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Former White House counsel addresses SCU School of Law graduates

Saturday, May. 13, 2000

SANTA CLARA, Calif., May 13, 2000—Abner J. Mikva, former lawmaker and retired federal court judge who was White House counsel to President Clinton, today reminded more than 300 Santa Clara University School of Law graduates and their families and friends that as a lawyer, “it is possible to do well while doing good.”

During the 88th commencement law school ceremonies in the Mission Gardens at the SCU campus, Mikva was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by SCU President Paul L. Locatelli. Mikva, on what he called “a day to remember,” said lawyers “should be willing to be risk-takers—not with your clients’ matters, but with your careers.

“Some of you will find that making a comfortable living is not all that bad,” he said. “Of course, you’ll have to forget about what motivated you to go to law school in the first place. You’ll have to forget the statistics that make it pretty clear that if financial success was the primary goal, you should have gone to business school. You’ll probably find that you’ve made the rich richer and preserved the status quo against all enemies foreign and domestic.

“If the role models are only lawyers who are quarreling about the division of the tobacco case fees...then law is just a business, and you may have picked the wrong school.”

At the morning ceremonies, 294 J.D. degrees and 8 L.L.M degrees were awarded. In addition, 45 of the law graduates received certificates in high-tech law, 43 in public interest law and six in international law.

Mikva, a nationally-known retired federal court judge from Chicago who served as White House counsel from 1994–1996, told graduates that they “are now and will continue to be engaged in a demanding but collegial exercise of a role in a social conscience.”

The former Illinois assemblyman and five-term Congressman from Chicago said, “It is possible to prosper and serve others. It is possible to be a mother and an important, useful member of the profession. You need not and ought not be satisfied with any less than the full expectations that a career in the law ought to provide.

In closing, Mikva told the graduates, “Congratulations and welcome to a noble profession. You’re just in time.”

Locatelli’s address reminded the class of 2000 that they should be proud of their calling to practice law.

“You go forth with laudable, high ideals,” he said. “You go forth as women and men of competence, conscience, and compassion.”

He urged the students to be “lights that make the legal system a path to peace and tolerance; justice and humility; gratitude and faith.

“In your profession you are called to open the eyes of those blinded by prejudice, discrimination and hatred of people who happen to have a different color skin, come from a different culture, or have grown up in a different religion.”

The SCU School of Law, in which approximately 900 students are enrolled, was founded in 1912. The school offers specialty certificates in three areas: intellectual property law, international law and public interest law.

The law school also offers interdisciplinary courses, and a joint J.D./MBA program. It is accredited by the American Bar Association and the State Bar of California, and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools, the Conference of Western Law Schools, and the Law School Admission Council.

Santa Clara University, the oldest institution of higher education in California, is a private Catholic, Jesuit university with approximately 4,500 undergraduate and 3,200 graduate students. Home to the Mission Santa Clara de Asis, the University celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2000-2001.

For more information, contact Barry Holtzclaw, 498-554-5126, or see E-mail:

Tags: law_commencement

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