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Barbara Underwood speaks at Brooklyn Law School commencement

May 28, 2019 By Rob Abruzzese
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Brooklyn Law School held its 118th annual commencement ceremony at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Fort Greene on Friday, May 17. Nearly 350 graduates received their degrees and listened to a speech by the New York Solicitor General Barbara Underwood.

Underwood, who became the state’s first female attorney general in May 2018, has an impressive legal resume. She used to clerk for late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and has argued 21 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“When you go out into the world and into the legal profession, try to make it a better place,” Underwood said. “Try to make your distinctive voice heard and to listen to as many unfamiliar voices as you can. And also, don’t be afraid of being a pioneer. It turns out to be a pretty rewarding thing to do.”

From left: Interim Dean Maryellen Fullerton, Barbara Underwood and Stuart Subotnick, chairman of the board of trustees.

When Interim Dean Maryellen Fullerton spoke to the graduates, she talked about BLS’ history. It was one of the earliest law schools to admit women, and she expressed her desire to see this class continue the tradition of change.

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“Today, women make up 53 percent of the class of 2019,” dean Fullerton said. “I’m proud to say Brooklyn Law School has played an important role in allowing women access to the law. I hope you will challenge the notion that lawyers need to be available at all times. I hope you will take seriously the importance of work-life balance in your career choices.

“Your decisions will have far-reaching consequences,” Fullerton continued. “They will benefit women as well as men, children and a more robust society. You must be persistent and vigilant. If you are, I am confident that you, class of 2019, will be the instruments of change.”

Brooklyn Law School valedictorian Nastassia Shcherbatsevich.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who was the school’s commencement speaker in 2015, made a surprise visit to the commencement as well to congratulate graduate Jenna Jones, who worked for the senator as his director of scheduling while also going to BLS.

Schumer, of course, offered words of encouragement to the entire graduating class and encouraged them not to shy away from unexpected opportunities that may arise.

“In that moment of intense anxiety and uncertainty about the future, I took a leap and said ‘okay’ to something completely different, and it enriched my life forever,” Schumer said. “In life there will always be moments that present new opportunities and change the course of things forever. They usually won’t be advertised as such. You just need to keep your eyes open to them.”

Just under 350 students graduated as part of the 2019 class during commencement on Friday.

Stuart Subotnick, chairperson of the Board of Trustees, presided over the ceremony for the 328 juris doctorate and 21 master of law degree recipients. This year’s valedictorian was Nastassia Shcherbatsevich and the elected student speaker was Spencer Eliot Smith.

“Just like every great superhero who gets their origin story played out on the big screen, today is the day to commemorate our beginning,” Shcherbatsevich said. “Law school has been the final chapter in our origin stories.”

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