School of Law Celebrates its 60th Commencement

The University of San Diego's 2017 Commencement Week schedule kicked off on Saturday morning, May 20, as the 60th conferral of School of Law degrees took place inside the Jenny Craig Pavilion.

Law 2017 Commencement

Pomp and Circumstance played to mark the start of a processional of 264 graduating law students to their seats and USD law faculty, USD administrators, Commencement speaker Mark Brnovich ’91 (JD) and designated law student Commencement speaker William M. Lange ’17 (JD) to the main stage.

The national anthem was sung by Benjamin Pierce Cooper ’17 (JD) and the invocation was delivered by Mark Peters ’09 (PhD). There were remarks and acknowledgements by USD President James Harris and a Class of 2017 overview, thoughts about leadership from Stephen Ferruolo, dean and law professor of the School of Law.

Ferruolo broke down several characteristics about the 2017 School of Law graduates. There are 20 law graduates who also possess a USD undergraduate degree; more than 60 percent of the day’s graduates were from California, but also there were 30 states represented from around the country; and the Master of Laws recipients represented 20 different countries and a dozen different languages.

There were also a few unique degree recipients. William Rankin, a 1974 JD graduate of USD, earned a Master of Laws in Taxation on Saturday. Rankin then returned to the stage to award son Zachary Rankin ’17 (JD) with his diploma. Andrew Green ’17 (JD) received his degree from his USD law alumni parents Jeff ’84 and Lisa ’83 Green.

Margaret A. Dalton, School of Law associate dean and law professor, then presented four law faculty awards. The 2016-17 Thorsnes Prize for Excellence in Teaching went to Professor Michael Devitt, BS, MA, JD. The 2016-17 Thorsnes Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship went to three USD law professors, Abraham Bell, Adam Hirsch, and Michael D. Ramsey.

Brnovich, Arizona’s Attorney General, after he took an impromptu selfie, gave a heartened speech filled with life lessons for law graduates to absorb: “Your reputation means everything; you can sell your integrity but you can never buy it back. No case is worth sacrificing your reputation; Be prepared; No case should be too small for you; Be a team player and be a good listener; Keep your eye on the big picture; Identify your passion, make a commitment to something you care about; and to understand the power of persistence.”

Lange provided several fun remarks in the student address, sprinkling some dry wit with important thoughts about the USD law school experience.

“We knew law school would be tough, Dean Ferruolo told us it would be important to network, and collectively we groaned at the prospect. The fear that grips you can be overwhelming when you have to introduce yourself to someone, tell them you’re worth something when they’ve litigated huge cases and you’re barely making it through Torts,” Lange said. “But we did it. We talked to people we didn’t know, we took on projects that made us feel like we were drowning, we argued in front of judges, a prospect that most of us never would have dreamed was possible. And we did all of it. And now, we’re lawyers … and after two and a half more months of studying and taking what’s the extremely hardest bar exam in the country, then we’ll be lawyers.

“We did all that hard work because being a lawyer mattered to us,” he continued. “Maybe we wanted to say we were proud of the extremely difficult work we were capable of. Maybe we wanted to have a discernable impact on the community. Or, maybe, we were attracted to the glitz and glamour of tax law. Regardless of our reasons, being a lawyer mattered to us. We’ve all put in hour after hour to reach this goal because it mattered. And sure, now we’re all going to have to put in countless more hours at a job, but from now on, what you do will matter. You now have the ability to make a difference and each and every one of you can.”

Lange also reflected on the people he met while at USD.

“I was told that law school would be this shark tank of individuals constantly competing and undermining each other, ripping pages out of legal textbooks looking to get an edge. But what I found at this law school was a community of people that always helped each other out. We share outlines, we shared notes, we shared stories and because of that, more than anything else we learned in law school, we will remember the people we met here at USD as the best part of the experience. We’ll remember the people we met here as the best part of the experience.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

USD's Commencement ceremonies resume May 27 with the Graduate Schools celebration from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and the undergraduate ceremonies on May 28 for the College of Arts and Sciences (9-11 a.m.) and School of Business/Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering (2-4 p.m.) All three graduations will be live streamed.