Congratulations Class of 2012!
On May 20, the Boston University School of Law community convened at the Agganis Arena for the 139th Commencement ceremony. Roderick L. Ireland, Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts delivered the Commencement speech and joined the graduates and their families in the celebration.
Following Chief Justice Ireland's address, LL.M. student Michelle Phillips and J.D. student Jarrod Schaeffer delivered two exceptional speeches. Having received their degrees, the 477 graduates mingled and rejoiced at a reception following the ceremony.
- About Chief Justice Ireland
- Michelle Renee Phillips (LL.M. in Taxation) Delivers LL.M. Student Address
- Jarrod L. Schaeffer Delivers J.D. Student Address
- Awards & Prizes
Roderick L. Ireland is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court. A native of Springfield, Massachusetts, he received his Bachelor of Arts from Lincoln University; Juris Doctor from Columbia Law School; Master of Laws from Harvard Law School; and Doctor of Philosophy in Law, Policy, and Society from Northeastern University. Chief Justice Ireland began his legal career in 1969 as a Neighborhood Legal Services attorney, then worked as a public defender with the Roxbury Defenders Committee, as chief attorney, deputy director, and executive director. He was Assistant Secretary and Chief Legal Counsel for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Administration and Finance, and Chair of the Massachusetts Board of Appeal on Motor Vehicle Liability Policies and Bond.
Chief Justice Ireland has been a jurist for more than 34 years, serving as a judge of the Juvenile Court from 1977 to 1990, after which he was appointed an Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court (1990-1997). He was first appointed as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court in 1997, by Governor William F. Weld. He became the Senior Associate Justice in 2008. In 2010, he was appointed as the 36th Chief Justice by Governor Deval Patrick and was sworn in on December 20. Chief Justice Ireland has been an adjunct faculty member at Northeastern University since 1978, and on the faculty of the Appellate Judges Seminar at New York University Law School since 2001. He is the author of the Juvenile Law volume of Thomson/West Publishing's Massachusetts Practice Series, the second edition of which was published in 2006, as well as law review articles. When he was appointed to the Supreme Judicial Court in 1997, he was the first African-American Justice in its then 305 year history, and he now serves as its first African-American Chief Justice.
Michelle Phillips, a dual Australian-U.S. citizen, earned her J.D. from the University of Melbourne in 2010 and her bachelor's degree in computer science from Carleton College in Minnesota in 2004. Prior to law school, she worked as a marketing and project manager for a commercial website company in Melbourne and Sydney. Originally from Milwaukee, she has interned for the Rhode Island Center for Law and Public Policy and is admitted to practice in the state of Wisconsin. Michelle is fluent in French and speaks German and Japanese at an intermediate level. After completing the LL.M. with a strong focus on international taxation, she will begin as an associate in the tax practice group of Baker & McKenzie LLP in their Washington, D.C. office.
Good morning: Dean O'Rourke and members of BU Law's faculty; distinguished guests, friends and families; and the graduating J.D. and LL.M. Classes of 2012.
The two certainties of life, as they say, are death and taxes. But instead of "death", let's use "change", the broader term. And if recent history is any indicator, American law, intellectual property, international business, and banking are just as guaranteed in our lives as taxes.
Change is inevitable, and our expectations for the future are never quite matched by reality. This might sound negative, but it isn't; the best things in life are always different, and better, than we imagined. I'm certain that your beginning expectations of this program and who you would be at the end of it, turned out to be not precisely accurate. Mine weren't. I knew I enjoyed studying tax law, could see myself in a career practicing it, and thought I'd spend just one more year mired in academia. I figured I'd leave the program 9 months later a little poorer, a little older, and a little nerdier. And then get on with my life.
