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Allison Cullens ’19 is committed to making a bigger impact for veterans.
Her father served in the Army in Germany, during the Cold War. Both of her grandfathers were Army vets. These ties contributed to Cullens overseeing preparations for the annual Veterans Law Day this past November 2 and sharing her insights about veteran law issues on the syndicated talk show, “In Focus with Solomon Syed” on Spectrum News.
“No one in our family has really talked about [their service], but the idea of working hard and following through on commitments is something we definitely learned. When I was growing up, there were times when things were stretched pretty thin at home. We were a tough, blue-collar kind of family and I am lucky to have grown up that way. It helped me stay determined and driven,” Cullens said.
Cullens likes tough-going, in general. She appreciates hard work. She holds a deep connection to her hometown NFL team, the Buffalo Bills, breaking down their offensive line strategy between hot takes about the team’s upcoming schedule. She follows the team closely with her boyfriend, a corrections officer in Western New York, and father, who works with the United Steelworkers in Buffalo.
She is soft-spoken under a red Bills sweatshirt—but Cullens has a gritty streak, too.
On top of preparing for Veterans Law Day, she is taking a course load of 17 credits, and is a teaching assistant in her final semester at Albany Law. She is an executive board member of Albany Law's Pro Bono Society and an associate editor of the
Albany Law Journal of Science and Technology. Finally, as if it all wasn’t enough, she is one of the project directors for the Veterans’ Pro Bono Project within The Justice Center.
“I don’t sleep too much right now,” she joked. “I have always liked having a lot to do though. Working hard reminds me to keep moving forward and gutting things out even if there is a lot going on.”
“Allison exhibits strong leadership and professional skills. She’s determined, and when she sets her mind on something she is able to muster significant resources to ensure it happens,” said Edward W. De Barbieri, associate professor of law and director of the pro bono program at Albany Law School. While Veterans Law Day is student-led, De Barbieri has worked closely with Cullens on the past two events.
“Allison will excel in whatever career path she decides is worthy of her time and talents,” De Barbieri added.
While Cullens doesn’t have any plans to join the service herself, her family connections to the armed forces and experience helping service families as a Social Security disability paralegal in Buffalo led her to Veterans Law Day.
“There are so many questions to answer when it comes to service, benefits, or insurance and I feel a responsibility to help veterans, current service people, and their families as best as I can,” Cullens said. “On Veterans Law Day we get a chance to help people who were disciplined and driven enough to help our country. A full day of free legal advice from volunteer attorneys helping that community is something I am honored to be a part of.”
Cullens plans to continue working with veterans after finishing off her Juris Doctor in December and taking the bar exam in February 2020.
“Albany Law School offers so many opportunities for people to have ideas or want to get involved in other ways,” Cullens said. “The biggest thing I would say to anyone [new to Albany Law School] is to get involved in something. That will help you solidify what you want to do later in life. Albany Law School gave me those kinds of opportunities and the education to pursue them.”