There are many things that are awesome about teaching law; however, there is little, if anything, as awesome as watching a student that you taught walk across the stage to accept his or her law school diploma on graduation day. I am sure that the pride of family and friends is incomparably larger. Nonetheless, there is something both humbling and gratifying of knowing that students are leaving school, and on the way to becoming a practicing attorney, and taking with them knowledge and experience that you helped to provide.

This last Saturday I had the honor of acting as a Marshal for the December 2014 graduating class. The Marshal leads the students into room at the beginning of the graduation ceremony, and then leads the students out again, this time as they grasp their diplomas. The students vote to select the Marshals, and it is quite an honor to be selected, knowing that you have made a sufficient impression to prompt the students to want you to be part of this important moment in their lives. When the first notes of Pomp and Circumstances, the graduation march music, begin to play, a lump inevitably forms in my throat, and tears threaten to blur my eyes. I graduated from law school over twenty years ago. But I still remember that day as well as if it had occurred yesterday.

graduation

The photo above is me with a former student of mine, Alycia Head. She was in my Legal Writing II class, one my favorite classes to teach. Being a proficient writer is so important to the practice of law. And, let us be honest, so much of legal writing is incomprehensible, pompous, or both. My charge as a legal writing professor was to instill upon students the important of clarity, accuracy, and conciseness, and banish the impulse to dress up their writing with legalese. If I had a dollar for every “hereinunder” or “thereafter” I crossed out in a student-draft, I would be well on my way to having enough to by a very nice new car indeed.

Although I no longer teach full-time at the law school, I consider being a teacher to be one of my most important contributions to the practice of law. I have remained in touch with many of my students, and remain so proud of them all. What attorneys do is called the practice of law for a reason: one is always practicing to be better, that is, if you are committed to be an excellent attorney. Or, as I put that now, a legal artisan.

I am confident that Alycia will go on to be a legal artisan. And hopefully she will, someday, help another up and coming student or practitioner become an artisan too. Crafting a beautiful paragraph is much like the crafting of a beautiful piece of furniture: it requires careful handwork and close attention. I am certain, of course, what I have just written could be much improved if revised yet again. If I have fallen short, though, in any way, blame it on the remnants of pride I am still feeling from the graduation ceremony this last Saturday.