Cleveland-Marshall College of Law first-year students learned what it means to be a lawyer from some of C|M|LAW’s most distinguished graduates during a capstone Orientation Week program.
Students heard candid advice from Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor ’80, United States Congresswoman Marcia Fudge ’83, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson ’83, Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley ’04, United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio Judge Benita Pearson ’95, The Game Sports Management and Media NFL Agent Miles Welo ’14, ACLU of Ohio Staff Attorney Elizabeth Bonham ’15, Taft Stettinius & Hollister Associate Michael Bowen ’16, and C|M|LAW Student Bar Association Past President Tiffany Henderson ’17.
Judge O’Connor, Congresswoman Fudge, Mayor Jackson and Council President Kelley were featured on a panel of public service leaders, explaining how Cleveland-Marshall helped prepare them for success. They described how valuable their legal degree has been as practicing attorneys and beyond. “As a lawyer, people trust you to be their advocate,” said Council President Kelley. “When you look at how changes are made in our nation and this community, lawyers play a huge role.”
Specific to their careers in public service, the panelists explained that, while they have made sacrifices personally and professionally, their service is the ultimate reward. “Public service is a great calling, but it is not for everyone,” explained Mayor Jackson. “If you can serve the public, you have the greatest opportunity to affect individuals, families and lives.”
The panelists each explained how their careers developed and gave the students advice on how to become successful professionals. “As long as you do well every single day, you will impress people and opportunities will come,” explained Judge O’Connor.
That advice was echoed by Congresswoman Fudge, who explained to the students how her opportunities to serve as mayor of Warrensville Heights and later in Congress both arrived due to unforeseen circumstances. “Life gives you opportunities and you have to be ready to take advantage of them,” she said.
Welo, Bonham, Bowen and Henderson had a special perspective for students, having been in their seats not long ago. They spoke about adjusting to the struggles in law school, how their classmates became some of their closest friends, their most important experiential and classroom learning opportunities, and professionalism.
Judge Pearson focused on the importance of professionalism in her keynote speech, illustrating its importance by explaining the intensive background check that came during her appointment as a federal judge in 2011 and how a bad interaction from 10 or 20 years in her past could have made a difference.
“What it means to be a lawyer, it means to be a professional,” she said. “Always do the right thing, whether it is in public or in private.”
Judge Pearson also recommended seeking counsel with professors starting early in law school and regrets waiting until her final years to have done so. She also suggested that students filter all the advice they are receiving as they begin law school – including her own.
“You will be receive so much advice your first year you will want to cover your ears – unless it fits who you are.”