Published on April 30, 2023 by Morgan Black
Retired Alabama Supreme Court Justice Michael F. Bolin addressed Samford University Cumberland School of Law’s class of 2023 during the commencement ceremony held April 29.
Bolin is a two-time Samford graduate having received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 1970 and his Juris Doctor in 1973. He began his law practice shortly after graduating from Cumberland School of Law. In 1988, he was elected probate judge of Jefferson County, and was re-elected to that position in 1994 and 2000. He remained in that role until he joined the Alabama Supreme Court in 2004, where he served until his retirement as senior associate justice in January 2023.
As he opened his address he said, “This is indeed a very special occasion, certainly to all present. And just as certainly to me. To be asked by the students, faculty and dean of Cumberland to give this commencement address is—and this is no hyperbole—the highlight of my half-century legal career.”
According to Bolin, the most important things that helped him achieve success was the ability to remain open-minded and versatile, and seeking advice from professional mentors. He said, “As you travel throughout your professional life, with your brand-new Doctor of Jurisprudence in hand, consider your opportunities carefully, but always stay versatile to new ideas or challenges.”
Bolin then shared several personal decisions that led him to where he is today. From his first career decision he made right out of law school to his experiences in the Alabama Supreme Court, he remained versatile and open-minded and sought the advice of many professional mentors through it all.
In conclusion, Bolin acknowledged that the many changes in the practice of law during his lifetime would pale in comparison to what this new generation of lawyers will face, noting the effect that technology, such as artificial intelligence, will have on the profession. “Sure, the practice of law may change a bit as time goes along… But, by way of conclusion… If you stay open-minded and versatile and have the good fortune to accumulate good lawyer mentors for advice and counsel, you’ll do fine.”
After the address, the names of each graduate were read by Cumberland School of Law Associate Dean Jill Evans. The degrees were conferred and presented by Samford President Beck A. Taylor and Provost J. Michael Hardin.
Cumberland School of Law’s class of 2023 includes 131 new Juris Doctors, eight of which earned a joint degree, eight recipients of the Master of Studies in Law, and one recipient of the joint Master of Studies in Law/Doctor of Pharmacy.
Following the presentation of the degrees, Cumberland School of Law Dean Blake Hudson presented the Daniel Austin Brewer Professionalism Award to Trent A. Mansfield. The award, established by Governor Albert P. Brewer in honor of his father, is granted to a graduating student who best exemplifies the high standards of ethics and professionalism expected of members of the legal profession.
During his time at Cumberland, Mansfield was a member and acquisitions editor of the Cumberland Law Review, chief justice of Honor Court and the Moot Court Board, and treasurer of the Tennessee Student Bar Association. He was also the co-chair of the 2023 Cordell Hull Speakers Forum. Throughout law school, the students referred to him as “Professor Mansfield.”
Before the ceremony closed, Lindsey Young, who served as the third-year class president, made brief remarks highlighting the special connections the class has made throughout their time in law school. She acknowledged the faculty and staff, making special recognition of Director of Student Services Tona Hitson and Director of Academic Success Lynn Hogewood, for their collective support throughout law school.
Prior to the ceremony, a reception was held at Brewer Plaza for the graduates and their guests.
Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.