International Conflict Specialist Allelo (L ’87) Advises Students to “Find Your Passion”

It was, ironically, the ceaseless conflict of work as a litigator that led John Allelo (L ’87) into some of the world’s most fraught conflict zones, working with refugees, former child soldiers, and victims of genocide.

It all happened because he took a risk – taking a leave of absence from his Baton Rouge law firm to take a year of pro bono work for the American Bar Association in Bulgaria.

“You have to be very careful in choosing your law career, or someone will choose it for you,” Allelo, who visited Tulane Tuesday for a lunch seminar, told a roomful of law students.  “My advice is make it a priority to find your passion, and practice in that area.”

Allelo, who was recently honored by the ABA for his work overseas, was back on campus to discuss the role of lawyers in international development and advise Tulane students interested in international legal careers.

Allelo’s year in Bulgaria led him to his current position as a senior Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where he specializes in promoting democracy and reconciliation in countries riven by war and civil conflict. In his current posting in Islamabad, he oversees efforts to support Pakistan's fragile democracy by promoting free and open elections, gender equality and civil rights, and initiatives to curb violent extremism.

Prior to his work in Pakistan, Allelo worked for USAID in Colombia, leading U.S. efforts to help the displaced, rehabilitate child soldiers, and seeking inclusion for marginalized communities following the decades-long war between the Colombian government and the FARC.

Previously, he was a legal advisor for USAID in Bulgaria and later in Kosovo, where he helped the country’s governing body to draft its first constitution. He also served in South Sudan as the nation transitioned towards independence.

He encouraged students to be mindful of the power of law and lawyers to changes lives.

“The law is such a powerful tool,” Allelo told Tulane students. “We have unique access as lawyers to the most vulnerable as well as heads of state. We can influence economies, provide access to education, create fair systems for native people, help homeless youths in Colombia, and assist Syrian refugees . . . .  We can do good.”

Also, he credited his time at Tulane Law School for broadening his imagination.

“One of the great things about a Tulane education is that it brings such a blended class together -- you realize there are so many different perspectives,” Allelo said. “The more we are different, the more we are alike. Talking about these differences of ideas with can brings us to a commonality that I think is crucial to practicing internationally.”

For his public service promoting peace and democracy in turbulent regions, Allelo was presented with the 2017 Fellows Award by the ABA Young Lawyers Division at its annual gala.

A native of Louisiana, he received his Bachelor of Science degree in finance from Louisiana State University, and his law degree from Tulane in 1987.