The key to professional success is to find satisfying work, Samford University law graduates were told May 17.
Speaking to 146 graduates and about 2,000 assembled guests at commencement for Samford's Cumberland School of Law, Federal Judge Lee H. Rosenthal, said that the profession can be tedious and demanding, but "being a lawyer has given you an incredible range of opportunities, public and private."
Rosenthal, a U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of Texas since 1992, encouraged the graduates not to get so wrapped up in the profession that they failed to take opportunities to affect the system. Using procedural law as a guide, she suggested ways for the graduates to avoid what she called "professional dissatisfaction."
"What can you do to avoid some of the disappointments that the practice of law can bring?" she asked.
Rosenthal, a University of Chicago law graduate, encouraged the graduates to "volunteer time, talents and thought to working on rules at all levels and in other parts of the justice system infrastructure. Like all infrastructures, it needs maintenance. The world changes. The rules must change as well."
That type of work makes a difference, Rosenthal added. "The work will take you to the heart of our justice system. That work will let you make a difference. It will transcend your day jobs."
In her farewell address, class president Krista Leigh DeWitt encouraged students to follow the model of "our own Atticus Finch – Gov. Albert Brewer," comparing the retired Cumberland faculty member to the heroic lawyer in "To Kill a Mockingbird."
DeWitt reminded students of the recent dedication of the Martha and Albert Brewer Plaza in front of the law school building, where a speaker said of Gov. Brewer, "You done good."
"At the end of the day, if we can say this about ourselves, then we truly will have accomplished something."
Christopher Michael Wooten of Huntsville, Ala., received the Daniel Austin Brewer Professionalism Award, given annually to the graduating student who most exhibits professionalism and ethics expected of a lawyer.