Duke Law School Welcomes the Class of 2008
Duke Law School formally welcomed its JD class of 2008 on August 15th. Calling the law “a beautiful thing … complex, mind-boggling, fascinating, and terribly exciting” in her welcoming remarks, Dean Katharine Bartlett promised the incoming students a law school experience that would be intellectually challenging and thrilling, amounting to more than the acquisition of a body of knowledge and a method of thinking, however important both may be to their future success. In fact, she said, honing such skills as self-awareness, the ability to work with others toward a common goal, to develop commitments and act on them, to bring out the best in others, and the habit of attaching oneself to a community, are key to a future of personal and professional fulfillment.
“When I talk to the leaders of law firms all over the country, they agree on one thing: All students who graduate from the top law schools can do the work required…but they do not bring equal degrees of emotional intelligence, people smarts, a positive, can-do attitude, maturity, respect for others, ability to work productively as a team and be a creative problem-solver. You can learn these things at Duke, and if you do, it will set you apart from other lawyers entering the market in 2008.”
Associate Dean of Student Affairs Jill Miller introduced the students to the Duke Blueprint to LEAD (Lawyer Education and Development), emphasizing the School’s commitment to professionalism in legal training. In doing so, she paid special tribute to Vikram Patel ’05, immediate past president of the Duke Bar Association, who recently won an ABA award for being the top student government leader in the country on the basis of student nominations, one of which Miller read aloud.
“ ‘Everyone will tell you that [Vik] never lost sight of the big picture: He was always looking for opportunities to improve the world around him, truly he will be leaving this place better than he found it.’
“To me, that is professionalism,” Miller said. “I hope you will truly think about what it is you want your classmates to say about you when you graduate.”
For his part, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs Chris McLaughlin ’96 highlighted another Blueprint principle, the importance of building strong relationships at Duke.
“The relationships you build, starting today, will be the most important thing you leave law school with. [They are] going to be more important than any course you take, more important than any paper you write, more important than the first job you take after law school.” He encouraged the students to take advantage of the Law School’s extensive and dedicated alumni network.
“I guarantee you there is someone out there doing the exactly the kind of work you are interested in roughly the same area of the world as you are interested in working.”
After a faculty panel on strategies and insights for succeeding in Law School, Jay Bilas ‘92, offered words of advice and inspiration, also emphasizing the importance of cultivating relationships while in law school.
“It’s important to study, but you should also learn to enjoy each other and help each other. You’ve got an unbelievable mix of people in this room. They all have great stories and varied backgrounds. Get to know as many people as well as you can. You’ll never regret it.
“Leadership is important, but what’s also important is being on a great team,” said the former student athlete, a veteran of one of Duke’s legendary Final Four basketball teams, and current ESPN anchor.