Karen J. Mathis, President-Elect of the American Bar Association, Addresses Southwestern Law School Graduates
During Southwestern Law School's 91st Commencement ceremony, held on Sunday, May 21 at the historic Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Ms. Karen J. Mathis, President-Elect of the American Bar Association, told graduates to "be proud, be honorable, be about something."
Southwestern awarded Juris Doctor (J.D.) degrees to 269 new lawyers and 7 Master of Laws (LL.M.) degrees in Entertainment and Media Law to practicing members of the legal profession.
"You are coming into our profession at a very dangerous time. The separation of powers is threatened. Checks and balances are in question. The impartial and fair judiciary is under attack as never before. Attorney-client privilege waivers threaten one of the bedrocks of our profession," Ms. Mathis said. "All of these issues have to be tended to. They will not take care of themselves, and you are among their best chances of surviving."
Ms. Mathis advised graduates to live within their means, be giving, enjoy being lawyers, remember why they became lawyers, and make their careers about something.
"Everyday for the rest of your career you will be evaluated for your skills and for your reputation for integrity and honesty. Ours is not an easy job…" she told the graduates. "During my years as a lawyer, I found that the company of other lawyers, particularly through my Bar Association activities, has been invaluable. It's kept me refreshed, energized and believing that I can make a difference. And let me recommend it to you."
Dean Bryant G. Garth, who began his leadership of Southwestern Law School in July 2005, participated in his first commencement at the law school, urging graduates to stay connected with the Southwestern community as it continues to grow and thrive.
For the first time in many years, Southwestern's Commencement featured a student speaker. C. Graydon Schlichter, III addressed his peers, predicting that in the next year Southwestern graduates would be helping "corporations, the indigent, the city of Los Angeles, the state of California, the United States, or simply a person who has been wronged and needs to be made whole."
Dean Emeritus Leigh H. Taylor, who led Southwestern for 27 years as dean and chief executive officer, received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. "I'm honored to be a part of this important day in your life," Dean Emeritus Taylor said. "What took you only 2, 3, or 4 years to accomplish, [a degree from Southwestern] took me more than 27 years." Ms. Mathis, whose distinguished legal career spans more than three decades, also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.Ms. Karen J. Mathis
Ms. Mathis was a founder and shareholder in the Denver law firm Hall & Mathis, P.C. for 18 years before it merged into the national firm, McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney, & Carpenter, LLP in November 2004. A trailblazer for women in the legal profession and an active leader in the ABA since 1977, Mathis will be the third woman to serve as president of the American Bar Association when she takes office in August '06.Dean Emeritus Leigh H. Taylor
Dean Emeritus Leigh H. Taylor is one of the most highly respected legal educators in the country, and at the time of his retirement in July 2005, was the longest serving dean in the United States. He has held numerous leadership posts in the ABA, the Association of American Law Schools, the Law School Admission Council (former chair) and the National Association for Law Placement Foundation (current chair). He is admired particularly for his efforts to ensure the rights of women and minorities.