May 17, 2022

Law School Graduation: Appreciate the Moment


Written by: Scot Goins, Assistant Dean of Academic Achievement and Bar Success

Law school graduation is an easy thing to overlook. For the past years, you have been stressing about arriving at this point in your life, and yet now that final exams are over the entire world seems to be encouraging you to solely focus on the bar exam and your preparation process. And, in full transparency, I am one of those people who will be pushing you to put your time, effort, and energy into making the bar exam a successful experience. My belief in your abilities and my desire for your success mean that I will constantly push you to do more, to do better, and to achieve.

However, that said, I wanted to take a moment and encourage you to take time this weekend to reflect on all that you have accomplished to get to this point, all of the successes you have experienced along the way, and the amount of time and energy you have invested in becoming a law school graduate. Right now, your Juris Doctor status to be conferred on Saturday puts you in the top percentage of educated people in the United States, and that in and of itself is something to be proud of and appreciate. No matter how well anyone knows you, there are things that you have overcome, moments that you have experienced, and challenges that you have faced that no one else knows, and yet here you are, graduating. You absolutely should take time to be proud and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

I also want to encourage you to take time, prior to getting fully immersed in the world of bar preparation, to take time to thank your significant other, your family, your friends, your co-workers, professors, staff members, and/or anyone else that has been part of your journey. It is all too easy to get focused on the “next big thing” and to forget to stop and appreciate the moment and the people that are a part of it. Graduation is a big deal, and I want you to see it as such.

I share these thoughts with you because time is the most important and precious resource we have, and this week marks the passing of my own father, who died shortly after I graduated and passed the bar exam. One of the most painful moments in my life was attending my own law school graduation and knowing that I was there, alone, and that my father was too sick to attend and unlikely to survive much longer. My mom could not attend because she was taking care of him, and a combination of other family factors meant that I walked across the stage, was hooded, received my diploma, and walked off alone. My friends and peers were there, but I remember watching with envious eyes and a lonely heart as others celebrated with family. All I was thinking then was how much I wished that my family could be there to see all of their hard work in providing me opportunities pay off beyond their dreams. It was a tough day, but it made me realize the importance of taking time to appreciate every single day, and more importantly, taking the time to appreciate those around you who are part of your journey.

The bar exam is a big deal and it is important for your career, but life is about balance. This weekend, regardless of where you are at in the beginning stages of your bar exam process, I highly encourage you to focus on the moment. Express your gratitude, show your love, and be proud of yourself for all that you have accomplished in getting to this point in your life. No one walks alone in this journey of life, and although the next milestone of the bar exam is important, do not forget to stop and appreciate the milestone you are achieving this weekend. I’m very excited for you, your family, and your friends as you move forward. I have no doubt that your graduation will inspire others to walk paths beyond what you can imagine.


Warmest regards,

Dean Goins