Law grads urged to embrace power of their degrees

May 14, 2017

Graduates laughing and smiling at the School of Law graduation

Richard A. Robinson, associate justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, urged the 87 School of Law graduates to think about the power they will hold as they strive to balance their obligations to clients with their duties as officers of the legal system.

Robinson received an honorary doctor of laws degree May 14 at the Commencement and Doctoral Hooding ceremony in our TD Bank Sports Center. During his address, he said the legal profession is a noble one, but one that is frequently misunderstood.

“Many assume that lawyers are merely troublemakers who bring lawsuits that should not be brought and defend that which should not be defended,” he said. “In reality, the law is the very fabric that holds our society together and, as lawyers, you bear the responsibility of being its tailors.”

He urged graduates to think a little more about the sources of our hope, encouragement and inspiration — and not just depend on news headlines or tweets.

"When you think about it, doesn't real inspiration come from the people we live with, the people who we work with, and the people who we interact with on a daily basis? People who work hard and do their best to make the world a better place in their own unique way. People who make a commitment to something worthwhile and important, just as all of you have done," he said.

The Connecticut Supreme Court Justice implored graduates to recognize the position they are in.

“As you graduate and prepare to embark on your career in the law, you hold tremendous power,” he said. “On this most important day, I’d like for you to think about that power and to truly comprehend its significance.”

That power extends throughout the legal system — and country, he said.

"It means that as you begin your career in the law, it is essential for you to understand that your obligations as an attorney extend far beyond the interests of your clients," he said. "They extend to the justice system, to the legal profession, and to society at large."

Each graduate has a great responsiblity to our nation, Robinson said. Each member of the Class of 2017 — like those who graduated before them — are the "tailors of the very fabric of our society," he said, and each a hero for their hard work and diligence.

“As you prepare to take the next steps, keep in mind the words of Winston Churchill: ‘The price of greatness is responsibility.’ Or, to paraphrase a certain comic book: ‘With great power comes great responsibility.'"

"The power to practice law brings not only the financial ability to support yourself and your family; it also brings along with it the responsibility to assist others and to help shape the legal profession of the future,” the justice said.

Farah Hage-Sleiman addressed her fellow law graduates while Professor Alexander Meiklejohn gave remarks on behalf of the late David King, who was voted Professor of the Year posthumously by the graduating class. Matthew Stokely JD ’86 welcomed the law school’s newest alumni.

The program of studies at the School of Law provides students with excellent preparation for legal practice. The curriculum balances theoretical and skills training, and offers students the choice to elect a general course of study or to concentrate their course work and training in a number of specific practice areas.

Students also have opportunities to apply lessons learned in the classroom to real-world legal problems in several law clinics — including civil justice, defense appellate, legal ethics, tax, and veteran’s law — and 16 externship courses — business law, corporate counsel, criminal justice, environmental and energy law, family and juvenile law, field placement II, health law, intellectual property, labor and employment law, legal services, judicial, legislative, mediation, public interest, sports and entertainment, and tax law. Faculty members come from a broad spectrum of distinguished backgrounds in legal practice and education and are committed to excellence in scholarship and teaching.

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