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The end of a harrowing school year and the beginning of new careers were celebrated last week in New Orleans as the city’s two law schools graduated the class of 2006. Tulane University Law School and Loyola University New Orleans School of Law together bestowed juris doctor degrees upon the more than 500 graduates, whose lives were upended after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the city. The commencement ceremonies marked the conclusion to a year of hardships and triumphs for faculty, staff and students who were living in New Orleans when the levies broke, submerging the area and displacing more than 665,000 people. “I’m just exhausted,” said Tulane graduate Meredith Byars, who served as editor-in-chief of the Tulane Law Review. “Law school is tough anyway, but it was emotional and very trying.” ‘Emotionally filled’ Hurricane Katrina hit just one week after classes started last August, and following the storm, students at both New Orleans schools were scattered to other law schools across the country. While most of Loyola’s students attended a satellite school set up at the University of Houston, students at Tulane were admitted as visitors to 29 different schools nationwide. Tulane University Law School Dean Lawrence Ponoroff said that his school’s commencement ceremonies were “emotionally filled.” Tulane graduates included 298 people who received juris doctor degrees, 27 who obtained LL.M. degrees and one who received a Ph.D. Ponoroff said that the number of graduates was about “five or seven” students fewer than the school had expected to graduate. “It very much was celebrated as a real triumph of the resourcefulness of our students,” he said. Speaking at the commencement ceremony on May 13 for all students graduating from Tulane University were former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Later that same day, Tulane law students attended their own commencement ceremony. The 219 juris doctor students graduating from Loyola celebrated at a commencement ceremony on May 19. Speaking at the event was Seth Chandler, University of Houston Law Center professor of law and co-director of the Health Law and Policy Institute at the school. Chandler helped set up Loyola’s temporary teaching facility at the University of Houston after the storm. “It’s not an understatement to say that the University of Houston saved us,” said Reverend Lawrence Moore, associate dean for academic affairs at Loyola law school. About 30 of the students who participated in commencement did not attend the fall semester due to Katrina and will complete courses next fall, Moore said. As for life after graduation, Byars, from Tulane, is uncertain whether New Orleans will remain her permanent home, she said. She will clerk this year for U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, who sits in Louisiana’s eastern district, and she plans to take the bar exam in Louisiana and New York. She said that before the storm, she and her husband had planned to stay in New Orleans because they liked the lifestyle, but now they are not sure whether they can develop careers in the city. “It changed everything,” she said.

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