Stockholm University conferred an honorary doctoral degree on Harvard Law School Professor David B. Wilkins ’80, director of the Program on the Legal Profession and vice dean for global initiatives on the legal profession.
“It was a grand ceremony in the highest sense of the word,” said Wilkins after returning from Sweden. Held on Sept. 28 in the Blue Hall of Stockholm City Hall, where the Nobel Prize banquets take place, the event was attended by more than 1000 people, the men in white tie and tails and the women in elegant gowns.
After trumpet fanfare, each honorary degree recipient stepped up a sweeping staircase to be handed not only a diploma, but either a black top hat (from the faculty of law) or a laurel wreath (from the other faculties), a tradition rooted in the history of Sweden’s universities. Honorary degree recipients were also given a ring, symbolizing loyalty to their field.
The event also featured music played on the hall’s famous organ, and before the ceremony concluded and the banquet began that evening, singers performed “a brilliant rendition of ‘Tonight’ from ‘West Side Story,’” recalled Wilkins.
“It was an amazing experience, ” he said. “The grandeur of the ceremony, and the beautiful place where it was held” were remarkable, as were the accomplishments of the eight other honorary degree recipients, he added. They ranged from a leader in the field of intellectual property law at the Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property and Competition Law in Munich to a University of Michigan astroparticle physicist known for developing methods for detecting “dark matter” in the universe (see a list of the recipients).
Wilkins was recognized for his groundbreaking scholarship on the legal profession in a global context, focused in particular on corporate law firms, including studies of the experience of women and minority attorneys in those firms.
“David Wilkins’ seminal work on the history, transformations and ethics of the global legal profession justly influences the ideas of scholars and practitioners alike,” said HLS Dean Martha Minow. “This superb honor aptly underscores the international relevance and recognition of David’s vital work.”
Earlier in the week leading up to the ceremony, he delivered a lecture to the Stockholm University law faculty and students. The title of his talk: “Is the In House Counsel Movement Going Global?”
He was also recognized during the honorary degree ceremony for his contributions to teaching and research at the Stockholm University Faculty of Law and for establishing connections between Harvard Law School and the Swedish law school’s faculty.
One of those faculty members, Professor Mauro Zamboni, first met Wilkins in 2008 when Zamboni came to HLS as a visiting scholar. He said of Wilkins, “It is a sign of his greatness as a legal scholar that although he is at the top of his career, he spends so much time listening to and advising younger colleagues, both in the U.S. and around the world.”
“I have a deep personal connection with many people who are on the faculty as well as students [at Stockholm University],” said Wilkins, “and it’s an honor to now be permanently affiliated with such a great institution.”