Brandeis professors share words of wisdom to ’15 graduates

There’s a reason inspirational quotes are so popular on Pinterest and motivational posters are plastered on boardroom walls across the country: People want to be encouraged, particularly when they’re transitioning into the Big Unknown.

For this reason, we’ve asked some of Brandeis School of Law’s professors to offer up their favorite words of advice to this year’s graduates:

“Remember that your first job is not your last job.  You are building a career and you will have many opportunities to begin new adventures. Try to be open to many possibilities. One day you will look around and find yourself in the midst of a meaningful and rewarding career; one that you might never have anticipated,” - Enid Trucios-Haynes

“Follow the advice of Louis Brandeis:

  1. Keep your life balanced. ‘I soon learned I could do 12 months work in 11 months, but not in 12.’
  2. And be sure to have the facts before judging. ‘Knowledge is essential to understanding, and understanding should precede judging.’”- Laura Rothstein

“Where you start out does not determine how high you can fly! Anything is possible through hard work, dedication, and determination.” - Laura McNeal

“Decide now what you won't do for money or reputation -- the ethical lines you won't cross just in order to keep a job or save face. You will face many temptations and grey areas in practice, and they will be easier to face if you start your career with a clear picture of your moral code or a strong sense of the integrity of your character that you just won't compromise.”- Tony Arnold

“Advice 1, (A joke from all my classes): ‘If the legal profession ever becomes overwhelming and you just can't decide on a course of action, ask yourself WWMDD, 'What would Matt Damon do' and the universe will give you the answer you need.’

"Advice 2 (A serious one): ‘Internalize the implications of legal representation if you go on to only represent people who look like you, live near you, worship with you, and think like you; entire communities would be left without adequate legal representation from our talented Brandeis alumni.  You are leaving law school with incredibly powerful tools to give voice to individuals, issues, and communities.  Use those tools in your career to let new voices be heard and new issues be identified.’”- Jamie Abrams

“Don’t worry about making mistakes — everybody makes them. But ask questions and pay attention to detail and you will make fewer of them,”- Rick Nowka

"Always remember that the highest calling of a lawyer is her role as public citizen: To be engaged in the community, the profession, and in all the institutions of society that make the world a better place." - Cedric Merlin Powell

“A few things to keep in mind:

  1. Have confidence in yourself;
  2. Always remember who you are;
  3. Keep in mind all life’s lessons you have learned along the way;
  4. Do not forget how to recognize right from wrong and keep in mind that sometimes it is hard to see the difference;
  5. There will be a few bad days but just remember that your family and your pets will love you, no matter what;
  6. And, finally, find your passion and pursue it.

-    Grace M. Giesel

"Get whatever job you can, but make it the job that you want." - Lisa H. Nicholson

“Never earn so much money that you don’t have the time to spend it.”- John Cross

“Practice the type of law that interests you, and you will have a rewarding career. And, assume the version of the document you are working on is the version that is going to the client.” - Lars Smith

“A piece of advice that someone once gave my husband and that we both believe strongly in:  ‘You should do two things on the first day at a new job: One, befriend your boss’s administrative assistant. Two, start looking for a new job.’

“Networking is as important as billable work. Be sure to make time to socialize with others and always be friendly and polite to all.

“Your writing makes an initial impression in the same way your appearance does when meeting someone for the first time.  Make sure everything you write is well-organized and spend time to proofread.

"Your first job is where you will make your mistakes, so have a long-term plan to go elsewhere.  Your jobs after the first are where you will use what you learned from your mistakes to excel.”
- Ariana Levinson

“If you become business lawyers, view your clients as long term business partners, not as one-off billing opportunities. For new businesses, bill low and slow. And, most importantly, learn how their business works and on your own time. If their companies are important to you, you will be important to them.” - Manning Warren

“What I would tell law students is to believe in themselves, always work hard and be prepared, live your life in gratitude, treat everyone with respect, and make sure you serve others all along the way.  If you are thankful, positive, and help others your life will feel fulfilled more so than if you make lots of money or have some type of status.

“My dad also told me two things over and over that stick with me.  The first was he never regretted anything he tried but sometimes regretted not trying. He also told me that ‘to whom much is given, much is expected.’ He reinforced how privileged I was to grow up in this country at this time and how a law degree was a privilege and not a right. He made sure I knew to use that degree for the good of others not just myself and never to become too impressed with myself.  Finally, I really like this prayer I heard from Father Hesburgh at Notre Dame: ‘O God, to those who have hunger, give bread; and to us who have bread, give the hunger for justice.’ I think that has a special meaning for lawyers who can help bring justice.”
-  Dean Susan Duncan