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Penn Carey Law Commencement 2024

May 21, 2024

Penn Carey Law’s 2024 graduating class was honored with a ceremony at the American Academy of Music.

On Monday, May 20, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School recognized the Class of 2024 graduates during a commencement ceremony at the American Academy of Music in Philadelphia.

This year, 301 students received JDs, 101 students from over 30 countries received LLMs, 1 student received an LLCM, 2 received SJDs, and 41 received a Master in Law (ML) degree. Adam Liptak, legal correspondent for The New York Times, delivered the commencement address.

Liptak reminded graduates that their degrees are “tools” that “represent an opportunity,” and they can be used for good or evil. He urged them to not “make it all about the money” or get “locked into a mortgage and lifestyle that will not allow you to do something else, something that brings you satisfaction if not joy and something that makes the world a better place.” He recounted his own experience of working at a Wall Street firm after law school, where he had an exciting career before following his heart to become a First Amendment lawyer in the legal department of The New York Times Company—and taking a paycut in the process.

Adam Liptak at 2024 Penn Carey Law Commencement Adam LiptakLiptak confessed that his ultimate dream was to be a reporter for The New York Times, but he didn’t know how to make that happen, so he positioned himself in the “neighborhood of journalism.” When he got the opportunity to report for The Times, he said, he took it—along with another paycut. Liptak used his career trajectory, with its history of paycuts, to illustrate that “life is not a purely economic matter.”

He pivoted to his next piece of advice on a subject close to his heart: writing. He stressed the importance of good legal writing even as “the legal profession has devalued writing,” with young associates or law clerks often writing first drafts.

“Good writers write from the ground up,” Liptak said. “Good writers write every word themselves. The giants of judicial craft are remembered because they found exactly the right words. They found those words themselves.”

Next, he advised graduates to treat their adversaries well, recounting a story from his early days as an associate when he declined to help opposing counsel, who had forgotten a public document important to the case. His conscience held on to the memory, Liptak said, and he apologized to his former opponent years later—an experience that led Liptak to advise graduates to listen to their conscience.

“Your reputation and your conscience are related things,” he said. “One faces out, the other in. They are precious assets. But they are fragile, too. It can take only a single stupid mistake, a single lapse, a single ethical blind spot to do lasting damage to your career. The world can be unforgiving. Think hard if something does not feel right or smell right. The high road is the right road.”

Liptak concluded by referencing Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan (quoting Mexican revolutionary, Benito Juarez) and Judge Learned Hand on the distinction between law and justice.

Quoting Judge Hand, Liptak said, “‘I often wonder,’ he said, ‘whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.’

On the meaning of liberty, Liptak explained, Judge Hand said, “The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.”

Liptak concluded his remarks by congratulating graduates on earning “a high honor that will allow you to participate in what some people call the legal system. You and I know that its real name, the one that captures the deep nature of the enterprise, is the justice system.”

Liptak, who holds undergraduate and law degrees from Yale, joined The New York Times in 2002 and began covering the Supreme Court in 2008. The following year, his series, “American Exception,” which explores how the United States’ legal system differs from other developed nations, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in explanatory reporting.

Liptak is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has taught courses on the Supreme Court and the First Amendment at several law schools, including the University of Chicago, New York University, and Yale.

Dean’s Welcome

Dean Sophia Lee at 2024 Penn Carey Law Commencement Penn Carey Law Dean Sophia Z. LeeDean and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law Sophia Z. Lee delivered her first commencement welcome as dean. She praised the “amazing, accomplished, inspiring Class of 2024,” highlighting the grit the class has shown from entering wearing masks and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic through to the Law School’s “return to a robust community.” Lee noted that this class revived many Penn Carey Law traditions including SALSA’s Diwali Night, Lambda’s Halloween, the EJF Auction, and Light Opera and even started new ones like the Penn Carey Law Comedy Club.

