COLUMBIA — A crowd filled with family and friends applauded as 133 graduates from the MU School of Law entered Jesse Auditorium on Sunday afternoon for their commencement.
"This law school has asked much of you, and you have all risen to the challenge," said Dean Lawrence Dessem.
He thanked the graduates for their hard work and dedication, and said he was proud to recognize them now as colleagues.
Dessem quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem "Success" as an inspirational message to the graduates: "To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; This is to have succeeded."
Although graduate Jessica Adams called the law school experience at MU "hard," she said, "You learn to love it, because if you didn't, you would quit."
Adams said the people at MU were "fantastic."
"It's not cutthroat like it is at other schools, which was important to me," she said.
Adams said she plans to head back to her hometown of Nixa and work at a real estate firm in Branson.
After graduating, Charles Hanford said he will take a class to study for the bar exam in two months. He said he hopes to practice patent law in his hometown of St. Louis, but given the current job market, Hanford said he will go where he can.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster served as Sunday's commencement speaker. Koster graduated from the School of Law in 1991.
"To return two decades later to offer the commencement remarks is a true honor," he said.
Koster urged the graduates not to worry about the scarce market for legal jobs, saying the careers of lawyers are "unpredictable endeavors" with "unforeseen turns" that "lead to progress."
"You're going to find that you have made a great choice to be a lawyer," Koster said, calling the profession "the cornerstone of the modern world."
Koster told the crowd about his 2007 decision to change his political affiliation from Republican to Democrat in the Missouri Senate, a decision that he said ostracized him from many of his close friends in the legislature.
"When I made the decision to change parties, it was an explosive moment in my life," Koster said.
Koster ended his speech by saying that achievement as a lawyer extends beyond the classroom. "By far the greatest predictor of success is something they can't put into books — will," he said.
Dessem ended the ceremony by offering a last bit of congratulation to the students.
"This has always been a great law school, but it got better today because we now count you as graduates," Dessem said.