On Friday, May 12, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School of Law conferred more than 100 Juris Doctor degrees to the Class of 2023. Family, friends, faculty, and more joined together in the Main Auditorium to celebrate the accomplishments of the graduates of the Commonwealth’s only public law school.
University Leadership praises the impact of law graduates
“Completing law school is a significant accomplishment—it always has been. It signals your curiosity, determination, and resilience. Let’s be honest: law school is not for the faint of heart. It takes real perseverance to get across this finish line. And even starting out in the midst of a pandemic, you persevered, and continued to have a positive impact on our community,” said Chancellor Mark A. Fuller.
Fuller went on to remark on the impact UMass Law has on the community.
“Since 2010, UMass Law students have contributed over 175,000 hours of pro bono legal service to education, the environment, health care, and other critical social impact issues the community. The Class of 2023 was no exception. You provided support, participated in clinics, and clerked for judges—sharpening the skills you developed in the classroom and applying them in important real-world settings. And you supported our Justice Bridge program, that provides low-income clients with crucial access to legal services. It comes as no surprise, then, our law school ranked #1 in New England and 7th in the country for the percentage of graduates entering public service.”
Dean farewell address urges law students to make a difference
“A license to practice law is a powerful thing. As you all now know, the nature of our common law adjudicatory system is such that even a single passionate and committed lawyer can change the law and improve lives and the world in which we all live,” said Dean Eric Mitnick, who presided over his final Commencement as Dean of the School of Law. Mitnick became Dean in 2015 and is returning to the law school faculty.
“Ovid, a Roman poet who lived more than 2000 years ago, famously wrote: “The purpose of law is to prevent the strong always having their way.” The idea being that law exists to protect the less powerful. Now, we know that’s not always how the law works. We know that privilege and power and money are structurally created and reinforced by law. But that’s where you come in. With your Juris Doctor, you can make a real difference in people’s lives. You can help repair the world,” Mitnick explained.
Student speaker Natalie Peters urges peers to pursue justice
Student speaker Natalie Peters, who served as Lead Editor of the UMass Law Review and President of the Federalist Society during her second and third years, addressed her fellow legal professionals. "We celebrate a great success today. Savor this moment. It is the celebration of an end, but it is also a beginning. No matter where you go in life or what you must go through to get there, remember this moment,” said Natalie Peters. “Remember where you’ve been and what you’ve sacrificed. Remember how you persevered. Remember how you succeeded. And whatever the future holds, no matter the situation, no matter how dire the circumstances may seem, always persevere.”
Peters discussed how the pandemic disrupted part of their journey, but it did not diminish their dreams.
“We will defend the defenseless, we will protect the vulnerable, we will be a voice for the voiceless. And we will always, always, always, pursue justice,” said Peters. “We are capable and strong. We are ready for whatever comes next. We are the UMass Law Class of 2023.”
Graduates also heard from Castell Abner Jr., president of the UMass Law Alumni Association and a member of the UMass Law class of 1997. Speaking on the power these new alumni bring to the world, Castell Abner Jr., said “We’ll need that resiliency. We’ll need your toughness. We’ll need your know-how. We need your ingenuity now more than ever. And, of course, we’re here to help you. We will keep you connected to offer great job opportunities, mentorships, and more as we all continue to act as brand ambassadors for UMass Law.”
UMass Dartmouth expects to confer 1,800 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and law degrees. Of those 1,800 students, the Class of 2023 represented 249 cities and towns in Massachusetts, 33 states, and 25 countries. The UMassD Class of 2023 comprised 25% first-generation students and 35% of students of color.
To learn more about the incredible accomplishments of the graduating class, visit the UMass Law Commencement Spotlights.