Paula Weems Hinton (’79) reflected on her own legal career and encouraged the members of the Class of 2019 to find “the next you.”
Graduates will surely meet resistance, obstacles, and setbacks. Hinton, though, urged graduates to press forward.
“The defining moments of our lives often don’t come with an advance warning – they present themselves in ways we would have never expected, so be prepared,” she said.
Life as a lawyer will not be easy, Hinton said. Graduates will win and lose, be frustrated, and heartbroken, but each of them has the purpose, principle, and education to meet every challenge.
“Greatness has always come from people who expect nothing and take nothing for granted, who work hard for what they have and then reach back and help others behind them,” she said. “That is who you are, that is who you will become. That is the past, the present, and the next you.”
Alabama Law conferred 134 Juris Doctor degrees at Coleman Coliseum on May 5.
In his welcoming remarks, Dean Mark E. Brandon honored the academic success of the Class of 2019.
Four J.D. students received joint Master’s Degrees in Business Administration, and one J.D. student received a joint Master’s Degree in Social Work. Thirteen J.D. students received the LL.M. degree – Master of Laws Degree –in Taxation or Business Transactions, while one student — from Japan — received the Law School’s first Doctor of Juridical Science Degree.
More than half of the class worked on one of the Law School’s four legal journals, while 43 percent enrolled in at least one of six clinics, training and serving as student lawyers.
Twenty-one graduates participated in regional or national trial advocacy competitions. Seven of those won individual, team awards, or were members of teams that advanced to elimination rounds. Thirty-five graduating students competed in regional or national moot court competitions, and 21 students won individual or team awards for performance in regional or national competitions or were members of teams that advanced to elimination rounds. The members of the Hispanic National Bar Association’s Moot Court Team won a national championship.
“This is a remarkable class – distinguished, talented, and well prepared to face the future,” Brandon said.
Miriam Biffle, delivering the valedictory address, said commencement raises a mix of feelings and emotions: excitement, joy, anxiety, a twinge of sadness and a huge helping of relief.
Most of all, Biffle said she was grateful for family and friends, faculty and staff, and her fellow graduates. The graduates would not have completed their degrees without the love and efforts of family and friends. On behalf of the class, Biffle thanked professors for their encouragement, patience, practical lessons, stories, friendship, and mentorship. She said she was honored to be a member of the Class of 2019 because its members are kind.
Students sent get-well cards, shared notes and outlines, and checked on others when they were ill or absent from class.
“I hope that in using this degree we are receiving today that you continue to show that kindness because the world needs it,” she said. “I am proud to be your classmate and proud to be your friend.”
Degree candidates were hooded by Kimberly Boone, Professor of Legal Writing and Director of Legal Writing Program; John Shahar Dillbary, James M. Kidd, Sr. Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Cross Disciplinary Legal Studies Program; Bryan Fair, Thomas E. Skinner Professor of law; and Gary Sullivan, Associate Professor of Law in Residence.
The six recipients of the Dean M. Leigh Harrison Academic Achievement Award were hooded first. Seventeen students received the Public Interest Certificate for completing the program’s academic, clinical, and externship requirements, while 26 students received the Order of the Samaritan honor for performing 50 hours of pro bono legal service and 40 hours of community service during law school.
The Law School honored graduates with a reception immediately following the ceremony on the Camille Wright Cook Plaza in front of the Law School.