Almost Family

For two Fordham Law students, a “show-and-tell” session in Professor Olivier Sylvain’s Information Law class revealed a surprise—and a deeper connection to their family histories.
By Paula Derrow

hen Lauren Heather, LL.M. ’22, and Edward McLaughlin ’22 logged into Zoom for a special getting-to-know-you session of their Information Law class in the spring of 2021, the two students were barely acquaintances—they had never even talked. Professor Olivier Sylvain hoped to remedy the distance of remote learning and help his students bond by asking everyone in the class to present something to “show-and-tell.” Heather decided to bring some law-related notes on privacy and libel written by her great-grandfather John T. Loughran ’11, who had been chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals from 1945 to 1953.

As soon as Heather began speaking, McLaughlin’s ears perked up. “I remember Lauren telling us that her great-grandfather had held this position and graduated from Fordham Law in 1911, and I got confused—I thought, ‘Wait, are the two of us related?!” laughed McLaughlin, now a law clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Claire Eagan of the Northern District of Oklahoma.

The two of them weren’t family, but they were close: McLaughlin’s great-grandfather Albert Conway had also been a chief judge of the Court of Appeals (from 1954 to 1959)—and was in the same Fordham Law class as Heather’s great-grandfather. The two men, both legends in their respective families, were close friends throughout their lives.

The coincidence captivated their classmates and, especially, Professor Sylvain. “When we spoke about it later, Professor Sylvain told me what a special moment that was—how it was the ‘Fordham Law is a family’ idea that we hear about all the time brought to life,” said McLaughlin.

As Heather and McLaughlin were soon to discover, the coincidences and connections didn’t end there. Both students came from a long line of lawyers—and both had initially resisted the pull to go into the profession themselves. “My grandfather, also named John Loughran, was also a Fordham lawyer, as are my mother and my aunt,” said Heather, who now clerks at Gabay & Bowler in New York City. “I thought I’d ‘rebel’ and go to fashion school,” she laughed. “Except, when I was there, I realized that I was more interested in the legal and business side of fashion than in the creative side.”

A portrait of John Loughran
A portrait of John Loughran
John T. Loughran ’11
A picture of Edward McLaughlin and Lauren Heather
Edward McLaughlin ’22 and Lauren Heather, LL.M. ’22
A portrait of Albert Conway
A portrait of Albert Conway
R. Albert Conway ’11
As for McLaughlin, not only did his great-grandfather go to Fordham Law, but his grandmother was an alumna, too; she met Ed’s grandfather there, and then they both went on to become practicing attorneys. “I guess being a lawyer was always in the back of my mind, partly because of the history,” said McLaughlin, who also has an uncle who is a retired judge and cousins who are lawyers. “But I ended up working in advertising and marketing for seven years before I realized that what drew me in was how the rules around advertising, privacy, and digital data use were evolving—and that law school was the pathway into that world. So, I eventually embraced my destiny.”

Both also recall the huge impact their great-grandfathers had on their families. “He was part of the lore of our family,” said McLaughlin.

Adds Heather: “There’s one famous story about my great-grandfather—who everyone referred to as ‘The Judge’—where a defendant who was found guilty of first-degree murder thanked him afterward for the ‘very fair and impartial trial,’” recalled Heather. “That’s always stuck with me in terms of the kind of lawyer I want to be.” 

Both also say that their time at Fordham Law and discovering their connection to one another brought their respective family histories to life in a different way. “It’s strange, because though my great-grandfather was a large figure in my life, he passed 20 or so years before I was born,” said McLaughlin. “So, I never really felt a physical connection with him; it was all family folklore. But after hearing Lauren’s story, and sharing images and materials, it became a lot more real.”

Heather agrees. “It was crazy that the two of us graduated in the same class like our great-grandfathers all those years later, and that both of them went on to serve on the bench together,” she said.

At Commencement last spring, Heather pinged McLaughlin so the two could take a photo together. Her mother also gave her a copy of the 1911 Commencement program that day. “It was amazing to see their names listed together,” she said. “It all felt so far removed, but meeting Ed, graduating from Fordham Law—now I feel like I’m a part of it, too.”

Want to see your @ Fordham Law story here? Tell us about it at