American Constitution Society honors a leader in the making

photo of Alam

Published April 4, 2019

America’s leading progressive legal organization has named a second-year UB School of Law student as one of an elite group of future leaders.

“Mohammed has taken a leadership role in every aspect of his education here.”
Matthew Steilen, Professor
University at Buffalo School of Law

The American Constitution Society selected Mohammed Alam ’20 as one of 26 Next Generation Leaders, from among several hundred applicants nationwide. The program recognizes “recent and forthcoming law school graduates who have demonstrated special leadership in their work with ACS’s student chapters, and who have the interest, skills and ability to remain vital members of the ACS community for years to come.”

In addition, ACS invited Alam to interview for a spot on the organization’s national board of directors – one of only four law students to receive that invitation.

The Next Generation Leaders program is in its 11th year, says Meghan J. Paulas, who as senior director of chapters oversees ACS’s 200 chapters – for both lawyers and students – nationwide.

“We are committed to a progressive vision of the Constitution, and one of our biggest roles is to support a network wherein that vision can thrive,” Paulus says. “Next Generation Leaders are expected to stay engaged with ACS wherever their paths may lead them – speaking to other students and mentoring, coming to our conventions and programs. We have regular career conference calls geared toward NGLs, and they stay connected with each other.”

Alam, whose long interest in Constitutional Law and access to justice was solidified when he took Professor Matthew Steilen’s Con Law course, has continued as the professor’s teaching fellow. Steilen wrote a letter of recommendation as part of Alam’s application for the ACS program, acknowledging his work both in the classroom and in the law school community.

“Mohammed has taken a leadership role in every aspect of his education here,” Steilen says. “He serves as a teaching fellow in my Constitutional Law class, where he helps 1Ls navigate one of the most challenging classes of their first year. And he has organized important events as an officer for ACS, including a town hall on the Kavanaugh nomination that drew 100 students and provided a much-needed forum for a collective conversation about the issues it raised.”

Alam, a Brooklyn native, worked for a criminal justice nonprofit, the Center for Court Innovation, before coming to law school. He serves as vice president of the Buffalo Law chapter of the American Constitution Society, as well as the chapter’s diversity and inclusion chair. In that role, he has built bridges to other student affinity groups, including those with differing perspectives on Constitutional interpretation.

“We’re all students of the law, we’re all academics, and we can have respectful conversations while disagreeing with each other,” he says. “It’s important to have balanced, nuanced conversations that are productive. Debates are what make a lawyer great.”

The chapter’s panel discussion about Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court was a highlight, expanding into a wider exploration of the confirmation process and gender inequities in the law. The ACS chapter has also run voter registration drives and events calling attention to gun violence; in preparation is a panel discussion about immigration policy and issues at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Next Generation Leaders have gone on to careers in government work, academia, public service and private practice. Alam, who will be a summer associate at the Buffalo law firm Hodgson Russ this summer, says that in the long term he could see himself working on a political campaign or in Washington in some capacity. He’ll take with him his commitment to the American Constitution Society’s philosophy: as he puts it, “the idea that law should be a force to improve the lives of all people.”