St. John’s Law Celebrates Commencement 2024

St. John's Law 2024 graduates celebrate at Commencement.
May 21, 2024

It’s been about 1000 days since 266 talented individuals arrived at St. John’s Law from across the country and around the world and took their seats at 1L Convocation as the J.D. Class of 2024. In those three years, strangers have become supportive classmates, close colleagues, dear friends, and more while learning the law and gaining practical knowledge and skills. On Monday, May 20, 2024, along with 42 LL.M. degree candidates, they came together as a group again, this time to celebrate their common bonds and diverse achievements at the Law School’s Commencement Exercises.

View the 2024 Commencement photo album

Welcoming the Class of 2024 and their families and friends, Dean Michael A. Simons noted that he and the graduates were sharing a milestone as he prepared to complete his 15-year deanship and return to the full-time St. John’s Law faculty. Drawing on that impactful leadership experience and broader professional and personal insights, Dean Simons encouraged the graduates to make their work a meaningful part of their lives.

“There will be joy and meaning to be found in your work as lawyers—in solving a client’s problem, in speaking up for someone who has been wronged, in using the power of the law to make our communities more just, more fair, more free, and more equitable,” he said. Key to finding that joy, Dean Simons continued, is understanding that people accomplish more when they join together around a shared purpose. “Keep your focus on people,” he advised. “Those relationships will make you a better lawyer, they will make you a better person, they will make you a better life.” 

With those reflections on life well lived in the law, Dean Simons introduced this year’s Commencement speaker, Hon. Rowan D. Wilson, Chief Judge of the State of New York and New York Court of Appeals. After receiving an honorary Doctor of Laws from St. John’s University President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., Judge Wilson addressed the graduates, noting that they are joining an esteemed profession at a pivotal time.

“Clergy minister to the soul, doctors minister to the body, and lawyers minister to the worldly disputes humans have with each other,” he said. “You soon-to-be lawyers will be part of that third true, original profession. You should remember that what you have undertaken is not a job, it is a calling, and it comes not just with obligations as employees, but moral obligations reinforced by a code of ethics.” 

As they pursue that calling, Judge Wilson explained, the graduates should recall the selfless and compassionate work of St. Vincent de Paul that informs St. John’s Vincentian mission of service to the greater good. They can also find inspiration in the teachings of St. Thomas More, the patron saint of lawyers, who offered the Greek word agape, translated to mean “charity,” as a lodestar.

Just as the graduates chose a law school where ideals of service, compassion, and charity—where agape—would be baked into their legal education, Judge Wilson said, they now enter a chosen profession that “alleviates the suffering we cause to each other when we fail to live our lives with agape at the forefront.” That profession calls St. John’s newest lawyers into service, he shared in closing, to restore agape “bit by bit."

Following the conferral of degrees, the Law School’s incoming Dean, Jelani Jefferson Exum, and Alumni Association President, Alain Massena ‘00, each welcomed the J.D. and LL.M. graduates to a worldwide alumni community that is 17,000 strong. “I’m excited for what the years ahead hold for each of you,” said Dean Jefferson Exum. “I look forward to celebrating your accomplishments as alumni, and to partnering with you in shaping the future of St. John’s Law. Congratulations!”