Instead, as trite as it may sound, I exit this program an entirely different person. And that's alright. Focusing intently on my favorite legal topics, riding those stalwart elevators to our terraced classrooms, and having both serious and totally hilarious conversations with you, my fellow students — it was a sort of 9-month gestation. From matriculation to commencement we have been integrating ourselves into this terrifically diverse crowd we comprise, getting to know our generous and brilliant professors, and networking and finding our feet on the job hunt. And studying. Totally, studying. It's cheesy, but I really have learned as much from you guys as I have from my professors, though maybe not all of your lessons were law-related. So, how could we emerge from this nurturing program anything but new individuals?
This birth metaphor, of course, doesn't quite apply to the part-time students who stretched their degrees out beyond the condensed, 9-month incubation period. In my mind, the fact that part-timers have been mingling with full-timers is one of the greatest structural strengths of the program. I want to thank, with deepest respect, the part-time students amongst us. You were the older brothers and sisters of our cohort (though you may be younger than many full-timers), and I have a secret admiration for each you. It is your real-life experience, your calm confidence that comes from it, and your relaxed appreciation for what details are and aren't important in practice that fleshed out our educations. I hope we full-timers were not insufferable younger siblings, and we promise never to bust into your room and read your diaries.
Just kidding. We're totally going to do that.
Another privilege, a privilege that has effected our collective change and cultivation more than I ever anticipated, is having shared this LL.M. path with students from all over the world. Yes, other programs — even outside of law, if we can fathom such different universe — offer this. But that diminishes from the benefit not in the slightest. We come from 45 different nations, and each of us, US citizen and foreigner alike, has added immensely to the richness of our interdependent experiences. We have the kind of mutual respect the UN dreams about. With small class sizes, genuine shared interest in our subjects of study, and — most importantly —an atmosphere that hasn't lent but instituted easy and meaningful interactions, we have substantively gained from each other. I cannot over-emphasize how critical this diversity has been to my personal and professional development, and I know I'm not alone in this.
Right, haha, I said the "p" word. "Professional." We were already, or at least were on the cusp of becoming, professionals when we started our LL.Ms. The 24 credit hours we earned here were not part of that, though they may have made us eligible to get another certificate for the office wall. But now ask yourself this: "How much more of a professional do I feel now, sitting in my itchy black robe on these upholstered chairs, than I did during orientation?"
Are we not, in these somber, sable gowns, going through a small death right now? In this moment of metamorphosis, aren't we at once being both sewn in by one more stitch to a legal life-path, and also simultaneously released as transformed individuals upon an also-altered world?
We have changed through earning our LL.Ms.
I have every faith, my dear Class of 2012, that our paths will cross and re-cross time and again after leaving this sports arena. When we meet, we may not be quite who we think we're going to be, but if the time spent at B.U. Law is any indication, this inevitable difference will be awesome. Embrace these developments. After all, change and taxes — and American law, and intellectual property, and international business, and banking — are conclusively part of our lives.
Before coming to BU Law, Jarrod Schaeffer graduated magna cum laude from Cornell and interned with Senator Charles Schumer in his home state of New York. As a 1L, he received a book award in Constitutional Law and was selected as an editor of the Law Review. He has served as a research assistant to Professor Kristin Collins, an officer of Outlaw (BU Law's student group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and allied students), and a national Co-Chair for the Law Democrats of America. Last fall, his Note, entitled "The Incorporation of Democracy: Justice Kennedy's Theory of Political Participation in Citizens United," was published by the BU Law Review. This spring, he interned at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and represented BU Law on the team that won the National Sutherland Cup Moot Court Competition in Washington, D.C. After graduation, Jarrod will clerk for the Honorable Barbara Jones on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. He will then join the litigation practice of Ropes & Gray in San Francisco.
Dean O'Rourke, Chief Justice Ireland, esteemed faculty and staff, proud families and my fellow law students. My fellow graduates. This has certainly been an interesting ride. And you know, it didn't turned out at all like I expected. Like most of you (or at least those of you honest enough to admit it) I came off the post-orientation high ready and raring to go. I had heard all the stories about law school; the grueling tests, the sadistic professors, the cutthroat crop of students. I came to that first day of class armed to the teeth with pencils, highlighters, notebooks, and – for the first and only time in my law school career – an actual outline of the cases for that day. I was ready. This was it.
