Ketanji Brown Jackson among big-name women speakers at law school graduations

U.S. Supreme Court justices pose for their group portrait at the Supreme Court in Washington
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson poses during a group portrait at the Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., October 7, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo
  • U.S. Supreme Court justice will speak to law grads at Boston University and American University
  • Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh also lined up to speak at law schools

(Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court’s newest justice is slated to end a SCOTUS law school commencement dry spell and is among the growing list of high-profile women who will address law graduates this year.

Ketanji Brown Jackson is pulling double duty this year. She’s due to deliver remarks to graduates of American University Washington College of Law on May 20 and of Boston University School of Law the following day. Not all law schools have announced their graduation speakers, but thus far Jackson, the first Black woman to sit on the nation’s high court, looks to be the only justice hitting the law school commencement circuit—which her colleagues on the bench have sat out for the past several years.

The justices still participate in law school events and panel discussions but their commencement addresses have become less common. The late justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were frequent commencement speakers. Sonia Sotomayor delivered recorded remarks to Yale law graduates in 2021.

Boston University law dean Angela Onwuachi-Willig was a vocal supporter of Jackson’s 2022 nomination to the court and helped organize a letter urging the Senate to confirm her that was signed by more than 200 Black women law deans and professors. Separately, American law dean Roger Fairfax joined 30 Black law deans on a letter in support of her nomination. She was sworn into the high court in June.

Law schools have this far secured an eclectic mix of speakers, many of them women. Harvard Law School graduates will hear from Michelle Yeoh during their May 24 class day ceremony. Yeoh in March became the first Asian women to win a best actress Oscar for her performance in the film Everything Everywhere All At Once.

Duke Law School has secured Apple general counsel Kate Adams to speak at its May 13 ceremony, while the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School has famed women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred slated to talk at its May 15 commencement. Allred’s grandson is among the Penn law students who will be collecting their diplomas.

The University of Virginia School of Law has lined up alumna Helen Wan, whose novel “Partner Track” about a woman navigating life as an attorney at a large corporate law firm was made into a popular Netflix show last year.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul will deliver remarks to graduates of New York Law School on May 25, while U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren will speak at the May 15 ceremony for the Pace University Elizabeth Haub School of Law.

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Reporting by Karen Sloan

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at