Law commencement on the docket
law commencement

Law students cap off years of studies. Photo by Craig Bailey

May 22, 2009

The 200 students who graduate today as Northeastern University School of Law’s class of 2009 will hear valedictory words of advice from two inspirational speakers.

Stephen Oleskey, internationally known for his pro bono legal work, including his efforts on the habeas corpus suit challenging the imprisonment of six Algerians at Guantánamo Bay, will offer the keynote speech.

And law professor and former law school dean David Hall will give the faculty address, touching on themes of saying goodbye, and of overcoming the challenges of the economic downturn.

The ceremonies will be held at 1 p.m. in the Cabot Center.

Oleskey, senior partner at law firm WilmerHale, has spent the past 40 years engaged in public-service legal work. The former Massachusetts deputy attorney general and past chief of the state’s Public Protection Bureau, he is a member of Wilmer-Hale’s litigation/controversy department and the complex commercial litigation practice group. He focuses his practice on complex civil litigation and appellate matters, with a particular emphasis on issues related to real estate.

Law school dean Emily Spieler says Oleskey offers the perfect message to aspiring attorneys.

“We are thrilled Mr. Oleskey will speak to our graduates about his lifelong commitment to pro bono work,” Spieler says. “I am personally impressed by his most recent achievements in the Guantánamo cases, and also by his constancy of purpose in seeking representation for people who cannot afford expensive lawyers. He is a terrific example of the kind of lawyer we hope all our graduates will become.”

Since 2004, Oleskey has been co-lead counsel on Boumediene v. Bush, a federal habeas corpus suit challenging the imprisonment of six Algerian men from Bosnia who were held at Guantánamo Bay without charge or trial. On May 15, the lead petitioner in the case was released from Guantánamo after spending nearly seven and a half years in detainment.

Oleskey is the past director and president of Greater Boston Legal Services, and past director and chairman of the board of the Boston Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project. He received the American Bar Association’s Pro Bono Publico Award in 2007. He is also the winner of the Boston Bar Association’s Thurgood Marshall Award, for his exemplary commitment to public service and outstanding advocacy on behalf of low-income citizens of Massachusetts.

Hall, who has spent 24 years at Northeastern, became the first African-American dean of the law school in 1993. Five years later, he was named provost of the university, a position he held until 2003.

As he prepares to leave Northeastern to become president of the University of the Virgin Islands, this address will be poignant for him, he says.

“One of the major things that the students and I have in common at this time is that we are both saying farewell to the institution,” Hall says. “Part of my message will focus on whether there really is a way to say goodbye, or whether the institution has become such a part of me, and of us, that there is no way to say goodbye.”

He adds, “There are connections here I believe are unbreakable.”

Hall will also encourage graduates to face the troubled economy head-on. “When we’re in the midst of an economic storm, how do we respond to that?” he says. “I hope to impart some insights into how people in the past faced challenging moments.”  

For more information, please contact Susan Salk at 617-373-5446 or at s.salk@neu.edu.

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