Academics Law and Politics

Celebrating the achievements of the newest legal minds

Graduates from the School of Law were treated to an inspiring commencement ceremony, as the speakers delivered powerful life lessons designed to motivate and uplift law school graduates.
Law School Commencement
More than 400 students received their law degree during commencement exercises held May 11 at the Watsco Center. Photo: GradImages

More than 3,500 family and friends cheered on as 444 graduates walked across the commencement stage at the Wastco Center Saturday morning, marking the end of their legal education and the beginning of their new careers. 

The assembled speakers' words of wisdom at the University of Miami School of Law commencement ceremony reminded them of the transformative power of education, and the limitless potential of those who pursue their passions with dedication and hard work.

"Class of 2024, you have navigated the complexities of a demanding course of study and the rigors of scholarship and research and unprecedented global challenges," said University President Julio Frenk, who noted the graduates will use the skills they have learned throughout their lives.

Alumna Yvette Ostolaza, chair of the Management Committee and member of the Executive Committee, Sidley Austin LLP, delivered the commencement speaker address, passing on five lessons for success: be an agent of positive change, be relentlessly curious, don't take things personally, be kind to everyone and mentor others, and make yourself futureproof.

Quoting the unstoppable Miami native Janet Reno, the first female U.S. Attorney General, Ostolaza said, "Being a lawyer is not merely a vocation. It is a public trust, and each of us has an obligation to give back." The speaker urged the graduates to "never stop learning and never be afraid to ask questions.”

"Being a lawyer is special," she said, "and you should be proud. Your future will be built on the strength of your relationships, friendships, and your kindness. The more you show empathy and respect, the easier it is to make authentic connections."

Ostolaza encouraged them to make themselves essential. "Make it hard for artificial intelligence to replace you. And don't be afraid to pivot if something changes or when you feel you need to. 

"The future is yours—as the song says, are you 'Ready for It?'"

A first-generation college graduate and daughter of Cuban immigrants, Ostolaza rose to become one of the most influential attorneys in the country, shattering glass ceilings and taking over boardrooms along the way. In 2022 she became Sidley's management committee chair. It made her the first woman or Hispanic to lead the 158-year-old, $3.1 billion global law firm with over 2,100 lawyers on four continents.

"You entered law school filled with hope for the future, a desire to make a difference, and the determination to make it to this moment," said Patricia S. Abril, interim dean.

"The knowledge and skills you gained during your time at the University of Miami School of Law will stay with you throughout your professional career. Your experience here will be your guiding light as you transition into practice. Your relationships and shared memories with your classmates, professors, and mentors will be yours for a lifetime," she said.

One of the 353 J.D., 79 LL.M., and 12 joint degree recipients, student speaker Ann Turner Light is a dedicated single mother of two boys, former account executive and athletic trainer, and lifelong Hurricane fan. Turner Light graduated with a J.D. and LL.M. in Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law.

She told the audience that she sobbed when admitted, but, she said, not for the expected reasons.

"I knew I had hit the educational jackpot," she said. "The windfall is in the boundless opportunities only Miami Law gives its students—to explore more, dig deeper, and learn from unique experiences, a diverse community, and dedicated professors with open doors who keep us curious.

“And always remember that we are not alone in this life or our experiences," she said. "We are part of someone else's journey, and our actions and words have the power to impact others profoundly.”

Turner Light took full advantage of the many hands-on opportunities at Miami Law. She served as the managing editor of the International and Comparative Law Review. She was a member of the International Moot Court Program, where she competed in the Sports Arbitration Moot. She was an Yvette Ostolaza Mock Trial Team member and was placed as a semifinalist in the Chester Memorial Mock Trial competition. 

"You've worked so hard to get to this day, and we know you face one more challenge as you prepare for the bar exam," said Abril in closing. "Remember, you've put in the work, you put in the time in the library and the lectures, you've asked the questions and argued the answers. Study hard. We know you can do it.

"Then, as you transition into practice, embody the values you have learned at the University of Miami, and do not forget the passion to make a difference that brought you here. Use your law degree to seek justice for all and make the world a better place," she said.