but it is only a half joke. I feel like access to small claims is a mystery to most. It is a powerful tool that the masses have at their disposal to effectuate justice on a personal level and I would love to be part of an organization that helps demystify that process to those who need it.

What are some of your hobbies outside of law school?

I love to cook, and I love to play games. Video games. Card games. Board games. I love to travel – meet new people, learn new cultures and explore new less traveled areas.