Lee noted that the LLM class created the Anti-Corruption Law and Compliance Association, and the Brazil club hosted a post-conference Carnival party. For its part, she said, the ML class created the first ever ML affinity group.

“Regardless of degree, your commitment to academic excellence, cross-disciplinary learning, and service to others is unparalleled,” Lee said.

She noted that over 90% of the graduating JD class surpassed the Law School’s 75-hour pro bono requirement, and that together, the class performed 35,000 hours of pro bono service.

Lee concluded her welcome by sharing three life lessons. First, she told graduates, value relationships, both by investing in current ones and seeking out and establishing new ones. Second, Lee advised: disagree productively, keeping in mind that “our adversaries are not our enemies.” Lastly, she emphasized the importance of being open to side paths, observing that legal careers are increasingly latticed and may branch in any number of directions throughout one’s career.

“Whatever your journey may be,” Lee said, “I encourage you to embrace the uncertainty, to welcome serendipity, and to remain open to the side paths that lie ahead.”

Master in Law, LLM, and JD Representative Remarks

Olive Jung LLM'24 at 2024 Penn Carey Law Commencement Olive Jung ML'24Lee introduced representatives from each graduating class: ML representative Olive Jung ML’24, LLM representative Luiza Romanó Pedroso LLM’24, and JD Class President Michael Crone C’19, L’24, WG’24.

Jung’s message emphasized “the importance of the diversity in the languages that we speak.” She recounted her recent experience at the 88th CEDAW session with Rangita de Silva de Alwis, especially personal to Jung because the Republic of Korea was under review; Jung explained that her parents were born just after the Korean War armistice and have lived under several authoritarian regimes. During the session, Jung said, she was tasked with communicating nuances in language as well as tone.

“Collective action and discussion ensure collective survival and progress,” she said, “so I hope that wherever our lives take us, that we continue to challenge ourselves and learn the language of others.”

Luiza Romanó Pedroso LLM'24 at 2024 Penn Carey Law Commencement Luiza Romanó Pedroso LLM’24Pedroso’s speech focused on “our hands”—“tools” that “reveal clues of who we are” and tell us “why we are,” as they reveal our ancestry. She acknowledged the parents, grandparents, caregivers who offered their hands in support along the way—those present, those watching from afar, and those no longer with us.

“I know that I speak with over a thousand—or rather a hundred—voices when I say,” Jung said, “Here’s to you, our first professors in a school with no walls, the gardeners that have watered the seed of our dreams, the masons that have laid the stones in our path, the path before our feet, the path that led us here to a door that waited to be opened from the minute that we laid foot on 3501 Sansom Street.”

Pedroso urged the Class of 2024 to “close the door behind us with ease” and, regarding the door before them, to “join our hands together and step past the threshold.”

Michael Krone C'19, L'24, WG'24 at 2024 Penn Carey Law Commencement Michael Krone C’19, L’24, WG’24Krone’s speech focused on gratitude, highlighting his mother Sandy “for showing me the power of community,” his grandmother, Judy, for instilling a love of reading and learning, and his actor/comedian grandfather Peter “for showing me the power of comedy and bringing joy to any situation.”

Turning to his fellow graduates, Krone said, “As lawyers we’ll be going into some pretty serious practice, but we can take on our work while bringing levity to our colleagues and embracing opportunities to smile, especially with the people that are most important to us.”

He concluded by urging everyone to take a moment to thank someone who made a positive impact on their life, express gratitude, and “let those around you know how much they mean to you, and then use the opportunity to do so again tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.”

Vinila Varghese L’24, G’24 and Sheridan Macy L’24 presented the Harvey Levin Award for Teaching Excellence to Jean Galbraith, Professor of Law and Deputy Dean. Seonmin Han LLM’24 and Abdulaziz Alsaud LLM’24 presented the LLM Prize for Teaching Excellence to Elizabeth Pollman, Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Institute for Law & Economics.

Watch the full ceremony.

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