In a Com­mence­ment cer­e­mony on Friday after­noon at Matthews Arena, peers, pro­fes­sors, and public fig­ures chal­lenged more than 200 grad­u­ating stu­dents from the School of Law to shape the future of the legal system and take pro­fes­sional risks for the sake of justice.

Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun presided over the Com­mence­ment exer­cises. New Hamp­shire Gov­ernor Mar­garet Wood Hassan, a 1985 grad­uate of the School of Law, deliv­ered the Com­mence­ment address and received an hon­orary doc­torate of laws. School of Law Dean Jeremy R. Paul, law pro­fessor Lucy Williams, and three students—Kevin William Man­ga­naro, Cody L. Thornton, and Seda Akay Onur—also deliv­ered remarks.

Prior to deliv­ering his charge to the grad­u­ates, Aoun acknowl­edged the passing of law pro­fessor Daniel Schaffer, who joined the fac­ulty in 1970 and spent 40 years teaching and researching in the tax field.

He then chal­lenged the grad­u­ates to pro­tect and shape the future of the law, which he char­ac­ter­ized as a pillar of our democracy.

The law is not made of con­crete or stone, but instead is a mal­leable force that changes with the times,” Aoun told the grad­u­ates, many of whom will soon head to court­rooms, board­rooms, NGOs, or gov­ern­mental agen­cies. “You will be the ones to lead those changes in the law.”

Aoun pointed to the grad­u­ates’ ground­breaking work through the Civil Rights Restora­tive Jus­tice Project as but one example of their com­mit­ment to pro­tecting the future of the legal system. By working tire­lessly to address the damage done by racial hate crimes during the Civil Rights era, he explained, the “CRRJ is restoring our faith that the rule of law is there as a pillar, upholding our democracy.”

He noted that the Boston Marathon bomb­ings high­lighted the community’s faith in the rule of law. “Even in the throes of our shock and grief, we believed that the law would work to find those respon­sible,” he said.  “With the remaining sus­pect appre­hended, it is up to the lawyers to take over. Once again, we will trust the rule of law to bring those respon­sible to justice.”

  • Graduates waved to the crowd as they process in to the School of Law Commencement.

  • More than 200 graduates received their degrees during the School of Law Commencement ceremony.

  • School of Law Dean Jeremy Paul spoke to graduates during the ceremony.

  • Kevin William Manganaro delivered a student address.

  • New Hampshire Governor Margaret Wood Hassan, right, shook hands with President Joseph E. Aoun after delivering the commencement address.

  • New Hampshire Governor Margaret Wood Hassan, third from left, was joined by faculty members and President Joseph E. Aoun, third from right, after Hassan received an honorary doctor of laws degree.

  • New Hampshire Governor Margaret Wood Hassan delivered the Commencement address.

  • Priya Ashok received her Juris Doctor hood.

  • A graduate waves to the crowd after receiving his Juris Doctor degree.

  • School of Law graduates celebrated after receiving their degrees.

In her remarks, Hassan high­lighted the role of co-​​op in her devel­op­ment as both a cit­izen and lawyer. “It brought a per­spec­tive to my legal edu­ca­tion that was lacking else­where and helped me learn that law is about real lives and not just intel­lec­tual prin­ci­ples,” said Hassan, who worked on co-​​op at the National Prison Project of the Amer­ican Civil Lib­er­ties Union. “The com­bi­na­tion of class­room and real-​​world expe­ri­ence better pre­pares us to nav­i­gate the chal­lenges we face in our lives both per­son­ally and professionally.”

Throughout her illus­trious career in public ser­vice, Hassan has cham­pi­oned gov­ern­ment as an active partner in solving the com­plex chal­lenges con­fronting her state and the New Eng­land region.

First as a state leg­is­lator, and now as the Granite State’s second-​​ever female gov­ernor, Hassan’s lead­er­ship has been marked by her ability to bring people together to find common ground around core issues such as edu­ca­tion, health­care, and jobs.

She urged the grad­u­ates to make their own indelible mark on the world by exer­cising good judg­ment and honing it through both expe­ri­ence and edu­ca­tion. “Your judg­ment is strongest when you inte­grate all aspects of who you are,” she said. “The more dif­fi­cult expe­ri­ences you have, and the more exploring you do, the better your judg­ment becomes.”

Each of you is poised to help lead the way to the next chapter of progress,” she added. “You need to be engaged in cit­izen democ­racy that drives us forward.”

Paul echoed Hassan’s belief in the power of expe­ri­en­tial learning, com­mending the grad­u­ates for amassing more legal expe­ri­ence than stu­dents at any other law school in the country through the university’s sig­na­ture co-​​op pro­gram. Over the last three years, they have com­pleted more than 300,000 hours of legal work at some 880 com­pa­nies in 12 coun­tries on five con­ti­nents throughout the world.

You have done more than master legal analysis,” Paul told the grad­u­ates. “You have learned that if two par­ties have a dis­agree­ment, the odds are that both sides have a point. You have learned that pic­tures are worth a 1,000 words and so, too, is a good example. In short, you have learned to think like a lawyer.”

He laid out a four-​​point plan for the law grad­u­ates to find mean­ingful work in a harsh job cli­mate, urging the soon-​​to-​​be-​​lawyers to read news­pa­pers, embrace tech­nology, and rely on Northeastern’s net­work of fac­ulty and alumni for sup­port. Fields ranging from edu­ca­tion to finance, he said, would always need lawyers to achieve their goals.

You are a diverse, well-​​educated, and workplace-​​tested group of soon-​​to-​​be lawyers with an extra­or­di­nary amount to offer,” he said. “Your country needs you.”

Williams praised the grad­u­ates for per­se­vering through law school’s gru­eling cur­riculum and encour­aged them to take risks in spite of the fear of failure.

She noted that loss in the field of law is inevitable, pointing to the pos­si­bility of rep­re­senting a client who will be exe­cuted or mur­dered by an abu­sive spouse. “When you believe you have failed, you do not have an excuse to with­draw,” she told the grad­u­ates. “You have to process the pain, tran­scend the fear, and con­tinue to cri­tique our legal system and society.

In the face of fear and pain and the unknown,” she added, “you must take incred­ible risks for what you believe is right.”

All three stu­dent speakers thanked their class­mates and pro­fes­sors for helping them reach this mile­stone moment.

We’ve func­tioned as a unit and sup­ported one another,” said Man­ga­naro, who spent sev­eral years in the the­atre busi­ness before enrolling in law school. “It’s my sin­cere hope that we can take this spirit of com­mu­nity for­ward with us.”

Onur spoke on behalf of the 11 grad­u­ating stu­dents in the Master of Laws pro­gram, eight of whom grew up out­side of the United States. “Here we stand today, coming from every corner of the world,” said Onur, who grew up in Turkey, where she was a junior level lec­turer of Con­sti­tu­tional Law. “We were ner­vous during our first classes last fall quarter, not only because of the sub­ject matter, but also for fear of making mis­takes while talking in Eng­lish. Somehow, though, we man­aged to deal with our ‘stage fright,’ and com­pleted all of our classes. I would say that is a kind of suc­cess story.”

Cody L. Thornton, who served in the Peace Corps and worked with USAID in Kaza­khstan prior to North­eastern, encour­aged his peers to develop their own mech­a­nisms for mea­suring change, improve­ment, and suc­cess. “We may no longer have kings and queens, but we need to still over­throw our rulers,” he explained, refer­ring not to people, but to pro­ce­dure. “Choose your own met­rics,” he said, “and push for­ward into the future.”