Veteran Supreme Court litigator and Northwestern Law alumnus Carter G. Phillips (JD ’77) beamed with pride when he took the stage as the keynote speaker at the Class of 2014 Commencement ceremony.
“Northwestern has a very special place in my heart,” said Phillips, who is a partner and chair of the executive committee at Sidley Austin. “It is a wonderful honor to be invited back to share this special day.”
In the years since Phillips graduated law school, he has consistently contributed his time and talents to the Law School and in his speech he implored graduates to do the same. Philips encouraged the students to commit to dedicating 3 percent of their time to improving the Law School community — by returning to interview prospective students, volunteering to help recruit admitted students, and discussing practices, employment, and special opportunities with current students. He also challenged students to draw from the training they have received at Northwestern Law to navigate a rapidly changing globalized legal landscape and to collaborate with their Law School colleagues to promote positive change.
“The combination of talent and teamwork leads to great results. What I hope that your generation can do is collaborate with all of the other generations of Northwestern alums and build a bigger, better, stronger Northwestern Law,” he added.
Phillips has argued 78 cases before the Supreme Court, more than any lawyer currently in private practice. He has also argued more than 100 cases in the United States courts of appeals, including at least one in every circuit in the country, and 25 in the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and currently teaches in Northwestern Law’s Supreme Court Clinic.
The May 16 ceremony took place at the landmark Chicago Theatre, where family, friends, and Law School faculty and staff turned out to support the more than 500 graduates, who now join a network of more than 14,000 Law School alumni.
While Phillips offered the main address, Dean Daniel B. Rodriguez, University President Morty Schapiro, and students speakers John Mack (JD ’14) and Chris Guangjun Tang (LLM ’14) also offered insights that centered on valuing friendships, practicing humility, exercising ethical maturity, embracing their talents in a changing legal landscape, placing life experience over logic sometimes, and focusing on the things in life that bring joy.
“Remember to always stay grounded in humility and always surround yourself by friends who love you,” said Schapiro in his remarks. “Remember, humility is not to think less of yourself, but to think of yourself less.”
“In this changing and challenging world, we need skilled lawyers, we need you, graduates of this first-rate, student-centered, innovative, law school,” said Rodriguez. “We need well-trained, mature, collaborative, ethical professionals, future leaders with myriad talents and abilities, and with a commitment to professionalism and to justice – equal justice under lawyer. We need you.” (Read an expanded excerpt from Dean Rodriguez's speech. (pdf))
During the ceremony, a number of faculty members and students were honored with student-voted awards in recognition of exceptional teaching, service, courage, leadership, and excellence in the legal profession.
Brad McMahon (JD ’14), vice president of the Student Bar Association, presented the following faculty awards:
The following student awards were presented by Professor Marty Redish:
Northwestern Law’s 2014 graduating class includes 276 candidates for JD degrees and 20 candidates for joint JD-MBA degrees, 105 candidates for LLM degrees, 25 candidates for the LLM degree and certificate in business administration from Kellogg, 41 candidates for LLM degrees in taxation, and 15 candidates for LLM degrees in international human rights. Other degrees presented included those in the Executive LLM Programs in Seoul (15), Madrid (16), and Tel Aviv (35), and three candidates for Masters of Studies in Law.