How many photos did members of Columbia Law School take on the day of graduation? How often were graduates hugged on the day of graduation? How many hands were shaken? How many students could celebrate their graduation? How many liters of sweat were lost during the ceremony? How often was the word “congratulations” said? How often was it asked “so what are your future plans”? How many prices and awards were presented? How many photos of graduation were uploaded on Facebook? How often were they liked? How often was the responsibility mentioned that we as lawyers have society? How often were the graduates tasked with the easy mission of establishing justice and protecting the rule of law? To how many kilometers would all smiles add up together?
From day one, law school graduation is advertised as THE event of the LLM experience. And indeed, the graduation ceremony is a more than worthy and adequate conclusion of this intense and wonderful year at Columbia Law School. It was a cheerful, festive mood, yet also a final reminder of the responsibility a Columbia degree brings with it.
Of course, everything started with waiting (maybe to remind us of how everything started: we waited for the admission decision, the LLM to finally start, etc): for what felt like eternity, all graduates had to stand lined up alphabetically in gowns and hats.
And of course, when we finally marched in, Elgar’s march was the piece of music that was played. Again, equality for everybody was guaranteed – meaning that Elgar’s march was repeated until the last graduate was seated. The ceremony started off with numerous speeches: the dean, student speakers, elected by the JD class and the LLM class, Professor Tally, who was awarded the teaching prize, and finally the key note speaker, Mary Jo White, the former chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. All speeches presented the spirit of the law school: all were thoughtful and thought-provoking. All were presented eloquently and in an entertaining manner, with passion and vigor, with wit, yet always with a grain of seriousness and awareness of responsibility. Again, prizes were awarded – not without great surprise for some graduates, who did not know about their honors. And finally, the climax: perfectly organized, the handshake-marathon: every graduate was presented (Sylvia Polo presented all LLMs with a perfect pronunciation of our names!), and had the honor to shake the dean’s and Mary Jo White’s hands. Of course, pictures were taken – and of course, to buy those, you had to pay almost as much as your tuition. The last act, was mingling around: one last time, free food with wonderful New York Jazz. The Law School’s invited all graduates and guests to a wonderful reception.
The LLM program itself is over now. But it will always live on in everybody of us for sure. This is exactly the message the Law School graduation ceremony conveyed.