In Last Lecture, Jody Freeman assures graduating students: ‘You have the tools you need to become successful’

In her Last Lecture, Professor Jody Freeman LL.M. ’91 S.J.D. ’95 encouraged the class of 2018 to think broadly about what success means, in their future career and also in life.

The Last Lecture Series is organized by the 3L and LL.M. Class Marshals, and asks HLS professors to give talks addressing the graduating class. This year’s series also featured Professors Alex Whiting, Carol Steiker ’86, and Paul Butler ’86.

“This is a very important moment for you; I think it deserves serious reflection,” said Freeman, urging students to unplug and find the space to think about where they have been and where they are going. “You’re about to launch yourselves into the rest of your life,” she said, “I do think it’s as dramatic as it sounds.”

Freeman then detailed the skills earned by a Harvard legal training–the capacity for scrutiny, the ability to anticipate problems, persistence, and argumentation among them–that will serve the students well, whether or not they go on to practice law.

Encouraging students to recognize that there are infinite career options, Freeman listed the achievements of illustrious HLS alumni, from presidents to activists to actors to poets, examples of legal training empowering them to “live their dreams.”

However, she continued, “there is more to life than work, and the means of your work matters. There is only one thing, and that is life.” She then listed her 12 tips to a successful life, including: “act with integrity” (number one), “do things that give you a feeling of aliveness” (number three), “choose your mentors carefully” (number seven), “say yes, and trust that you will figure it out” (number 11), and the final: “re-introduce yourself to yourself–integrate who you’ve always been with what you’ve learned here.”

Freeman cautioned against listening to the new strain of anti-intellectualism, “as if there’s something wrong with being smart, or being curious and invested in ideas.” Facts and reason are in urgent need of defense, she continued, “it is actually a fantastic time to be a lawyer–you are needed, you are valuable–you are ready.”

Freeman closed her lecture with an exhortation to commit to “good and honorable lives.” She is counting on them, she said, “to help bend the arc of the moral universe, inch by inch, towards justice.”