Closing Remarks: Erin N. Reid
Members of the Class of 2007, Judge Sack, Dean Schizer, members of the Columbia Law School Faculty, family and friends:
In the fall of 2004 or the fall of 2006, members of the class of 2007 set forth upon a journey that culminates with today’s graduation. While many of us came to this destination from a variety of different paths, the end goal was the same: to graduate with a law degree from Columbia University.
Yet, now that graduation is upon us, what comes next? For many of us wearing caps and gowns today, our lives thus far have been a series of travels from one destination to another. Our parents started us out on this journey, enrolling us in the best public or private elementary schools possible in order to ensure that we got into the best high schools which then led us to college which led to graduate school. Some of us took detours-worked for a while, received other gradate degrees, had other careers-while others of us went straight from college to law school….which brings us to today.
As graduation co-chair, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a number of my classmates about what life will be like post graduation. For the most part, we think that we have it all figured out-or at least the next couple of years. We’ll be embarking on one of two paths- either working long hours in a law firm in order to pay off the substantial debt we accrued in pursuing our legal education, or working long hours (for substantially less cash) at public interest jobs. Our careers will take precedence over every aspect of our lives, leaving little time for social and personal matters.
This doesn’t have to be the case. Our lives are not predetermined. Some of the most interesting and rewarding opportunities come from personal and professional relationships nurtured outside the office. Embrace the unexpected. Take the time to enjoy life-leave the office on a warm spring day like today. Develop personal interests and hobbies-allow yourself to cultivate a life outside the office. Abandon your five, ten or twenty year plan-you won’t follow it anyway.
There is no set plan in life. Ten, fifteen years down the road the things that will surprise us and bring us the most joy are the things that we never imagined. Continue to set goals-but instead of setting all your sights on that Supreme Court Clerkship, Executive Directorship of Lambda Legal or the Legal Defense Fund, partnership at the firm or even retirement by the age of 45-enjoy the journey that takes you there.
Congratulations to the Columbia Law School Class of 2007. May the journey you are about to embark upon be filled with the unexpected.