To the Class of 2020

You may have realized I-4 is a mess. Normally the hardest part of your day today would have been parking and making sure your friends and family knew where to park. You may have worried about making sure your tassel is hanging correctly. And whatever other worries you may have had would have been compressed in the few hours you would have completed the formalities of earning your degree. You would have been excited to see your classmates, friends, the faculty and staff. Even if they have annoyed you over the years, you would have been glad to see them on this day. You would have posed for pictures. You would have been happy, and you may have forgotten the boulder of the bar exam sitting on your head.

While I was proud to complete undergraduate school, I was relieved to graduate law school. Those three years that were so grueling and dreadful were over. I pretended to enjoy law school afterwards. But I hated every nanosecond of it. My bubble was burst when at a networking event of the Seminole County Chamber of Commerce, a senior partner in large firm downtown, asked me how I liked law school.

I told him, “I loved it.”

He laughed in my face, “Are you serious?! It was the worst three years of my life.”

He caught my white lie.

What I realized since then is that being an attorney is not a privilege. Having access to justice is a basic and fundamental right. Even the constitution sells short the right to access to justice. Everyone needs a lawyer now and then to help them ease through a situation. The years ahead will carry uncertainty, but in the years ahead you will carry yourselves with strength, fortitude, and courage.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said: “Certainty generally is illusion, and repose is not the destiny of man.

You know a lot of sacrifices were made to get you where you are today. People have fought tooth and nail for you. And you most of all have fought tooth and nail to get to where you are. The grit that brought you here will carry you forward. What you will do as an attorney is level the playing field for justice. It’s why you went to law school, and it’s what sustained you through these years of study.

Bryan Stevenson: “We have a system of justice in [the US] that treats you much better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent. Wealth, not culpability, shapes outcomes.”

Your family may have struggled to put food on the table, to pay bills, and to get you ready for a future without the certainty of even the next paycheck. You will have to plow ahead as you have done before. Don’t be hard on yourselves, but just be ready to roll with the punches. And keep rolling.

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Nadia Ahmad

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