2024 2024: UMass Law Class of 2024 graduates ready to pursue justice

2024 2024: UMass Law Class of 2024 graduates ready to pursue justice
UMass Law Class of 2024 graduates ready to pursue justice

Students urged to use their skills to champion the rule of law

On Friday, May 17, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School of Law conferred 112 Juris Doctor degrees to the Class of 2024. Family, friends, and faculty gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of the graduates of the Commonwealth's only public law school.

"You are living examples of what a UMass Dartmouth Law degree can do at the start of a promising career, and your victories are our victories. Your example paves the way for the students who will come after," said Provost Ramprasad Balasubramanian, who presided over the ceremony. "There will be challenges, to be certain, both personal and professional. There will be wrong turns and second guesses. There will be people standing in your way who don't think you can do it. But we believe in you. Remember that we will always be cheering you on."

View the entire UMass Law 2024 Commencement Ceremony.

"The learning curve as a new lawyer is quite steep, graduates, meaning you will make mistakes, be unsure of what to do, and feel overmatched and overwhelmed often. Any lawyer on this stage and any lawyer in the audience can attest to the fact.," said Dean Sam Panarella, who attended his first Commencement as Dean of the School of Law. "There is deep satisfaction in lawyering, I promise, but not all at once and not right away. You will have to work hard to climb that learning curve. I ask that you be kind to yourself on the way up. The practice of giving grace extends to the grace you offer to others, assuming good faith in their words and actions and that simple human frailty and not a bad nature is the root cause of their shortcomings, as it is for every single one of us."

Law Dean Panarella at podium
Dean Sam Panarella during his first Commencement as Dean of the School of Law

Dean Panarella also announced awards for graduates, including the 2024 pro bono award recipient Christopher Amaral, who conducted 543.5 hours of pro bono work. The 2024 Public Interest Law Fellow Leadership Award was given to Jordan Lambdin, who performed 554 hours of public service work. The Class of 2024 completed 9,979 hours of pro bono legal and public service.

Student speaker Natalia Vargas served as the Executive Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for the Student Bar Association, the Chair of the SBA Events Committee, and as a Student Ambassador for the 2023-2024 academic year. She participated in the University's Immigration Clinic and was a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Vargas was awarded the 2024 Unsung Hero Award by the student body for her work planning and facilitating events with the law school's student organizations.

Student speaker at podium
Student speaker Natalia Vargas

"After today, some of us will go on our quest to Pursue Justice by serving in civil legal aid organizations, in government, in public service agencies, or in corporations, others at courthouses across the country, and some at private firms -- both small and large. That brings me to the biggest lesson we learned as UMass Law students," said Vargas. "The Pursuit of Justice is not limited to any one area of the law. Or even to the practice of law itself. The Pursuit of Justice can happen anywhere, at any job, and at any place. That is because the Pursuit of Justice is not just for those who work for public agencies. It is for representatives of hard-working business owners, the elderly, families, employees, and underrepresented communities."

As part of UMass Law's 2024 Commencement celebration, retired Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court Geraldine Hines received an honorary Doctor of Laws—the highest award the University can bestow.

Justice Hines was selected for her life championing justice and equality through groundbreaking legal work and active engagement in various civic and community organizations. Hines's illustrious career culminated in a series of judicial appointments, including her designation as an Associate Justice of the Superior Court in 2001, followed by appointments as an Associate Justice of the Appeals Court in 2013 and, a year later, to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Justice Hines' impact extends beyond the courtroom, as she has been actively involved in various civic and community organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Lawyers Guild, and the National Conference of Black Lawyers.

Dean, Guest, and provost posing for photo on stage
Dean Sam Panarella, Justice Geraldine Hines, and Provost Ramprasad Balasubramanian

“You come into the profession at an auspicious moment in our nation's history,” said Justice Hines. “When the imperative to guard our constitutional liberties, to preserve our collective faith in the rule of law, and to attend to the unfinished business of equal justice presses hard upon us. I say this because we are immersed in a political and social climate where racial, religious, and ethnic antipathy fuels our public discourse, our public policy, and even our laws. The cornerstone of our democracy is at risk when the right to vote is being constricted at every turn. Our constitutional liberties are at risk when our laws or our interpretation of those laws validate policies that target our neighbors because of their race, ethnicity, gender, identity, or immigration status. Though the old warriors from my generation will do what we can for as long as we can, the responsibility to keep such threats at bay falls to you, the next generation of citizen lawyers.”

UMass Dartmouth expects to confer 1,800 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and law degrees. Of those 1,800 students, the Class of 2024 represented 255 cities and towns in Massachusetts, 32 states, and 23 countries. The UMassD Class of 2024 was comprised of 39% first-generation undergraduate students and 23% of students of color.

To learn more about the incredible accomplishments of the graduating class, visit the UMass Law Commencement Spotlights.