Members of the Rutgers Law School graduating classes of 2020 and 2021 attended in-person celebrations in Camden and Newark this fall, after having virtual ceremonies the last two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nearly 100 graduates attended the celebrations, which took place in November and December.
In welcoming the graduates at the Walter K. Gordon Theater in Camden, Co-Dean Kimberly Mutcherson said, “The classes of 2020 and 2021 are gifted, focused, resilient and eclectic as a group. You came to us from all over the country and the world and endured the rigors of law school during a time when the whole world got upended in a global pandemic that still has us in its grip.”
She acknowledged that some of the graduates had already begun practicing law, “You should be so proud that you persevered, that you showed yourself strong enough to stay focused through incredible upheaval. And no matter what the next years of your legal career throw at you, remember what you have achieved, know that you are capable of greatness.”
SBA former Presidents Alexa Wissner RLAW ‘20 and Lauren Bess RLAW ’21 also spoke to their classmates during the ceremony.
Wissner said, “This group that I see before me has proven we have the capability to overcome any obstacle that comes in our way.” And Bess added, “Whether you’re interning, clerking, working in the public or private sector, or dedicating your time to a worthy cause, we are bonded by our strength and dedication to making the legal field more collegial, more diverse and more ethical.”
In Newark, the traditional bagpiper led the procession as faculty and graduates walked from the law school on Washington Street to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center a few blocks away.
After being welcomed by Interim Co-Dean Rose Cuison-Villazor, Professor David Noll gave remarks as the faculty speaker chosen by the graduates and talked about the challenges facing the nation – including structural inequality, the pandemic, and attacks on democracy.
He called on the new graduates to help solve those problems, “The practical work of devising solutions to these challenges and building new laws and legal institutions is going to fall to lawyers. . . Law has to adapt to new situations, but it is also supposed to provide a degree of order, predictability, and fairness to people as they conduct their lives and their business . . . We’re trained to think about due process and to insist on it when it is being denied. . .And we’re trained to disagree, at times, over the most fundamental issues without ourselves being disagreeable.”
Newark’s keynote speaker was New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Fabiana Pierre-Louis RLAW ’06, the first Black woman on the state Supreme Court. She talked about her humble beginnings as the child of Haitian immigrants and how she grew up not knowing any lawyers yet went to law school, “Adversity can bring out the best in people because it gives us the confidence to overcome it and achieve great things.”
New Jersey State Supreme Court Justice Fabiana Pierre-Louis RLAW '06
She also gave the newly-minted lawyers some advice. Pierre-Louis told them: Embrace the fact you will be the new leaders of the bar; have faith in your ability to impact the law; forge your own path; and be courteous and respectful to others, even those you would see as your adversaries.