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The People

Brothers in Law

How the three Connelly brothers found their way to NYU.

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The 2012–13 academic year was huge for a certain Connelly family of Louisville, Kentucky. All three sons were on campus, each at a different stage of his law school education, pursuing distinct career goals. David ’13, the eldest, is the more entrepreneurial one. Corey ’14, the middle son, is the hardworking corporate type. And Alex ’15, the youngest, is the adventure-seeker.

Given their differences, the Connelly brothers are somewhat surprised to find their journeys converging at NYU Law. David, 30, who earned degrees in anthropology and international relations at the University of Chicago, was contemplating a PhD and a future as an academic. But after a year teaching English in Madrid, he found himself working for a New York lawyer. The Law School’s strengths in social entrepreneurship ultimately won David over; he worked as a Kiva Fellow in Peru and Colombia just before coming to NYU, where he eventually became a Reynolds Fellow and co-chair of the Law and Social Entrepreneurship Association (LSEA).

Corey, 27, was perhaps the least likely to choose NYU Law, where he is a John J. Creedon Scholar. He studied business and technology with a minor in economics at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, which he attended on full scholarship. As a senior associate at UBS, he led a tax remediation team and worked on bringing the firm’s credit card business inhouse. The more Corey worked with UBS’s in-house counsel, the greater his interest became in the legal aspects of the work.

Meanwhile, Alex, 26, had majored in economics and minored in Latin American studies at Columbia University. After graduation he made tracks for China, where he worked for an educational services company before relocating to Colombia, where he eventually became a Kiva Fellow, like David.

Law school had been in the back of Alex’s mind for a couple of years. “It was probably more of an abstract academic interest,” he says. “Then as I started working and seeing how the law underpinned everything we were doing at all levels, it became more of a practical interest as well.”

The rest of the family, however, had long anticipated Alex’s pursuit of the law. “He likes to argue and is probably the best of us at it,” says David. (Their parents recently found and framed a signed contract Alex had drafted when he was five or six, promising not to cause his siblings harm as long as they adhered to certain stipulations.)

The brothers made the most of their shared year at NYU Law. “The first week,” says Alex, “they both sat me down and said, ‘Here’s what I did, here’s what I didn’t do, here’s what you should do to get the best grades you can.’ A lot of awesome pointers.” Alex accompanied David, who is also something of a world traveler, on an LSEA trip to Sri Lanka during the Fall 2012 semester, followed by a side excursion to India. (The two nearly overlapped abroad back in 2010, when Alex moved to Colombia the day after David left Colombia for New York. The elder brother left his sibling a phone and some leftover cash at the front desk of his hostel.) And over the summer Alex was one of 25 NYU Law students selected to be inaugural Ford Foundation law school fellows; he worked at a human rights organization in Brazil. With both David—now a tax associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell—and Corey—who was a summer associate at Ropes & Gray—planning to remain in the city after graduation, the Connelly brothers will all be New Yorkers at least until Alex graduates.

Their parents, Jan and John, who own a food plant sanitation company in Louisville, visit their sons often. They marvel at the brothers’ work ethic, going back to their sons’ days at an inner-city public magnet school. They intended for the boys to have a stake in their own education, and the three covered each of their NYU Law tuitions. “What they all wanted in their lives was diversity in thought,” says John. “They wanted to go somewhere where they would encounter many different types of people. They all went to institutions where they were able to experience that as undergrads, and we think NYU Law is a great final place for their education in that way.”

Their mother doesn’t deny the boys’ claims that she tried to nudge them toward careers in medicine. But, Jan says now, “At this point in their lives law school seems to fit all three of them. They’re happy, and that’s the most important thing. They just keep giving us reasons to cheer them on.”

On campus, it’s not uncommon to spot at least two Connelly brothers heading to the gym, grabbing a bite, or staking out a study room together. Although the brothers are competitive about sports (they play intramural basketball), grades, and even height (Alex offers, “I think I’m about a quarter-inch taller than both of them”), their shared NYU Law experiences—and, of course, their blood ties—have fostered a certain esprit de corps.

Recently, Corey became engaged to be married. In the ultimate gesture of brotherly unity, he asked both David and Alex to be his best men.

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