U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) last night told University of Memphis alumni that today the country needs attorneys willing to practice law in the “grand manner” by being active in the community through public service. The Senator delivered the keynote address at the 5th Annual Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law Alumni Dinner.
“I hope we will graduate more lawyers who want to serve in government. Our nation needs your help,” Alexander said. “In a time when our country has energy, terrorism, globalization and health insurance issues to deal with I hope some of you would want to serve the government.”
During his address, Alexander spoke about his experiences in law school at New York University and clerking for Judge John Minor Wisdom of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Alexander cited Judge Wisdom, former United States Attorney Hal Hardin and former Tennessee Senator Howard Baker, Jr. as examples of attorneys who practiced law and served the public in the “grand manner.”
The senator also praised four Memphis lawyers who the University honored at the dinner as “pillars of excellence: Walter Bailey, Emmett Marston, John Thomason and Lee Winchester.
Alexander said Arthur T. Vanderbilt, who was a dean of the New York University Law School, used to encourage his students to practice law “in the grand manner.” Alexander said this meant that lawyers, in addition to being superb litigators and wise counselors, also should strive to be involved in public service.
Alexander said the lawyers should respect the institution of government and wake up every day trying to do something constructive to make our country a little better.
“We do need outstanding lawyers who would defend the rights of individuals and who, from time to time, will sue the government,” Alexander said. “But we also need, especially in these times, men and women who will serve in government during their careers and take an active role in public life.”
The University of Memphis School of Law has become one of the best in the state, with the highest bar passage rate in Tennessee over the last 15 years. Ninety-eight percent of graduates are placed in jobs within 9 months, well above the state and national average.
In 2006, the University of Memphis announced the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law would be moving its campus to the Customs House and Post Office Building in Downtown Memphis.