At the opening of Myron Taylor Hall in 1932, the Law School celebrated with speeches in the Moot Court Room, a formal presentation of the building’s keys to President Farrand, and a buffet luncheon in the library. It took another 85 years before the Gould Reading Room hosted its second meal, an April 20 party for the soon-to-be-graduating Class of 2017 and the start of what might become a new Law School tradition.
“We instituted this 3L dinner to celebrate your completion of the JD program,” said Eduardo Peñalver, the Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law, who proposed the idea last fall. “This majestic reading room is the spiritual heart of Cornell Law School, and as your time here draws to a close, I can think of no better place for us to come together as a community of students, faculty, and administrators who have worked and studied together for the past three years.”
With that, the meal began, and accompanied by the sound of silverware, Aziz Rana, professor of law, shared a lesson from his 1L Constitutional Law class: that wherever this degree leads, the Class of 2017 will see that law is both a private and public profession, with implications that go far beyond the courtroom. “To be a lawyer is to have a responsibility to the law and the rule of law, even if your work doesn’t directly involve politics,” he said. “The choices you make will affect everything from corporate culture to the ways that ordinary people, rich or poor, can access justice. And as you go on to your careers, you carry this public obligation.”
Next came Franci J. Blassberg ’77, adjunct professor of law and of counsel at Debevoise & Plimpton, who’d spoken at orientation nearly three years earlier. “What a treat to come full circle with you,” she said. “When I spoke at your orientation, I recall that a number of you were concerned about whether a Cornell legal education was worth the investment of time and money. I told you then that it was, and now that you’re about to graduate, the evidence speaks for itself.”
The proof, said Blassberg, is that virtually the entire class has prestigious positions waiting for them, from big law to smaller firms, government, public service, and clerkships. They were the class that entered with Dean Peñalver and embraced a focus on enhancing the student experience.
Blassberg led a toast, followed by others around the room, and as the Class of 2017 posed for photos of this historic event, the most persuasive evidence of the evening’s success was that no one wanted to leave. “Tonight was great,” said Kendyl Keesey ’17, who begins work in the Philadelphia office of Hogan Lovells this fall. “It’s rare we all get a chance to share a meal, and for me, it represents one of the last opportunities I’ll have to see all these people in the same room. I know I’m going to miss them desperately.”
“If you’d asked a few months ago, when I was a first-semester 3L, I would have said I was anxious about graduating,” said Adebola Olofin ’17, who will spend the next two years clerking on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. “But now, I think I’m ready. Being here tonight, you can see how much the Law School values us as both students and future colleagues. Because in a couple of weeks, we’ll all be lawyers.”