‘Daunting’ Future, But No Better People to Meet the Challenge

Stanford Law Students urged to use their training and talents as they go forth into the legal profession

“Be grateful, but have pride in what you’ve achieved,” said M. Elizabeth Magill, Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean, in her welcoming remarks to the 287 JD and advanced degree recipients gathered in the 90 degree heat in Canfield Courtyard to receive their Stanford Law degrees on Saturday, June 17.

Graduation 2017
Nearly 300 JD and advanced degree students received their Stanford Law degrees on Saturday, June 17.

Student Perspective

Bianca Crivellini Eger, LLM ‘17, the first of two students selected by the graduating class to speak, discussed what makes the Stanford Law experience unique, including the diversity and the interdisciplinary nature of the university, where in one year you can be a law student but also “an engineer, a social scientist, a designer. And your playground is the best school in the world.” She continued by saying that she leaves SLS having learned a vital lesson — the importance of failure. “Here, failure is synonymous with initiative and ambition,” said Eger. “If you have never failed, it means that you have never taken a risk, or that you have never challenged yourself or the status quo. Stanford encourages us to fail, but it gives us the tools to fail successfully, to see our limitations and mistakes and to address them. Stanford has taught us that if we learn from our failures, then we never really fail, we just learn.”

José Luis Martinez, JD ‘17 emphasized to his fellow graduates the importance of the community fostered during the JD students’ three years at SLS, and how “the vignettes of joy and pain and growth and failure that, taken together, define our Stanford Law School experience. These are the things that we reveled in and powered through to be here today.”

Presentation of Awards

SLS Class of 2017 Co-President Elizabeth Ward LeBow presented the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service to Stanford Law School to James Yoon, JD ‘17, followed by Co-President Katherine J. Bies presenting the 2017 Staff Appreciation Award to Anna Wang, Executive Director of the John and Terry Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law.

LeBow and Bies then presented the 2017 John Bingham Hurlbut Award for Excellence in Teaching to David Alan Sklansky, Stanley Morrison Professor of Law and Faculty Co-Director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center. In his remarks, Sklansky tied in his journey to Stanford with those of the graduates, as he arrived to teach the same year the Class of 2017 started their first year of law school, and what he observed of the graduates over the last three years.

Professor Sklansky Graduation Speech
Professor Sklansky received the 2017 John Bingham Hurlbut Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Making a Difference

“I’ve watched you speak out for religious liberty, for racial fairness, for prosecutorial accountability, for due process, for decent wages, and for safe and effective schools.  And—again and again—I’ve seen you support each other, comfort each other, stand up for each other, celebrate each other, and share each other’s joys and heartbreaks.” Sklansky continued, “You were doing what the best lawyers have always done:  You were helping people live together, work together, and thrive together.  The care you showed for each other was a blueprint for the care that lawyers, at their best, show for society.”

When confronted with tough times in the future both personally and professionally, Sklansky urged the graduating class to always remember their time at Stanford Law and to “never forget what you glimpsed here—all you can accomplish, and all the good you are capable of doing.”

‘Facts Are Stubborn Things’

Coming to the podium again after the close to 300 students received their degrees, Magill gave her annual “Charge” to the Class of 2017. During her remarks, Magill told the capacity crowd of family, friends, and students about a specific challenge ahead for the graduates.

Graduation 2017 Dean Magill
Dean M. Elizabeth Magill, in her annual “Charge” to the Class of 2017, discussed a specific challenge that lies ahead for lawyers.

“I am sure you know the often-repeated phrase that ‘facts are stubborn things.’ The challenge I want to talk about is this: Today, facts don’t seem so stubborn,” she said.  Pointing to technological advances that threaten our ability to know what is true, Magill emphasized that “we should all but disturbed by this, but, as lawyers, we have particular reason to worry.  The design of all established legal systems…reflects serious thought about how facts are to be established and tested.”   In the absence of fair procedures to ascertain facts, a rush to judgment results in “tragedies and injustices,” visited on the most vulnerable in our society.

Magill emphasized that the Class of 2017 is uniquely prepared to face this “daunting” challenge because of their education and training in law, their ability to take action and solve problems, and their ability to inspire others. “There are no better people to meet it than you.”