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Northeastern Law Professor Addresses UConn Law School Graduates
(Released: 05/20/01)

By Allison Thompson, Office of University Communications

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Just as they attended law school for different reasons, members of the University of Connecticut School of Law class of 2001 will take different paths once they embark on their legal careers. In remarks to the class at this morning's commencement, Clare Dalton, a professor at Northeastern University School of Law, encouraged the nearly 200 graduates to take time during their professional journey to find their passion.

"My first exhortation to you is to learn, if you do not know it already, what moves you, what kind of engagement will bring you satisfaction," said Dalton, who Law School Dean Nell Jessup Newton introduced as one of her personal heroes. "There needs to be time for each of you to ask, now that so few barriers remain between you and your life as a lawyer, 'Now that I have arrived, where exactly am I, and is it where I want to be? If not, how can I turn this arrival into a departure, this place I am into a stepping stone, bearing my weight as I move towards some other destination?'"

Dalton originally intended to become an English professor, carrying on a family tradition of teaching. But at her father's behest, she became a lawyer. Throughout her academic career, Dalton discovered other interests that she incorporated into her chosen field of study, thereby enriching her legal career.

"Whenever I have asked myself why I have been drawn to a particular professional role or opportunity or challenge, I have been able to find an answer lodged in my personal history and early passions," Dalton said. "Whenever, on the other hand, I have found myself drained rather than nurtured by my professional commitments, it has turned out to be because I was chasing someone else's idea of a successful or satisfying life and not my own, even if I had persuaded myself otherwise."

Calling herself a "slow learner," Dalton wished the students luck in discovering the connection between their profession and passion faster than she did.

"What I would hope for you is that you could figure it out sooner with fewer false starts and earlier fulfillment," she said.

Some graduates will find that working with those who lack access to or a voice in the legal system will engage them, Dalton predicted. Others may find time that doing pro bono work in addition to their day jobs will satisfy them, while still others will discover that opportunities for service save them from the desolation of an unengaged professional life.

Despite the various influences that may prompt the graduates to help those in need, they will want to do so when they feel they gain from the experience, Dalton noted.

"The reality is that we give more readily when we feel ourselves to be rich, and that giving comes most easily of all when we feel ourselves enriched by the very act of giving," Dalton said. "In professional and spiritual terms, I want to wish you, members of the class of 2001, a life of riches. May the practice of your profession make meaning of your lives, and may it bring you strength, courage and capacity for joy."

Dalton joined the faculty at the Northeastern University School of Law in 1988. She is a leading feminist legal scholar and a pioneer in the development of legal education focusing on domestic violence.

In 1990, Dalton founded Northeastern's domestic violence clinical program. In 1993, she established the Domestic Violence Institute, an interdisciplinary education, research and service organization, and continues to serve as its executive director. The Institute today is considered a signature program for the law school, and has become a nationally recognized center for addressing domestic violence and its impact on the lives of women, children and men.

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