The Commencement of Notre Dame Law School’s Class of 2023

Author: Denise Wager

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Graduates of the LL.M. in International Human Rights Law take a selfie outside Biolchini Hall of Law on Saturday, May 20, before processing to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart for the Law School’s commencement prayer service. Photos by Peter Ringenberg/University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame Law School celebrated the Class of 2023 on Saturday, May 20.

These graduates entered law school during the pandemic — a time of great uncertainty. On Saturday, they graduated with optimism and opportunity, celebrating their achievements with the friendships and community they formed as students here.

This year’s class consisted of 182 graduates: 166 J.D., 15 LL.M., and one J.S.D.

The new graduates will work at 64 different law firms across the United States and around the world. In addition, 35 will clerk for federal, state, or specialized courts. Others will enter government, in-house counsel, and public-interest jobs.

On Saturday, the celebration began with the class prayer service at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

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Basilica of the Sacred Heart

Rev. John Paul Kimes, associate professor of the practice at Notre Dame Law School, talked during the prayer service about the gift of righteousness, and how being a “different kind of lawyer” is not about justice alone.

“Righteousness, as opposed to justice, begins not with the isolated individual and his or her possessions or rights. It starts with relationships. Our relationship to God and others,” he said. “Righteousness is not about what I have or what I am owed, it is about who I am. It is about who I am called to be.”

Kimes told the graduates that they have been given the gift of righteousness. This gift was given to them in love. Just as God is love and shared through the gift of relationships, their relationships with others must be defined by love.

He said, “You will be a lawyer who sees the law not as a tool of retribution, but as an instrument for building up the kingdom of God.”

Class Of 2023 Photo

After the prayer service, law graduates gathered for a class photo on the steps of the University of Notre Dame’s Main Building and then proceeded to Purcell Pavilion for the Law School’s 153rd Hooding Ceremony.

The Class of 2023 selected Professor of Law Bruce Huber as the Distinguished Professor of the Year.

In his speech to the class, Huber told the graduates that it has been a joy to watch their formation as professionals and human beings — as people of outstanding character, depth, and fortitude. He reminded them that the time of formation is not over, and that the invaluable assets for passing the tests of life are the content of your character, an enduring community, and practicing joy in the midst of pain.

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Purcell Pavilion

“It takes very little to go from saying something unkind to becoming the sort of person who says unkind things easily and thoughtlessly,” said Huber. “But the same holds for your efforts to dispense grace and forgiveness and empathy. Just as athletes depend on reflex and muscle memory, or so I’m told, the goal for you is to hone your character through intentionality and practice so that you hold in your body, in your reflexes, your deepest commitments — so that honesty, and loyalty, and fairness, and thoroughness, so that these things become ingrained and automatic, even as life’s tests offer you the option of compromise.”

Acknowledging the many transformative, enriching relationships that Notre Dame Law School students form, he added, “I urge you in the strongest of terms: do not neglect these relationships. Lean into them. Carve out time for them. ... Make sacrifices on your calendar to keep these relationships alive.”

Concluding, Huber challenged graduates to see how joy can be chosen, cultivated, and practiced in the midst of adversity and pain and testing that may come throughout the years.

“Deep joy means living out your calling, and living out your calling requires bringing your skill to bear on society’s gaping wounds,” he said. “And how do you acquire that skill? How do you develop mastery of the sort that can be a balm for the wounds of the world? I know of only one way — through hard work, through discipline, seasoned with experience and, yes, adversity and pain and testing. To cultivate and practice joy in the midst of pain is to see the goal ahead of you, hazy though it be, and receive adversity with joy because it brings you closer to your calling.”

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Dean G. Marcus Cole delivers his charge to the Class of 2023.

G. Marcus Cole, the Joseph A. Matson Dean and Professor of Law, conferred degrees and placed the doctoral hood over each graduate as they walked across the arena stage. He then delivered a charge to the class.

“As a Notre Dame lawyer, you are now uniquely equipped to change the world — a world desperately in need of the change that only you can bring,” said Cole. “Your legal training here at Notre Dame gives you power — a power that not everyone has. You can now go forth and satisfy the requirements to act on behalf of others — to fight for their rights.”

He reminded graduates that their Notre Dame training should give them more than a license to practice law. It should give them a license to practice love.

“If there was ever a time when the world needed a different kind of lawyer, it is now. If there was ever a time for lawyers to be active, and vocal, and brave, it is now. If there was ever a time for lawyers to practice love, it is now,” he said.

Cole ended by telling graduates that no matter what area of law they choose to practice, in whatever community they choose to live, to not forget where they came from.

“You came to Notre Dame, and now you come from Notre Dame. You are one of us. That should mean something,” he said. “That should mean that the world will become a better place because of you.”

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