On Saturday, May 14, Miami Law graduates crowded the University of Miami BankUnited Center with smiles, some tears and a lot of picture-taking as family, friends, faculty and administrators congratulated the newly titled Juris Doctors for completing their legal education.
"We live in a world where a need for legal advice is essential," said President Donna E. Shalala during her commencement speech. "You have become a part of a shared legacy of excellence."
For many of the graduates, their law school journey began in 2008 – a year when the legal field and economy were jarred by a declining job market. However, at this particular ceremony, the message was clear: These graduates need to be able to adapt to the inevitable tides of change. Being able to react quickly in an ever-changing legal climate is the lesson that has uniquely marked this class.
When Board of Trustee member H.T. Smith approached the podium to introduce keynote speaker Carolyn Lamm, he chose to reflect on the 70s – a time when he was a Miami Law student. The look of the school was very different. He was one of eight African-American students. Change was difficult, and not everyone welcomed the change. But, he says, Lamm was one of the students who supported these changes. Lamm, a female in a predominately male field, was also in the minority.
Lamm, J.D. '73, has become widely recognized as one of the world's leading experts in international commercial litigation, arbitration, and trade. Lamm was named among the nation's 50 most influential women and the 100 most influential lawyers by the National Law Journal, the 2002 Woman Lawyer of the Year by the Women's Bar Association of Washington D.C., and one of the 500 leading lawyers in America by Lawdragon. Lamm is also regularly included in Euromoney Guide, Chambers Global Guide and Who's Who listings of national and international leaders in U.S. and international law, finance, and commercial arbitration.
While those accolades are noteworthy, she was also bestowed with a high honor when President Clinton appointed her to the U.S. Panel of Arbitrators for International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), and later by the Government of Uzbekistan to the Uzbek Panel of Arbitrators for the ICSID.
"Lamm is the international gold standard for achieving success," said Smith of his fellow alum.
When Lamm took to the podium, she looked at the graduates with pride and said, "I see what so many of us has longed for. I see great diversity." Lamm was also the former President of the American Bar Association – the largest voluntary professional association in the world.
"Each generation has it s own struggles," she said. "It is your time to start making a difference in lives and at law firms," she reminded the graduates. "It is your time."
When student speaker Rob Collins took to the stage, his speech mimicked the message of those before him. Since starting law school, he noted how much change had occurred on and off campus. Read his speech.
"When we entered law school, America hadn't had a black President," he said. Another first is Miami Law's Student Bar Association, which now has two consecutive female Presidents.
Change is inevitable, but it can be good. "We can take inspiration from our late classmate and friend Natasha Pettigrew, who put things on hold to run for the United States Senate," he said.
Pettigrew died this past September.
"I charge you, each of you, to likewise realize your power to affect the world, to appreciate your great fortune and circumstances, and to make a positive difference."
In an appropriate finale, Collins and many of his fellow graduates threw up the "U" sign for the first time as alumni.
While this brought graduation to an end, the days leading up to the occasion were filled with festivities. On Friday, the law school hosted a cocktail reception on the green for students, faculty and family to gather and share their final moments together. The class of 1961 also gathered for their 50-year anniversary.
President Donna Shalala, Carolyn Lamm, J.D. '73, and Dean Patricia White. (Photo: Miami Law) Full-Size Photo
2011 Law School Commencement ceremony. (Photo: Miami Law) Full-Size Photo
Watch video of the graduation reception.