Larry Cetrulo, L'75

A fortuitous conversation with a friend prompted Larry Cetrulo to consider attending Northeastern’s School of Law—and the resourceful Cetrulo enrolled only days later, abruptly altering the course of his academic life.

Today, Cetrulo credits the law school and its co-op program as the foundation of his accomplished legal career. He is a founding partner of Cetrulo & Capone LLP, a national leader in defending complex civil litigation claims, and serves as coordinating counsel for toxic tort and product liability litigations for the country’s largest corporations. As one of the law school’s key co-op employers, Cetrulo & Capone helps students develop the real-world knowledge and training necessary for success in their competitive field.

Cetrulo remains enthusiastically dedicated to the School of Law. Through his leadership and philanthropy, he ensures that students benefit from its innovative experiential education program, just as he did years earlier. 

Q: Why did you apply to the law school at Northeastern?

A: I was a 1971 graduate of Harvard College, and received a master’s degree in education administration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in June 1972. I was planning on working as a school administrator in the Quincy School Department for a year before I went on to Harvard Law School. In August 1972, I went to the movies with a college classmate of mine—we were watching “The Godfather”—and I asked, “What will you be doing in September?” He said, “I’m going to Northeastern University’s School of Law.”

My friend described the co-op program to me—how he’d be able to work after his first year of law school and make money, and get his law degree in three years. It sounded like an eminently good idea, so I said to him, “I think that I’ll go to Northeastern’s law school and skip working at the Quincy School Department.” He assumed that I meant to enroll in September 1973, but I meant to enroll next week—in September of 1972!

The next day, I drove to Boston and met with the registrar of NUSL. I asked if I could see the dean. The dean met me in his office and asked what he could do for me. I said, “I’m a Harvard College graduate and I’d like to go to Northeastern’s law school. I haven’t applied, I haven’t taken the board. I’d like to start next week.” We engaged in some discussion about why that was or wasn’t a good idea. I convinced him that it was a good idea and he said, “Fine, you’re admitted.” I believe to this day, if you looked for an admissions folder on me, I don’t think there is one; I may have filled out an application later as a pro forma exercise. That’s how I got into Northeastern!

Q: What attracted you to the law school?

A: I was intrigued by the co-op program, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. I had a tremendous experience at the law school. I love the co-op program. I had four terrific jobs and to this day, the people who I met in those co-op jobs are still friends of mine. Most of them are now judges and senior trial lawyers in the city of Boston.

Q: Where did you work for your co-ops?

A: I first worked at a Boston civil litigation defense firm called Parker, Coulter, Daley & White. They were an old-time defense firm; that was a terrific experience. Then I worked at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, where I had the chance to work on the appellate brief in Commonwealth v.  Jackson, which I believe to this day, is the death penalty jurisprudence in Massachusetts.

My third co-op was at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. We were, in those days—believe it or not—doing draft evasion cases for the Vietnam War. I was helping Bob Collings, the Assistant U.S. Attorney, decide which prosecutions to bring and which prosecutions to forego.

My last co-op was at Goodwin Procter & Hoar. I was one of two law students in Boston, as a result of that co-op, offered a job after graduation at Goodwin Procter. Today, Goodwin Procter must hire 50 or 60 new lawyers a year, but in those days, they hired only two! I was very tempted, but passed up that opportunity and went to Burns and Levinson. I worked for Tom Burns and learned how to try cases from him. It was a terrific experience for me, right down the line, to have been at Northeastern and to have met so many people who have been influential in my career since then.

Q: Co-op was very instrumental in shaping your career. How do you remain involved with the program?

A: I’m very aware of the debt of gratitude that I owe to Northeastern and am committed to paying that back. Between 12 and 20 Northeastern undergraduates—every six months—come through Cetrulo & Capone as litigation assistants and we’ve been doing that now for over 15 years.

We hire two Northeastern law student co-ops every quarter. We have, most years, seven or eight different law students per year and have been doing that since 1995. Between the law students and the university undergraduates who we hire, I’d say that Cetrulo & Capone has been one of the larger employers in the co-op program—certainly for a business our size. Our firm is about 60 lawyers and we’ve got about 40 paralegals, and 20 to 25 litigation assistants. As a percentage of the number of professionals in our office, the Northeastern component is huge.

Q: As an alumnus, how do you support the law school? 

A: At the suggestion and urging of my two great friends, [law professors] Steve Subrin and Dan Givelber, I endowed the Cetrulo Family Scholarship Fund. I designated that the scholarships were to be made available first and foremost, to graduates of Harvard College who attend the Northeastern University School of Law. I thought that I would encourage the connection between Harvard College and Northeastern at both ends.

Q: Why is it important for alumni to support the law school, and the university in general?

A: We’re in an area of the country that is infused with philanthropic opportunities, and there is very keen competition for the charitable dollar. I think that the co-op program, unique as it is in the country, is eminently worthy of our support. The law school, and in particular the initiatives in the areas of diversity and the public interest that have been hallmarks of its achievements, are worthy of support. Being an institution of such size and import in the city of Boston, it’s essential that it be maintained at a high degree of excellence. For those reasons, I’m very enthusiastically behind urging alumni to keep Northeastern in mind.

Larry Cetrulo graduated from Harvard College in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in American government and received his master’s in education from Harvard University in 1972. He has served as a member of Northeastern University’s Corporation since 1990 and generously supports the School of Law through the Cetrulo Family Scholarship Fund and the Cetrulo Faculty Travel Fund, among others.