Then the woman sitting next to me, who did not look at all devious, smiled and introduced herself. The professor came in and began class, animated, full of encouragement, and taking volunteers. When other students offered answers, they were polite and thoughtful. And when I mistakenly volunteered my first name, only friendly laughter followed Dean Farnsworth's gentle admonition that "we'd be on a last name basis this semester, Mr. Schaeffer." In fact, the past three years bore no resemblance to the horror stories we'd all heard. My kindly neighbor from that first day is still one of my best friends and I have made many more. I found that BU Law students are some of the most respectful, intelligent, cooperative, and inspiring people I have ever met. We competed, of course – for journals, grades, jobs, free food left over from events, and – most recently – during a very real game of "Battleship" on the Deerfield River. But we supported each other as well and when a student's laptop was stolen during study period, her classmates immediately rallied to her side with notes and outlines. We managed to maintain an intense yet collegial atmosphere and, while it wasn't always easy, it pushed each of us to be better without pushing us apart. I am honored to have spent these past three years studying with you.
Today we leave all that behind. Today we split off onto many different paths, some of us going to law firms, some to clerkships, some to the public sector, and some to continue searching for that first legal job. We leave to pursue criminal justice, to start businesses, to shape policies, and to somehow pay off our loans. We will travel to Worcester to represent the indigent, New York to defend industries, and Los Angeles to care for survivors of the Holocaust. And as incredible and challenging as it may seem, we are ready.
We have been tried and tested in ways we never imagined before law school, stumbling over ourselves on-call and persevering through some downright traumatic exams. We have come to tolerate the architectural . . . pluck . . . of our Law Tower and become accustomed to classrooms that muffle professors until they are barely loud enough to distract us from G-Chat. We have endured the ups and downs of law school life and the complete lack of ups and downs when it came to getting an elevator one minute before class. But even these impediments only served to spur us onward. I, for one, attribute the renewed plans for the construction of a new law building – which is really happening this time – to the day I saw Dean O'Rourke resignedly trudge up fourteen flights of stairs. In heels.
While we have largely been the architects of our own success, there are a great many people who helped us get where we are today. We should thank our families for their love and support, for their well-meaning advice, and for the frequent reminders that the general public is blissfully unaware of what it means to be in law school. We should thank the truly wonderful staff that provided everything from ice cream to supplemental bar courses in the hope that it would help us succeed. And we should thank our excellent professors for finding ingenious ways to trick us into learning the law. You sang to us, used Armani suits to demonstrate the concept of "narrowly tailored," and on several occasions frightened us half to death. We owe you a lot.
Our experiences have been as varied as our personalities and we have pursued diverse paths. But I would like to talk about something common to all of us. Something crucially important, which this law school takes very, very seriously. Something that, surely, permeated our every thought, word, and deed these last three years. The use of passive voice.
Under the banner of grammar and proceeding in a frankly totalitarian fashion, Professor Volk and his merry band of writing fellows scrubbed, scoured, and purged our memos and briefs of passive phrases. "Active verbs," we were told. "Identify your subjects." "Make strong statements." BU Law is all about active voice. But the truth is, we already knew that coming in. It was our "active voices" that got us here in the first place. Each of us was admitted because of strong statements we had made – in our own lives or in the lives of others. All of us, regardless of our goals or ambitions, are here because we stubbornly refused to relax and avoid stress. Because we insisted on doing something else – something more. Or because sometimes we simply don't know when to shut up.
While at BU we continued be active, taking numerous opportunities to make our voices heard. We have worked in courtrooms and in homeless shelters, from San Francisco to Washington and Framingham to France. BU Law students have prosecuted criminals, represented juveniles, promoted new markets in the Middle East, drafted legislation for African countries, developed policy in the White House, and fought to overturn wrongful convictions. We've done a lot and learned even more. While I hope we'll take most of it with us, one of the most important lessons – which I've gained just as much from each of you as from school itself – is simply not to tone it down. Not to be passive.
