Alabama Law Confers 135 Juris Doctor Degrees; Frank S. James (’78) Delivers Commencement Address

May 6, 2018

Frank S. James (’78) congratulated The University of Alabama School of Law’s Class of 2018 for having a median a LSAT score of 163 and an overall grade-point average of 3.76.

“I can say that I, and many of my classmates, should be happy that we did not have to compete for a place in this class,” said James, a retired attorney.

The Law School conferred 135 Juris Doctor degrees at Coleman Coliseum on May 6. Three J.D. students received joint Master’s degrees in Business Administration, and one J.D. student received a joint Master’s degree in Civil Engineering. Three J.D. students and four others received the LL.M. degree in Taxation or Business Transactions, while two students — one from Nigeria and the other from Cameroon — received the LL.M. degree from the Law School’s International Program.

James, who was a shareholder for more than 25 years at the law firm that is now known as Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell and Berkowitz, P.C., cited Nina Miglionico (‘36), John D. Saxon (‘77), Governor Albert P. Brewer (‘52), and Bryan Stephenson as four lawyers who accepted President John F. Kennedy’s challenge: “What can I do for my country?” and “How can I use my time, talent, and treasure to enhance the lives of my fellow human beings who do not have my advantages?”

Miglionico, James said, encouraged other women to become lawyers, and she paid the law school tuition of a number of women, while Saxon led the three-year capital campaign that resulted in what he called the west wing of the Law School. James noted that Governor Brewer established Alabama’s first code of ethics for state employees and a constitutional reform commission, while Stevenson used his MacArthur Fellowship to continue funding what is now known as the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama after the Alabama legislature declined to fund the program.

“It is my belief that everyone who gives is blessed by the gift,” James said. “May God bless you with lives of service.”

In his welcoming remarks, Dean Mark E. Brandon honored the academic success of the Class of 2018.

Two-thirds of the class worked on one of the Law School’s four legal journals, while more than half enrolled in at least one of six clinics, training and serving as student lawyers. Twenty-eight graduates won individual or team awards for performance in regional or national moot court competitions or were members of a team that advanced to elimination rounds.

“In your studies, you have competed, but you have shown that competition can be conducted with civility, collegiality, and compassion,” Brandon said. “You’ve come together to affirm that, despite our differences, we can honestly engage with one another and, in doing so, strengthen the bonds that connect us.”

After introducing the platform party, Dean Brandon recognized Judge Joseph A. Colquitt, who retired with 44 years of teaching at the Law School at the end of the academic year. In honor of his service, Dean Brandon and the Law School gave him one of the wooden benches students sat on while attending law school at Farrah Hall.

“In those years, he has left an indelible mark on the Law School,” Brandon said. Words aren’t adequate to express what he has meant to us as a teacher, mentor, and colleague.”

Caroline Stephens, delivering the valedictory address, said she learned three lessons from her classmates.

Stephens, a proud Auburn tiger, said her classmates taught her it is possible to agree to disagree, that there is more to life than law, and that “you can’t do everything alone.” She said she and all of her classmates are grateful to their families and friends for their support. She praised professor for humbling the class, and she thanked her classmates for their friendship and encouragement.

“Through it all, you have pushed each other to keep going, and taught me not only that you can’t do it alone but also that you shouldn’t do it alone – it’s a lot more fun to have each other to lean on.”

Degree candidates were hooded by Heather Elliott, Alumni, Class of ’36 Professor of Law; Bryan Fair, Thomas E. Skinner Professor of Law; and Anita Kay Head, Associate Professor of Legal Writing.

The seven recipients of the Dean M. Leigh Harrison Academic Achievement Award were hooded first. Eighteen students received the Public Interest Certificate for completing the program’s academic, clinical, and externship requirements, while 28 students received the Order of the Samaritan honor for performing 50 hours of pro bono legal service ad 40 hours of community service while attending law school.

A reception honoring graduates was held immediately following the ceremony on the Camille Wright Cook Plaza in front of the Law School.