posted Jun 23, 2016

On June 7, the University of Washington School of Law community gathered at Benaroya Hall to celebrate its graduating students. Dean Kellye Y. Testy welcomed the 154 J.D. candidates, 153 LL.M. graduates, seven Master of Jurisprudence graduates, and four Ph.D. recipients.

“Too often we think of law too narrowly. We don’t understand that it’s absolutely vital in creating the very infrastructure for our societies and allowing us to thrive and prosper together,” said Dean Testy. “I want to ask you graduates to stay connected to what brought you to that sense of law and justice, and your desire to make the world a better place through law.”

Professor Lisa Manheim, chosen by the class as faculty speaker, and three student speakers addressed the graduates.

With a vivid story from her own graduation day, Professor Manheim spoke of overcoming mistakes. A baking incident involving a gas oven and a match left her singed and without eyebrows for commencement. Drawing on this analogy, Manheim explained that we all make mistakes and being a junior lawyer can feel like constant fumbling with a lit match. “This is what good lawyers do, it’s what effective lawyers do, and it’s what happy lawyers do – they overcome their mistakes, and learn from them,” said Manheim. “They don’t dig in, they don’t give up.”

Student speaker Claire Sullivan, who will clerk at the Alaska Court of Appeals this summer, spoke about how the graduates might use their newly conferred power and responsibility. “No matter what and where you practice you can be part of a movement for change,” said Sullivan. “Because lawyers can be social architects, and in fact we have to be. We just need to choose actively, and with great care, the types of architects we wish to be… and now when we go forth, we choose not only what type of lawyers we want to be, but the type of legal system we want to be a part of.”

Richard Devenport, who spent two years working with the Innocence Project Northwest, urged fellow graduates to consider the people who are often overlooked and the clients they may soon represent. “This is a profession that is 88 percent white, yet incarcerates Native Americans and blacks at rates that are astronomical compared to whites,” said Devenport. “So today, I don’t want you to despair, I don’t want you to get angry. What I want you to do is look more carefully around yourselves and recognize that our world is different than the worlds’ of those suffering, and we might not be able to see where those points of suffering are, but we must.”

Beginning a new tradition, Gita Putri Damayana spoke as a representative of the graduating LL.M. class. A researcher at the Center of Law and Policy Studies in Indonesia, Damayana shared about her experience at the law school and the diversity of the LL.M. students. “Among the international students there is a public servant from Taiwan, a practicing lawyer from Beijing, legal counsel from Tokyo, a climate change negotiator from South Korea, a magistrate from Kenya, and a judge from Uganda, and a lecturer from Afghanistan,” said Damayana. She went on to ask, “How do you, with your new degree and knowledge in law contribute and elevate the conversation?”

View more photos on our UW Law Facebook graduation gallery.