And so today we graduate. There will be no more outlines and no more exams. God help us if we continue to flock to law school events for free booze. But there will still be the need for active voices, and now ours will be keener than ever. Even if we didn't come here to be a lawyer, none of us came to be complacent. Armed with Bluebooks and inflated egos, about to plunge into the real world, we should remember that we now have the tools to go forward.
Congratulations BU Law Class of 2012. Fueled by ambition, competition, fear – and most importantly caffeine – we have accomplished something that I can confidently say most of us will never attempt again. We should be proud. We should be excited. We should never shrink from challenges that will inevitably arise in the coming years. And as we leave law school and begin to write our own stories, we should remember that we must not, under any circumstances, be passive. We simply have too many strong statements to make. To my friends, classmates, colleagues, role models – and future opposing counsel – congratulations. Thank you.
Sebastian Horsten Prize for Academic Achievement, to the LL.M. in American Law student who has achieved the highest cumulative average in the class of 2012: Dooho Choi
American Law Outstanding Achievement Award, for excellence in academic achievement, honorable conduct and contributions to the class: Max Wilhelm Oehm
Graduate Tax Program Academic Achievement Award, for the highest cumulative average in the class of 2012: Sara Goldman Curley
Ernest M. Haddad Award, to the graduating Graduate Tax Program student who best exhibits overall ability, taking into consideration academic achievement, character and potential to serve the public interest: Chukwuka Ochieze
A. John Serino Outstanding Graduate Banking and Financial Law Student Prize, for overall performance, in terms of academic achievement and dedication to the highest standards of scholarship and service: Devin Aaron Ehrig
Dennis S. Aronowitz Award for Academic Excellence in Banking and Financial Law, for the highest cumulative average in the class of 2012: Aleksandr Khachaturyan
Faculty Award for Academic Accomplishment, for the most scholarly progress in the third year: Matthew R. Kugizaki
William L. and Lillian Berger Achievement Prizes, for exemplary scholastic achievement: Lisa Mikhail and Jacob D. Pugh
Faculty Award for Community Service, for exceptional dedication to the ideals of community service: Alexis Lauren Chernow and Elizabeth A. Rossi
Peter Bennett Prize, to the graduating third-year J.D. law student receiving the highest grade point average for that year: Christine Elizabeth Dieter
Spencer R. Koch Memorial Award, for outstanding contributions to achieving the goals of the Esdaile Alumni Center through alumni outreach: Kyle Evans Gay
Honorable Albert P. Pettoruto Memorial Award, for excellence in the field of Probate or Family Law: Avalon C. Johnson
Melville M. Bigelow Scholarship Award, to a member of the graduating class who shows the greatest promise as scholar and teacher in law: Julia G. Mirabella and Joshua M. Wolk
Warren S. Gilford Humanity and Law Prize, to a student who shows humanitarian interest in law, primarily by taking a job in the public sector after graduation: Amanda Michelle Ekey and Nicholas A. Levenhagen
Alumni Academic Achievement Award, for the highest cumulative average in the three-year program of law study: Blair R. Komar
Sylvia Beinecke Robinson Award, for a significant contribution to the life of the School of Law: Benedict E. Idemundia and Theresa A. Perkins
Dr. John Ordronaux Prize, awarded to a member of the graduating class for the most exemplary academic performance and leadership: Christine Elizabeth Dieter
Michael Melton Award for Excellence in Teaching is named for a longtime faculty member who taught in the tax area and was director of the Graduate Tax Program, who died in 1999 at 53: Associate Professor Robert Volk
David Saul Smith Award for Scholarship, created by Robert P. Smith ('65) when he made a generous gift in honor of his father - also an alum - to assist the faculty in their scholarship: Professor Gerald Leonard
John Stephen Baerst Award for Excellence in Teaching, named for the director of the Morin Center for Banking and Financial Law (1996-2005) who died in 2006: Lecturer in Law Francis Morrissey