Francesca Acocella


Senior Director of Student Life
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Francesca Acocella is the Senior Director of Student Life at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City. Since joining Cardozo as the Director of Student Services in January 2020, Francesca has worked counseling students in crisis, creating mental health programming and professional identity curriculum, working with students with disability accommodations, and collaborating with the Student Bar Association and other student groups. She advises students on course selection, academics, and time management.

Francesca is the Chair of the NYC-area Wellness Consortium, a group of law school staff and faculty focused on law student wellbeing. Francesca recently presented in June 2022 to the National Association of Law Student Affairs Professionals at its annual conference on the intersections of and collaborations between Academic Success and Student Services offices. She is also an adjunct professor at Cardozo Law School, teaching a seminar on skills for judicial internships.

Francesca is currently pursuing a Masters of Social Work at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, where she was a research assistant for Professor Mary Beth Morrissey, PhD, MPH, JD, on vicarious trauma in immigration and asylum attorneys. Francesca’s social work fieldwork includes providing supportive counseling to groups and individuals at the New York City Bar Association’s Lawyer Assistance Program. Francesca is also certified in mental health first aid.

She earned her J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, where she received the Public Interest Student Inspire Award, the Mark Whitlock Scholarship (recognizing a third-year student who strengthens student life and community at Cardozo), the Cardozo LGBT Award, and the Dr. Samuel Belkin Award for Exceptional Contribution to Cardozo. Francesca served as the president of OUTlaw, Cardozo’s LGBTQ student association, and as president of the Minority Law Students Alliance and later as alumni co-chair of the Cardozo OUTlaw Alumni Committee. She was on the board of Law Students for Reproductive Justice and a student liaison to the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York. Francesca also served as a Teaching Assistant for Lawyering in Washington, D.C. and for Lawyering and Legal Writing. The following year, she was the Head Teaching Assistant for Legal Writing. Francesca was also a student fellow for Cardozo’s Center for Public Service Law, mentoring students interested in public service work and planning a weeklong public interest conference and other panels. She was a research assistant for Professor Alex Reinert, conducting research on civil procedure and social justice in the Second Circuit. Francesca was a legal intern at the ACLU LGBT and HIV Project, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National LGBTQ Task Force, and Lambda Legal.

Francesca was also a student in the Cardozo Civil Rights clinic, where she represented a transgender woman prisoner incarcerated in a men’s maximum security facility where she was sexually assaulted. Francesca drafted the Complaint and appeared in the Southern District of New York. The case subsequently settled for an unprecedented amount.

Francesca has a B.A. in Political Science from Wellesley College, where she received the Woodrow Wilson Writing Prize in Political Theory, American Politics, and Law. While in college, she interned for the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, the National Women’s Law Center, and a member of Congress.

After graduating from law school, Francesca clerked in New Jersey Superior Court, Family Division for a judge who presides over child welfare cases. She was then a Staff Attorney at the Center for Family Representation, where she represented low-income parents with child welfare cases whose children were predominantly in foster care. After practicing law, she clerked again in the Supreme Court, New York County for a judge who handled both guardianship cases and a commercial docket.