John V. Allen ’17
John V. Allen ’17 was in his second deployment to Afghanistan when he decided to apply to law school. A 2009 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, he was part of a Marine Corps Afghan police adviser team and led security operations and interdiction missions on Taliban smuggling routes. “I still wanted to be in government service, but I was done with the military,” he explains. “I knew a law degree would open doors.”
With his boots-on-the-ground understanding of terrorism and armed conflict, Allen says he has valued the Law School community’s humanitarian consciousness.
“There are lots of wrongs being done in the world,” he explains. “I’ve been encouraged by the people here who are pointing them out and want to right them.”
One of the fields Allen has been drawn to during law school is national security law, and he has worked closely with Matthew C. Waxman, the Liviu Librescu Professor of Law and faculty chair of the Roger Hertog Program on Law and National Security. “I was a research assistant on cybersecurity, particularly in the area of murky and rapidly changing international legal norms,” he says.
As a 3L, Allen, who served as a staff editor for the Columbia Human Rights Law Review, moved to Washington, D.C., for an externship within the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the General Counsel. “The work I got to do there—from cybersecurity to counterinsurgency to space issues—left me with a great appreciation for the complexity and shifting nature of the national security legal landscape,” he says.
Allen has also pursued an interest in litigation. He completed an externship in the office of Judge Richard Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and served as an intern in the New York office of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.
But his “most exciting” placement, Allen says, was at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, where he worked in the public integrity and crime and gangs sections. “I loved the collegial nature of the office and developed a deep respect for the assistant U.S. attorneys and their constant efforts—all of which seemed to recognize the overarching interest in justice and not just winning cases,” he explains.
To round out his education, Allen spent a summer at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. He will return to the firm for a year after graduation, before beginning a clerkship for U.S. District Court Judge Joseph F. Bianco of the Eastern District. “I’m excited to see how the courtroom works, how judges think, and specifically how the law personally affects lives,” he says.