Class of 2010 Told Challenges They Faced in Law School Makes Them Better Able to Face the Future

Dean Schizer Tells Graduates "Others Will Depend Upon You to Lead"


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New York, May 14, 2010—The Class of 2010 that graduated Friday from Columbia Law School is accustomed to challenges, which came at them fast and furious during three years of classes, exams, internships, and moot court trials. David M. Schizer, Dean and the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law, told students that this makes them well-equipped for what lies ahead.
“As graduates of this Law School, you will be called upon over the course of your careers to address the most pressing challenges of your time,” Schizer said. “Sooner than you may realize, others will depend upon you to lead.”
Despite an uncertain economy that has tightened the job market, and events like the Times Square car bomb, the Gulf oil spill, and the Iceland volcano eruption, Schizer said.
“The challenges of the past can sometimes seem easy to manage, if only because they were, in fact, managed. But if we filter out the glow of hindsight and nostalgia, we can see how difficult the challenges were.”
Alex Raskolnikov, the Charles Evans Gerber Professor of Law, told the crowd he knows a thing or two about challenges. He recalled how he went from being a metallurgist in Michigan, to being a scared student at Yale Law School, to a tax lawyer at a large firm, where it was suggested he might be better off doing something else.
Raskolnikov, who was awarded by students the Willis L.M. Reese Prize for Excellence in Teaching, said confronting those challenges allowed him to land in a job that he loves. “You may think you want to work for the government and realize three years from now that you’d rather work for the ACLU,” he said. “You may think you want to do corporate restructurings and realize five years from now that you’d rather be a food critic. Or a masseuse. Or even an academic!”
“I thought the highlight was Professor Raskolnikov’s speech. He’s my favorite Columbia professor,” said Carina Wallace ’10.
The South Lawn of Columbia University was the site for the graduation of 700 candidates for J.D., LL.M. and J.S.D. degrees, who were joined by thousands of family members and alumni, including members of the Class of 1960, who will celebrate their 50th reunion next month.
Finals ended just before graduation, and rigorous studies for state bar exams loom. But Friday was one reserved for celebrations.
“Today we have the wonderful opportunity to put everything on hold during this ceremony and think as expansively, optimistically, proudly and romantically about what it means for us to graduate today and earn our legal degrees,” said Student Senate President Jessica Isokawa ’10.  
As LL.M. speaker Chiz Nwokonkor ’10 noted, “We have brought out the best in each other, and that makes us all each other’s true reward. And we get this day to ask in the reflected glory of our collective achievement.”
The LL.M. students, many of them seasoned legal professionals, came to the Law School from more than 50 countries for a year of advanced studies.
The ceremony featured a keynote address from Attorney General Eric Holder ’76, who told graduates they have the responsibility to influence laws that “call our country to aim higher” and do more for the most vulnerable in society.
“Whatever your path, by any measure, you are already successful,” Holder said. “But as much as you care about your own future success … I urge each of you to look for ways to serve others and to strengthen both our justice system and commitment to the rule of law.”
Class Speaker Mia White told the crowd she and her peers were ready to answer that call to action. “We are more than the limitations that and labels that we put on ourselves,” she said. “And we are charged with the duty of upholding the values of equality and justice regardless of our practice area.”
Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, stands at the forefront of legal education and of the law in a global society. Columbia Law School joins its traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law, business law and human rights law with pioneering work in the areas of intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, criminal, national security, and environmental law.