Reflections on inaugural convocation: We marked beginning of a law school | Oksana Romanov

By Oksana Romanov

Law360 Canada (July 19, 2023, 11:58 AM EDT) --
Oksana Romanov
Oksana Romanov
This June 27, the first class of the Lincoln Alexander School of Law graduated, marking the birth of inaugurating the law school itself at a breathtaking ceremony at The Carlu. That was in the afternoon, but in the morning, I received a custom-designed graduation card from one of my mentors Angela A. Bradley, a lawyer, workplace investigator and mediator. This card made me feel special.

It also gave me a pause to think about how privileged I was and yet, at the same time, accountable for getting a law degree. The feelings of gratitude and gravity stayed with me throughout the day, filling the air at the grand venue as I observed the academic procession, listened to the speeches and performances, both live and recorded, and watched my peers, the future of our legal profession, walk across the stage.

The Carlu

The Carlu, named after the French architect Jacques Carlu, is a designated national historic site in Toronto. It originally opened in 1930. This special event venue was restored and reopened in 2003. The Carlu is a gem of art moderne architecture and home to weddings, corporate events and special occasions like our inaugural convocation.

This is us

As I walked across the stage at that grand venue, where all gathered — family, friends, faculty, law school and university administrators, esteemed guests, including members of the judiciary and two prominent Canadian artists — I could not help but wonder what my life would have been like if I’d had not gone to law school. After handing in my name card with the conferred degree and a unique ordinal number assigned to me for the ceremonial lineup, I thought, “This is us. We made it. We are the inaugural. We did our law school proud!”

While I let my thoughts run their course, I also desperately tried to see the faces of all those people on and off-stage. I could hear several people enthusiastically calling my name out. This sensation filled my heart with warmth, ease and clarity. Yet, the only thing I could see was a sea of lights. And I was becoming one of those lights or a ball of lightning, suspended on that stage and waiting to burst with pride, leaving behind sparkling stardust of the first-class legacy while drifting off into the unknown.

In the spotlight

Toronto Metro University president Mohamed Lachemi, chancellor Janice Fukakusa and founding dean Donna E. Young greeted us on stage and witnessed our success. Kimberly Murray, Canada’s Independent Special Interlocutor for Missing Children and Unmarked Graves and Burial Sites associated with Indian Residential Schools, received the honorary doctorate. Jully Black and iskwē shared their musical talents, vision and wisdom with the graduates through their performances and speeches. Julia Bayne landed at the top of the class with the gold medal, a phenomenal achievement. Safia Thompson Ramdoo became the inaugural valedictorian, an iconic student leader who exemplified our law school’s values and demonstrated exceptional leadership and community-building. Finally, several law students graduated with distinction achieving a cumulative grade point average of 3.50 or higher and receiving awards and special mentions.

Magic in the air

The magic continued into the reception part of the event when we reunited with everyone who was rooting for me and my classmates when we were on that stage. We took pictures with our law school mentors, classmates, friends and family. We exchanged our ceremonial gowns for freshly printed oversized diplomas. Together we all laughed, shared our work and life plans and feasted on the food at the venue. At our inaugural convocation, everyone had an opportunity to make it their own special moment.

With thanks and gratitude

It was bittersweet to see many of my classmates rush to leave the reception to make in time for their dinner reservations to continue celebrating in a close circle of their friends and family. Neither did I want this special evening and the special feeling to end. However, contrary to my desire to stay longer, I left early to celebrate with my family, without whom I could not have made it through the daily grind of online learning, COVID lockdowns and the overwhelming anxiety of the exam seasons. I am forever grateful to my husband Sergey for his support and understanding and, honestly, for selflessly sacrificing his own time, plans and other commitments to help me with the kids at home over the three years of my going through law school.

I also want to thank professors Kathleen Hammond, Pnina Alon-Shenker, Hilary Evans Cameron, Avner Levin, course instructor and law coach Gina Alexandris and dear friend and mentor Valeria Buzaker, LL.B., for their unwavering support, mentorship and for encouraging me to grow academically, professionally and personally in law school and beyond.

It is just the beginning

The Honourable Lincoln Alexander once wrote, “It is not your duty to be average. It is your duty to set a higher example for others to follow.” Watch a new kind of lawyer emerge as we enter the legal field, forging our paths forward and blazing new trails. It is just the beginning …

Oksana Romanov is an LSO lawyer licensing candidate. She holds a J.D. with distinction (2023) from the Lincoln Alexander School of Law at Toronto Metropolitan University. Oksana is the past Ontario Bar Association Student Section Executive and Lincoln Alexander Law’s Ambassador (2022-2023). To learn more about the author, you can visit her LinkedIn profile.

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