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Jonathan Wong: Student government in a literal sense


By Amy Phan Taylor
AMY PHAN TAYLOR, a 2L student at Seattle University School of Law, is student editor of Student Lawyer.

It’s probably safe to say Jonathan Wong, a 2L at Brooklyn Law School in New York, is one of few law students — if not the only law student — in the country who can call himself a full-time law student and a city council member.

The Brooklyn Law student began his four-year term as city council member in the New Jersey township of Mahwah last year after competing against 10 other candidates for the position, according to a news release from the law school. Whether Wong will stay in politics after law school remains to be seen. For now, the law student plans on “passing finals” and making “good decisions” for Mahwah residents.

“I decided to run for the council seat to fight for honesty and transparency,” he told the law school. The city council position is part-time, so Wong can still focus on his law school studies.

Wong called the first year serving as city council member challenging. “It was a challenge actually taking the dais at those first council meetings, but the other members of the council are very supportive and a great team,” he said. “I have some good friends at Brooklyn Law School, and both my professors and the school have been very helpful in my pursuit of both the council and my degree.”

Wong used his interests and back-ground in real estate and business law as a platform when he ran for city council. He told voters he desired to keep transparency in city government in such areas as commercial development. The skills he learned when he became a real estate agent at 18 and business owner at 19 informed this perspective.

Many in Mahwah, a township of about 26,000, believe Wong is the youngest city council member elected to the board and the youngest Filipino-American elected to office in the United States.

Mahwah Mayor William Laforet said during Wong’s swearing-in ceremony, according to a video interview by Filipino media show Balitang America, “The residents saw something in him, something in him that represented change, a new, vibrant, and exciting personality.”

New Jersey State Sen. Gerald Cardinale added, “He is an extraordinarily young fellow to be taking on this great responsibility. But the people have elected him. They trust him. They love him.”

Now in his second year at Brooklyn Law, Wong is hoping to balance the tension between “catch[ing] up on sleep during the semester breaks” and satisfying the never-ending sense of always feeling like he “should be reading something.” He added, “I’m looking forward to gaining better balance with respect to both school and the council.”

Student Lawyer Student Lawyer magazine provides guidance on educational, career, and related issues for ABA Law Student Division members and other subscribers. It is published four times a year by the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association. Student Lawyer is available online to members of the ABA Law Student Division and to print subscribers.