Orientation Speech to First Year Students
Welcome to Chicago-Kent College of Law and the Illinois Institute of Technology. Whatís probably more on your mind, welcome to law school.
More important than that, welcome to the first step in entering the legal profession. Donít let anybody tell you over the next couple of days or the next semester or the semesters after that, that law school canít be interesting. Donít let anybody tell you that it canít be exciting. Donít let anybody tell you that it canít be fun.
Law school is an adventure and you should understand and embrace it as such. Itís an intellectual adventure in which you learn some of the wisdom from people who have gone before you about the rules society makes to govern our behavior and set our aspirations, and about the legal institutions that develop those rules and apply them.
Law school is also a practical venture in which you learn how to operate in the real world and to be agents of change. Where you learn to help people understand, comply with, and when appropriate, to change, societyís rules.
It is also an ethical venture, in which you learn about the limits of client advocacy and the duties that professionals have to their clients and to society.
Chicago-Kent is an exciting place for all three of those ventures. Just since a group sat in this room a year ago to enter their study of law and to begin their entry into the legal profession, Chicago-Kent has been selected by the American Bar Association to lead a major project in understanding how legal institutions can have jurisdiction over the Internet. Since a year ago, Chicago-Kent, through its Institute for Science Law and Technology, has embarked on a major inquiry to understand the technological, managerial, social, and legal implications of telemedicine.
Since a year ago, we have launched a new environmental law clinic. Since a year ago, our students developed an Internet linked database to help collect war crimes information in Kosovo and about a dozen of our students have been in Kosovo, Albania, and Macedonia to implement this database. Since a year ago, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held hearings on real cases right across the hall there in that court room.
Since a year ago, hundreds of Chicago-Kent students have learned about the law not only in the classroom but also in a rich set of activities, some organized by the law school itself, some led by individual faculty members, and many organized by students through the Student Bar Association.
Let me encourage you, as you begin your study of law, to think about yourselves in the multifaceted way that good lawyers think about themselves.
In the classroom, in your preparation for class, in your study groups, and in your contact with the faculty outside of class, you should be intellectually curious, recognizing that the problems that will confront you as practitioners in the 21st Century will be different from the problems that confronted people in the 18th, 19th, and 20th Centuries when they were developing the legal doctrines and institutions that you will study. Take advantage of the cutting edge thinking that our outstanding faculty has to offer you. If you take advantage of that cutting edge thinking and master the fundamentals of the legal concepts, you will be well equipped to adapt those concepts to future real world problems.
Being a good lawyer is about more than thoughtful analysis and mastery of theory. You need to know how to handle a case as well as knowing the hearsay rule. We have two major events in this orientation week to link what you are going to hear about school and the classroom to what lawyers do in the real world. One of those events is a mock trial this afternoon, a realistic mock trial which will set you up to act as jurors in deciding the questions presented in that trial. Later in the week, we are going to divide you into groups and take you down to a real courthouse where you can talk to real judges and watch the people in the legal system in action.
Being a good lawyer involvesóin addition to an understanding of legal doctrine, institutions, and procedureóentrepreneurship, effective interpersonal relations with other lawyers, with clients, with judges, and with legislators. Take advantage while you are here of Chicago-Kentís professional environment in order to improve your skills at empathy, persuasiveness, and professional civility.
Professionalism involves effectiveness in the real world. As lawyers you will be agents of change. You will be agents of change whether you seek to win a case in court, design the capital structure of a new corporate entity, build a new international legal institution, or help a client deal with a personal crisis. In all of those roles you will be agents of change.
Therefore while you are a law student, donít be passive. Look for opportunities either now or later to change our society for the better at the personal, local, national, and international levels.
Being a lawyer is about more than making money. Itís about service to clients, service to the profession, and leadership in society. In a sense, being a lawyer is about altruism. I would encourage you while you are here as a member of our community of teachers, students, administrators, and others who seek to serve society to discover your instincts and your capabilities for altruism.
All of us on the faculty and the administration are in this business because we enjoy helping people like yourselves learn about the legal system andówhat is just as importantóto learn about yourselves. Whatís going to happen over the next three years is that you are going to learn about all the different roles that law graduates can play as leaders of society and as a change agents. You are going to learn a lot more about yourselves; what you are good at, what you are not so good at, what makes you happy, what doesnít make you happy.
Our objective is to help you, as different individual human beings, about-to-be-lawyers, discover enough about yourself and about the legal system so that when you have your J.D. degree from Chicago-Kent, you will be in a good position to decide what is just the right match between you as unique individual human beings and this remarkably diverse and exciting legal system.
Thanks a lot for being here and I look forward to working with you.