On September 27th, Stanford Law School launched a new tradition by holding a convocation to mark the beginning of the new academic year and celebrate the Stanford Law community.
An audience of more than 300 community members, which included students, faculty, staff and alumni, convened in Dinkelspiel Auditorium on the Stanford campus to hear remarks from peers and colleagues emphasizing the importance of exploring and contributing to one’s community.
The convocation opened with an invocation by four members of the Office for Religious Life advice and reflection from an SLS alum and three students.
Challenges are a gift
In his remarks, alumnus Fred W. Alvarez, JD ’75, BA ’72, discussed the importance and power of giving back as a Stanford lawyer.
“You are entering a profession where giving back and making a difference about things you care about is what makes it a noble pursuit. You’re preparing for a noble pursuit with this investment of yourselves, one that will let you walk into courtrooms, into conference rooms, into board rooms, into congressional hearing rooms, into union halls, into classrooms, into immigration detention facilities, even into an oval office as a Stanford lawyer. A Stanford Lawyer,” said Alvarez.
Alvarez described not only the challenges law students face in their short few years at Stanford Law but also how those challenges prepare them to make a difference in the world.
“When someone shuts you down in class or points out a weakness in your argument, you really ought to thank them. Seriously. They are really just getting you ready for prime time, whenever and wherever prime time happens to be.”
“With even just a little bit of time, we all have the ability to lift one another up.”
Stanford Law Association co-presidents Bree Baccaglini and Pauline Ryan used their speech to discuss their hopes, goals, and aspirations for the Stanford Law School community over the next year, and how the law school can help further each community member’s personal and professional journeys.
“Though we are all at different points in these journeys—some of us just mere weeks in, and others, including the distinguished faculty sitting behind us, many decades in—we are all hopefully navigating towards the same north star: using the power and privilege of our law degrees to improve our world,” said Ryan.
Baccaglini talked about the challenge of developing a strong community in the law school that nourishes the different journeys that people can take.
“I believe that in each one of us, there’s a deep hunger for meaningful human connection. A hunger to be seen, to be understood, to be respected, to be loved,” Baccaglini said. “When a group of people commit to fostering such values, enact them faithfully, and are willing to subordinate some interests for the betterment of the collective, they transform into a community. A family.”
She continued, however, to describe how creating a community is a lot more challenging than describing one. Baccaglini discussed how the incentive “dole out our time according to professional ROI” is antithetical to building a strong community. According to Baccaglini, in a recipe for a strong community, the most important ingredients would be time and in-person communication.
“If we invest the time to learn deeply about one another, converse about difficult things with civility and respect, and commit—even in the hardest moments—to being kind to this community and to ourselves, we will be amazed by how much stronger our SLS community will grow,” Ryan said. “In summary, let us challenge one another to have our successes and joys on our various paths this year be because of one another, and not in spite of one another.”
Learn from each other
Itay Ravid, JSM ‘13, JSD ‘20, represented the advanced degree students at Stanford Law, including the Master of Laws (LLM) programs, the Stanford Program in International Legal Studies (SPILS), and the doctorate program in law (JSD). Ravid took the opportunity ask all members of the Stanford Law community to “…recognize where each of us can learn from each other, and foster growth and cooperation.”
“Seek to enlarge your minds, bringing your courage and empathy to the task.”
Jenny Martinez, the Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of Stanford Law School, discussed how courage and empathy are fundamental to the law school’s mission of cultivating and enlarging minds and preparing students to make a positive difference in the world.
“We do not all experience this law school in the same way. We do not always agree on the right outcome or rule in a given area of law, and we may differ in our views of the meaning of justice itself,” said Martinez. “A university education requires questioning orthodoxies, taking a look at things from a different perspective, and a certain rough and tumble of ideas. To work well, this requires not just openness to those new ideas, but also empathy.”
“The enlargement of minds and the promotion of the public good requires you to speak your minds, to be willing to challenge the conventional wisdom when necessary, and sometimes to take a riskier path in life,” said Martinez. “I cannot make it easy for you to swim against the tide, for it is the very nature of the tide to sweep most of those caught in it along. But I can tell you that it is very important to be courageous enough to turn against the tide when the moment calls for it.”
The convocation ceremony concluded with a benediction from the Dean for Religious Life, Reverend Dr. T.L. Steinwert, and a fun, relaxing reception at the law school where students, faculty and staff celebrated the beginning of the school year.