New York, May 23, 2013—As graduates of Columbia Law School, members of the Class of 2013 will have unique opportunities to serve in high-ranking leadership positions around the world, said Preet Bharara ’93, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who delivered a powerful keynote address at today’s graduation ceremony on the South Lawn at Columbia University.
“You will have opportunities for leadership that are available to almost no one else, and, in short order, you will be perched at the very pinnacles of power, counseling some of the most influential people in the world,” he said.
Keynote Speaker Preet Bharara '93, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York
In those roles, Bharara urged graduates to be good people and to work in the service of others.
Bharara addressed this year’s exceptionally accomplished J.D., LL.M., and J.S.D. candidates, who hail from 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and 23 countries; their families and friends; and the faculty members who led the students through their rigorous academic training.
As the Southern District of New York’s top prosecutor, he oversees more than 220 assistant U.S. attorneys dealing with a wide range of cases, including those involving terrorism, narcotics, public corruption, organized crime, and white-collar crime. In 2012, he appeared on the cover of Time magazine for his work in ferreting out insider trading and other financial crime on Wall Street.
Bharara, who this year celebrates the 20th anniversary of his graduation from Columbia Law School, asked graduates to dedicate at least five years of their careers to public service in any form. In 2011, he was awarded the Law School’s Lawrence A. Wien Prize for Social Responsibility.
“The virtues of serving the public, I think, cannot be overstated,” he said. “Not only does the world benefit, but you benefit. You grow, and you gain, and the world gains too.”
Bharara delivered his keynote address following remarks by Dean David M. Schizer, the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law and the Harvey R. Miller Professor of Law and Economics.
Dean David M. Schizer
“The world has changed a lot in the past two decades, and the role of law and lawyers in these changes is striking,” said Dean Schizer, who also graduated from law school 20 years ago.
Remarking on his own career path, Dean Schizer told the graduates: “Your career will take you in directions that you do not, and cannot, anticipate. This is exciting and satisfying. Indeed, it’s one of the great things about the training you have received here. A degree from Columbia Law School is a license to make a difference on issues that matter to you. I encourage you to take advantage of this precious opportunity.”
Professor Conrad Johnson, whom the Class of 2013 selected to receive the Willis L.M. Reese Prize for Excellence in Teaching, also urged graduates to make the most of their degrees.
Introduced by Shanita R. Nicholas ’13 as “an amazing legal advocate and educator,” Johnson has created a wide variety of technological solutions that have benefited thousands of New Yorkers in crisis in his role as co-director of the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic. This past year, he and his students helped people whose neighborhoods were decimated by Hurricane Sandy, creating an online intake system that enables lawyers to guide residents through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s claims process and direct them to other support services.
Shanita R. Nicholas '13 and Professor Conrad Johnson, winner of the Willis L.M. Reese Prize for Excellence in Teaching
“Your contributions are real, and we trust that you will carry the knowledge that you can make a difference wherever you go,” Johnson said. “Don’t let anyone tell you differently.”
Where graduates might meet opposition, they will be prepared to overcome it, according to Student Senate President Sean M. Berens ’13, who said he and his classmates have learned how to challenge authority when it is the right thing to do.
“When people try to convince you that becoming a public interest lawyer like you always dreamed is a bad idea, or when a politician tries to sell you on a bad policy, or when your boss tries to convince you that the securitization of subprime mortgages is actually a pretty good idea, remember what you learned here,” Berens said. “Stand up and say what needs to be said.”
The Law School has helped equip students toward that end. The Class of 2013 is the first graduating class that was able to take advantage of the Columbia Three-Year J.D./M.B.A. Program, which provides select students the opportunity to earn accelerated degrees from Columbia Law School and Columbia Business School. The class also arrived just as the Law School was launching its Roger Hertog Program on Law and National Security and its innovative Externship on the Federal Government in Washington, D.C. They were also able to immerse themselves in various aspects of business law, constitutional scholarship, and international arbitration under the auspices of seven new centers that debuted in the past three years.
The graduates are also part of a tight-knit community—the one they created during their time at the Law School, and the extensive alumni community they now join. That sense of belonging—and gratitude for support from family and friends—was expressed by several of the ceremony’s student speakers.
“The bonds we developed during our time here are some of the deepest many of us have ever known,” said Graduation Committee Co-Chair Genna L. Ghaul ’13, who kicked off the day’s festivities, which were accompanied by periods of rumbling thunderstorms—as well as thunderous applause from the audience. Ghaul's fellow Graduation Committee Co-Chair was Adam J. Brunk '13.
Graduation Committee Co-Chairs Genna L. Ghaul '13 and Adam J. Brunk '13
J.D. Speaker Christine L. Brozynski ’13 agreed, calling a shared community the class’ “greatest accomplishment.”
“We have distinct career goals, such as working in public interest, or working at a firm,” she said. “And yet, even with these differences, even when thrown into a pressure-filled system dictated by an evil mathematical genius known as ‘The Curve,’ we created bonds with one another that will extend into perpetuity, unlike, quite fittingly, our actual knowledge of the Rule Against Perpetuities.”
LL.M. Class Speaker Josephina N. Tapia ’13 LL.M. said a sense of community makes graduates accountable to each other.
As citizens from all over the world, united by their degrees, “we all now have more at stake,” she said. “We now have a greater interest in raising our voices to call for peace and justice and in working toward seeing these ends achieved.”
The ceremony also included a presentation of the Class Gift to Dean Schizer by Mario Ančić ’13 LL.M., Tze-wei Ng ’13 LL.M., Nathan R. Cross ’13, and MarLa N. Duncan ’13 as a way to commemorate the achievements of the Class of 2013.
Vice Dean Gillian E. Metzger, the Stanley H. Fuld Professor of Law, presented academic prizes and awards to graduates who demonstrated outstanding academic achievement in a variety of areas, including writing skills; excellence in the fields of international law, environmental law, labor law, and intellectual property law; gender and LGBT rights; clinical fieldwork; and trial advocacy. A complete list is available here.
Graduates were joined at today’s ceremony by 10 members from the Class of 1963 who celebrate their 50th reunion this year.
(left to right) Student Senate President Sean M. Berens '13, J.D. Speaker Christine L. Brozynski '13, and LL.M. Speaker Josephina N. Tapia '13 LL.M.
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