Lexington, VA • Saturday, May 08, 2010
The Washington and Lee University School of Law celebrated its 155th commencement on Saturday, May 8. During the ceremony, the University awarded 123 juris doctor degrees along with two master of laws degrees to M. Asif Ehsan and Sebghatullah Ebrahimi, students from Afghanistan who attended W&L through a U.S. State Department initiative promoting justice reform in Afghanistan.
Graduation festivities began Friday afternoon on the Lewis Hall lawn with the annual awards ceremony and presentation of walking sticks. The John W. Davis Prize for Law, awarded to the graduate with the highest cumulative grade point average, was awarded to Erica Blayre Haggard of Carrollton, Texas. Three students graduated summa cum laude, 18 graduated magna cum laude, and 19 graduated cum laude. 12 students were named to Order of the Coif, an honorary scholastic society that encourages excellence in legal education. A list of honors and awards appears below.
In addition to achievements in the classroom, the Class of 2010 distinguished itself with its pro bono service to the law and the community, such as researching the quality of legal services available to Virginia's poor. In all, the class completed 6,240 hours of service during this academic year. 17 students were recognized for completing 100 hours or more of service.
The commencement ceremony began at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday with an opening invocation by Robert Maynard, step-father of graduating student Marti McCaleb. After the official welcome from President Ken Ruscio and remarks from Dean Rodney A. Smolla, the candidates were awarded their degrees.
Carolyn B. Lamm, an international arbitration, litigation, and trade lawyer from Washington, D.C., who has been ABA president since 2009, delivered this year's commencement address under a bright blue sky on the University's historic Front Campus.
In her remarks, Lamm told the graduates that they must always be principled and true to themselves and that "it is not just the rule of law that we are called upon to strengthen but the rule of just law."
"Never has the role of lawyer been more important than it is today. All persons are entitled to the benefit of the rule of law and adjudication of their rights," Lamm said. "Our American legal profession has a proud history of standing up to right wrongs, no matter how unpopular the cause, and to ensure that the defense of the unpopular is as vigorous as defense of mainstream."
She singled out the new Arizona law on immigration, saying that "we see all too much evidence of denying those … whom certain segments of society may hate the benefit of law in the name of national security, immigration enforcement and control, or otherwise.
"We must condemn such laws and seek to have the courts declare them unconstitutional and take a Constitutional approach to immigration control," she said. "Denial of legal rights and due process to any may evolve to denial of legal rights to many. We cannot tolerate this."
Afterwards, third-year class officers Joe Mercer and Eric Morris presented Ms. Lamm with her very own walking stick, traditionally given to students at the awards ceremony preceding graduation. The walking stick, or cane, originated in the 1920's as a way to distinguish third-year law students on campus. At that time, only two years of law school were required, and the walking stick served as a way to reward and honor those students who stayed for a third year.
Special honors at Friday's awards ceremony went to the following students:
- Erica Blayre Haggard was awarded the John W. Davis Prize for Law, given to the student with the highest cumulative grade point average.
- Nicholas J. Neidzwski won the Academic Progress Award for the most satisfactory scholastic progress in the final year.
- Jonathan Pratt Lockwood won the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association Award for effective trial advocacy.
- Erica Blayre Haggard won the Roy L. Steinheimer, Jr. Commercial Law Award for excellence in commercial law.
- Caitlin Roberts Cottingham and Eric Julian Hoffman shared in the Calhoun Bond University Service Award for significant contributions to the University community.
- John Christopher LaMont and Sarah Elizabeth Mielke shared in the Frederic L. Kirgis, Jr., International Law Award for excellence in international law.
- Marti Jo McCaleb won the National Association of Women Lawyers Award, given to an outstanding woman law student.
- Andrew J. Fadale won the Charles V. Laughlin Award for outstanding contributions to the moot court program.
- Christopher Robert Riano won the Randall P. Bezanson Award for outstanding contributions to diversity in the life of the Law School community.
- Joseph Charles Mercer won the Virginia Bar Family Law Section Award for excellence in the area of family law.
- Brett Michael Shockley won the American Bankruptcy Institute Medal for excellence in the study of bankruptcy law.
- Patrick Thomas Chamberlain won the Barry Sullivan Constitutional Law Award for excellence in constitutional law.
- Zachary Ian Mills and Rajeeve Thakur shared in the James W. H. Stewart Tax Law Award for excellence in tax law.
- George Brian Davis won the Thomas Carl Damewood Evidence Award for excellence in the area of evidence.
- Victoria Vance Corder and Nathan Joseph Marchese shared in the A. H. McLeod-Ross Malone Advocacy Award for distinction in oral advocacy.
- Jennifer-Ann Cantwell won the Student Bar Association President Award for services as the President of the Student Bar Association.