Graduates and their Families, Faculty and Staff Celebrate Together and Apart
On June 12, 2021, 209 graduating Stanford Law School (SLS) students celebrated their accomplishments and each other in person at Stanford Stadium or remotely through Zoom. Immediately following Stanford University’s commencement for post-graduate students, SLS students joined the law school’s virtual diploma ceremony that included pre-recorded and live videos featuring student and faculty speakers as well as the dean’s traditional “charge to the graduating class.” Students also shared their law school experiences and congratulated each other via social media and submitted photos.
SLS grads honored for giving back — to the tune of 21,583 hours
During their time at SLS, students volunteer for public service projects and use their burgeoning legal skills to help communities in need and serve the public interest. Called “pro bono” hours, the SLS graduating class of 2021 achieved a 21,583 pro bono hours during their three years of law school, despite the pandemic. Celebrated earlier in June during a virtual ceremony, the class of 2021 had more students than ever (67) who achieved High or Highest Pro Bono Distinction, including 27 students who logged more than 300 hours each doing public service and community work.
In addition to the active student body, fifty-two faculty and staff members reported donating more than 50 hours of pro bono this year, a new record for the law school.
Exceptional achievement in extraordinary circumstances
The Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and SLS Dean, Jenny Martinez, celebrated the tenacity of this year’s graduating class during her welcome speech at the start of the law school’s online event. “You have faced extraordinary challenges during your time in law school, from a once-in-a-century pandemic to a national reckoning with issues of racial justice to a U.S. presidential election that gripped the world’s attention for months before and after November. Even in an ordinary year, finishing your law degree is the end of an arduous journey and a significant accomplishment.”
Later in the ceremony, during her charge to the graduating class of 2021, Martinez reminded students of their primary role as lawyers; to uphold the rule of law. “As lawyers, it is your duty and responsibility to uphold the rule of law, and in so doing you fulfill a crucial role in society, for the rule of law is a vital though sometimes invisible thread that is woven through the fabric of society and gives it stability and strength.”
“Law is about reason, and passion, but it is also about hope.”
Considering whether she could mention the merits of Conan the Barbarian or try (again) to talk SLS Professor Greg Ablavsky into adopting a chinchilla during her acceptance remarks crossed the mind of Rabia Belt, SLS Associate Professor of Law and recipient of this year’s John Bingham Hurlbut Award for Excellence in Teaching. Instead, Belt reminded graduates of the reason why they came to Stanford in the first place and the memories they brought with them. She told a story of her grandmother who worked as a domestic. “My grandmother never had the chance to go to a place like Stanford Law School. Indeed, she would’ve never even dreamed of stepping foot in a place like this. Her memory reminds me that I need to fulfill all those unwritten dreams that the ancestors would’ve never contemplated, and to challenge the structures and practices that keep people from living their best lives and create the opportunities and resources to allow people to flourish.”
“Law is about reason, and passion, but it is also about hope. Law binds together communities, it creates the conditions for interconnection, it allows people with very different interests and aspirations to live together with respect and trust. That hope keeps me going. The hope in all of you.” said Belt. “As you go out from this place to become lawyers, that you remember what you learned here, both inside and outside of the classroom, that you always work in the pursuit of justice, that you can adapt to inconceivable circumstances, that your success will be our victories.”
“Civil rights, democracy and the rule of law are not set in stone”
Torsten Kindt, LLM ‘21, one of the two students selected by the graduating class to speak at graduation, focused on the lessons learned at SLS that advanced degree graduates will take with them into the world. “We take with us a sound knowledge of black letter law, but more importantly, the insight that law in books and law in action are often two very different animals. We take with us a sensitivity for the wider economic, political and social impacts of the seemingly technical details that we as lawyers will have to deal with in our day-to-day work.”
Kindt reminded his fellow classmates of what they now owe society, saying “We take with us an awareness that civil rights, democracy and the rule of law are not set in stone, but fragile ideals that need to be defended and fought for every single day, at this university, in this country and elsewhere.”
“The future is here”
The JD student chosen by classmates to speak at graduation, Lisa Muloma, JD ’21, reminisced about the class of 2021’s intense first days on campus. “But then spring quarter came, and Property Law was behind us, and it was sunnier, and the musical came and went, and couples started forming, and our life together began to look a lot more like community and a lot less like competition.”
Muloma also focused on the challenging times that the class endured over the past year and a half. “I think that’s what we miss…life alongside one another, all of us creating something just by being together in this holding space. And that’s what this past year and a half stole from us.”
Muloma ended by discussing the lessons learned over the past year. “2020 taught us to take the good with the bad, no matter how formidable the bad things may seem, no matter how small and fragile the good may seem.”
“The future is here and it’s heavy and expansive and opaque. It’s an honor to walk forward into it with all of you.”
- Maria Elizabeth Trujillo, JD ’21, was chosen for the 2021 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service to Stanford Law School. The Dean’s Award for Excellence in Service recognizes a graduating student who has made distinctive and exceptional contributions to legal education or the quality of student life at Stanford Law School. Dean’s award recipients are chosen collectively by their peers and the law school faculty and staff for active and sustained efforts that both enrich the law school community and reflect the principles and standards of excellence of Stanford Law School.
- The 2021 Staff Appreciation Award was presented to Anna Wang, Executive Director of Levin Center for Public Service. The Staff Award is chosen by the graduating students and given to the staff person, administrator, or faculty member who has played an integral role in their lives.