112th BLS Commencement at Lincoln Center

Brooklyn Law School held its 112th Commencement Ceremony on Friday, June 7 at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. With more than 450 law students receiving either a Juris Doctor or a LL.M degree, the Class of 2013 was one of the school’s largest graduating classes before enrollment began declining after the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Joseph Binder, Class Valedictorian and one of five students graduating summa cum laude, made reference to ongoing doubt about the future of the profession in his comments but also noted that his fellow students, from all different backgrounds, shared a common commitment to growth, change, and community and could use the values and skills that they developed and apply them to whatever challenges lie ahead. Other summa cum laude graduates were Joshua Gerber, Kate Olivieri, David Passes, and Noam Weiss. The complete list of students graduating with honors is accessible here. A list of Commencement Prizes and Awards for the Class of 2013 is available here.

The 2013 Commencement Speaker, Kenneth Feinberg, the lead attorney who oversaw settlement payouts after disasters including the attacks of 9/11, the Virginia Tech shootings, and the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shootings, reminded the graduates that they are all members of a noble profession and that the “public interest” lies at the heart of it. He cited the Law School’s nationally acclaimed Sparer Public Interest Law Fellowship Program as an example of law students working in the public interest. Advising the graduates not to be afraid to avoid the safe path, the easy road, the comfortable option, Feinberg urged them to take chances, reinforced by the knowledge that they are entitled and expected to do so because of the diplomas that they earned. He said “I use my law degree every day to strike out in new directions, to pursue the unfamiliar road. Today, your law degree affords you the same opportunity, to ignore fear of failure, to be bold, to be pioneers and innovators in using the law to better our nation and the world.”

In closing, Feinberg quoted Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ remarks in 1886 to undergraduate law students at Harvard:

To those who believe with me that not the least godlike of man’s activities is the large survey of causes, that to know is not less than to feel, I say – and I say no longer with any doubt – that a man or woman may live greatly in the law as well as elsewhere; that there as well as elsewhere he may wreak himself upon life, may drink the bitter cup of heroism, may wear his heart out after the unattainable. 

The full text of Holmes lecture is at this linkavailable through the BLS Library subscription to HeinOnline.