NEXT: More Than Esquire
3L at Boston University School of Law
Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Leadership Brainery
What inspired you to pursue a career in law?
All of my life I have been a preacher! At age 11, I preached my first sermon, became licensed as a minister at 14, and ordained at 20. I have spent much time in my communities organizing, empowering and uplifting folk, especially the youth. I always thought that I would be a traveling evangelist spreading a message of love, hope, wisdom and justice. However, I do recall mentioning to one of my mentors that I had an interest in being a lawyer, but was told that "preachers cannot be lawyers -- lawyers are crooks and liars." After graduating from Grambling State University, I began consulting student governments on how to lead at their best potential. Thus, that is when my partner and I conceived The Leadership Brainery. When I went to theology school at Southern Methodist University, I was in a critical phase of my life as I wrestled with my identity as a gay-black-minister. My conception of God expanded to understand God as an advocate for justice, and someone who loves and accepts people in the margins. I became passionate about learning and addressing systemic injustices. I was inspired to pursue my JD so that I could learn more about the structure of legal education and systems, and develop solutions to address racism, other forms of oppression and hopelessness.
The biggest challenges I have faced in law school are ...
Being one of the only black men in my class, being bored and clueless at times about what I was learning, and not having adequate mental health support.
Which legal scholar or thought leader (past or present, real life or fictional) would you like to spend a day with and why?
I would love to spend many days with Oprah! Her energy is so contagious! She is one of the greatest thought leaders of our time. I believe that she has a profound influence on culture and possess a wealth of knowledge and perspective that enlightens me each time I view her content. I feel called to make a significant impact on culture myself and want to glean from her wisdom.
What advice you’ve received or give fellow law students who seek to incorporate their career or personal pursuits beyond the practice of law?
I want to encourage fellow law students to not lose sight of your passions and convictions. Often times, the law school process and pressures distort our confidence, vision, and sense of awareness. I have battled deep depression during law school from trying to fit within a mold of "acceptable legal career options." I knew I did not desire to be a corporate lawyer, but I tried pursuing that too because my peers were. It was then that I realized I had began diminishing my value. I have always known that my calling was to equip leaders to make change for the greater good. There is no reason why I cannot do that now, so my partner and I are developing our own nonprofit to prepare diverse and first-generation college student leaders for local and global impact. The key is to 1) keep going, 2) believe in yourself, 3) be yourself, and 4) be intentional about building authentic relationships with as many people as you can. We need more law students and lawyers to follow their passions and pursue entrepreneurship as a means for innovating and improving society.
The goals I look forward to accomplishing in my upcoming career are ...
I hope to inspire people to be their authentic selves and spark an urgency for justice and equity that transcends politics and transforms systems and lives. I call it “Political Spirituality”. To that end, I look forward to preparing student leaders to impact the communities they live in, providing them tools to access and leverage opportunities, and inspiring them to love themselves and others. When I die I want to have done everything I could to make my life and other peoples' lives better.
Jonathan Allen is currently a 3L at Boston University School of Law and first-generation college graduate. He is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Leadership Brainery – a nonprofit organization for training and mentoring first-generation college student leaders into the legal profession.