Starting law school is a serious undertaking. Beginning law school at the start of a pandemic is a leap of enormous faith, Maine Law President and Dean Leigh Saufley told the class of 2023 at their May graduation.
“Now, it’s time to celebrate your determination, flexibility, humor, and dedication to justice,” Saufley said. “We’re very proud you persevered. This state, this country, and this world have never needed lawyers more. You are the future of this noble calling.”
The graduates gathered at Merrill Auditorium on May 20th to celebrate their achievements. In the class of 2023, there were 84 graduating J.D.s, one J.S.D., and two L.L.M’s. Seven students received certificates in Information Privacy Law, 10 in Environmental and Oceans Law, and 11 in Business and Transactional Law. Dozens of awards recognizing scholarly and service based achievements were also handed out.
Andres Kenney was selected by the graduating class as their student speaker. He spoke to the highs and lows of the last three years, as law students and as humans weathering unprecedented events and challenges. “We are the class that went from being alone together to being together forever,” Kenney said. “Now, we’ll walk together on our chosen paths.”
Professor Deirdre Smith, who received the L. Kinvin Wroth Award at graduation, also acknowledged the closeness and the fortitude of the students (soon-to-be attorneys) seated before her and echoed Saufley’s sentiment about the need for passionate, civic-minded lawyers. “We have good reason to be hopeful about the future of the legal profession,” Smith declared, “because you will be part of it.”
And that future already looks very bright. At graduation, 68% of the class already had employment lined up and ten members of the class secured judicial clerkships. Graduates are going into a range of fields including immigration law, civil and criminal litigation, compliance, privacy, tax law, and general practice, and three graduates will take positions in rural law firms in Maine.
As the graduates prepared to enter the workforce, the keynote speaker, Chief Justice Valerie Stanfill of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, offered words of advice that guided her own career. “Hold the rule of law paramount as you enter the legal profession. You have a special responsibility to uphold the future of justice in this world….Remember your humanity. Be generous. Above all, remember, be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”