On Monday, May 20, the University of Pennsylvania Law School hosted its graduation ceremony at the American Academy of Music in Philadelphia. This year, 250 students received the JD degree, 116 students from 29 countries received the LLM degree, 5 students received an SJD, and 24 students received a Master in Law (ML) degree. The Class of 2019 Commencement Address was delivered by Kalpana Kotagal L’05.
As a partner at Cohen Milstein, Kotagal works to address issues of employment and civil rights law, class actions, mandatory arbitration, and diversity in the workplace as a member of the firm’s Civil Rights & Employment practice group. She has represented clients in a range of significant cases under Title VII, the Equal Pay Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and more. Kotagal also played a central role in working to transform film and television industry hiring practices by creating the Inclusion Rider, a contract provision that actors, directors, and producers can use to negotiate for more diverse and inclusive hiring on set. Earlier this year, she discussed the Inclusion Rider and efforts to remedy workplace inequities in a TEDx talk in Austria.
Kotagal has repeatedly been recognized for her efforts to champion equity, diversity, and inclusion through her practice of law. Most recently, Law360 named her a “2018 MVP – Employment,” an award recognizing the top five most influential employment lawyers in the United States from both the Defense and Plaintiffs bars. Chambers Women in Law: USA awarded her the prestigious “Outstanding Contribution to the Community in Advancing Diversity” Award, and she was selected as a 2018-19 Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow at Harvard Law School.
Addressing Penn Law graduates, Kotagal encouraged them do the hard work of learning the skills, substantive law, and rules that guide the legal profession, but not to be afraid to carve out their own paths. She described how she and her colleagues did just that in the process of developing the Inclusion Rider.
Other speakers from the event included Dean and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law Ted Ruger, Interim Dean of Students Felicia Lin L’08, and class speakers Nakul Nayak LLM’19, Zachary Dunn L’19, Khari Cyrus L’19, Bryan McIntyre L’19, Paulina Flores LLM’19, and Jean Gabat L’19.