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Senior Day Speakers Celebrate the MLaw Family
Senior Day Speakers Celebrate the MLaw Family

By Jordan Poll
May 18, 2017

As their future career plans move closer to reality, the Michigan Law Class of 2017 spent their last day as students reflecting on their time at the Law School—the challenges they overcame and how they grew and supported one another as a family.

"I trust that many of you will agree that family is important at Michigan Law," said Dean Mark West. "I like to think of my lunches with students as the family dinner table, class reunions feel like family reunions, and faculty meetings often resemble family gatherings in every way you can imagine." As he looked from graduates to their family members in the audience, Dean West welcomed them all to the extended Michigan Law family. "You missed the cold calls, the readings, and the nights spent at some mysterious place called Rick's American Café. But you, too, have shared in the experiences as your family members learned and grew and changed within our family," he said.

With that, Dean West introduced the first parent-child Senior Day speakers in the 158-year history of the Law School—Richard "Dick" Pogue, '53, and David Pogue. With humor and familial repartee, this father-son duo epitomized the congenial dynamics of the Michigan Law family.

View the video of the 2017 Senior Day ceremony.

View a slideshow from Senior Day.

"We are beyond proud to be here," said David, the self-proclaimed black sheep of the Pogue family who diverged from the career path of his siblings, father, grandfather, and great grandfather when he decided that law school was not for him. "How is this father-son thing supposed to work?" asked David.

"Yes, especially since only one of us knows anything about being a lawyer," said Dick, a longtime antitrust and corporate litigator. He served as managing partner at Jones Day in Cleveland in the 1980s, and led the firm's growth into international markets.

"This is true. But, on the other hand, only one of us knows what it is like not to be a lawyer," said David, who is the tech critic for Yahoo Finance. He also is a monthly columnist for Scientific American, hosts PBS's NOVA, and has been a correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning since 2002. An Emmy- and Webby-winning writer, David is one of the world's bestselling how-to authors with more than three million copies in print. Following his graduation from Yale with distinction in music, he spent 10 years conducting and arranging Broadway musicals in New York.

Despite the apparent divergence of their career paths, Dick and David noted two commonalities—their need to embrace change, and the influence of technology.

"During my lifetime, a great sea change has occurred in the private practice of law," said Dick. He noted that earlier in his career, clients never shopped around and little was known about the internal workings of law firms. The direct solicitation of clients was forbidden. Then, in 1975 and again in 1977, the Supreme Court ruled the practice of law to be both a learned profession and a business, enabling law firms to market and advertise their services. "By the early 1980s, law firms were exploding in size and geographic reach. Large corporate law departments were growing. And, for better or for worse, competition became the order of the day," said Dick. He annually sponsors the Pogue Panel, which brings law firm leaders to campus to discuss the business of law with Michigan Law students.

"There is another huge sea change in every industry, including yours: technology," replied David, who recently reported on the development of autonomous vehicles and the implementation of Amazon's checkout-free grocery store for CBS Sunday Morning. Every business—including law firms—wants to lower costs, he explained. Firms are already using software extensively in the document review process. There have also been huge strides in quantitative legal prediction, where software analyzes the data and suggests outcomes. "This isn't automated trucks and grocery stores. This is human decision-making that used to require an experienced lawyer," said David.

This shift in legal practice is an opportunity for graduates to take what they have learned in law school and be equipped to excel in practice, the Pogues said.

Speaking from his own experience overcoming great change in the legal profession, Dick reassured graduates of their readiness to do the same. "Much has changed since I graduated from this great law school, but there are so many reasons why you, graduates, should feel confident entering the future," said Dick, who is a past recipient of distinguished alumni awards from the U-M Alumni Association and the Law School. "A Michigan degree, with all it says about excellence and Midwestern values, is a tremendous asset. Just know that whatever your pursuit, your Michigan Law degree will stand you in exceedingly good stead."

However, should they need the extra support, graduates should not hesitate to call upon their Michigan Law family. "You are the cream of the cream of the crop. Your prospects will be just fine. But, just in case, let give you my dad's cell phone number,” said David.

Professor Monica Hakimi offered graduates a lesson she learned while forging her own path as a child of Iranian immigrants raised in the United States. "The advice is, simply, to make your life your own," she said. "I think the best way to lead a truly fulfilling life is to own your own choices—to be deliberate about them, to make the decisions that are right for you." She explained how life is full of choices, particularly in one's career. While it can feel as though they do not have control over most of those decisions, Hakimi assured graduates that they do. "It's up to you to decide how to deal with those situations, what you'll take from the experience of disappointment or error, and then what your next steps will be," she said. She also reminded the Class of 2017 that even though the gravity of such decisions may seem overwhelming at times, Michigan Law graduates are never alone in making them. "The people in this room support you. Your friends and family in the audience, without whom—let's be honest—you likely would not be here today. Your law school classmates, who know you well and with whom, I hope, you've established strong bonds that help sustain you. And all of us on this stage. We will still be here for you. We hope that you'll keep in touch and come back to see us," she said.

As Eliza Wilton, a member of the Class of 2017, reiterated in her remarks, she and her classmates will continue being each other's support systems. "You are going to excellent law firms, prestigious clerkships, and vital public interest jobs. While I cannot tell you what being a lawyer in your respective field will be like, I do know how highly I think of you—how highly your classmates, professors, and future colleagues will think of you. I look forward to hearing all the amazing things you will inevitably do. And remember, no matter where you go, Go Blue."

During the ceremony, the candidates for juris doctor, master of laws, and master of laws in international tax degrees were hooded and received their certificates of Lawyers Club membership. In addition, Dean West recognized the recipients of the three top awards that the Law School presents to graduating students. Erin Chapman, Emma Ellman-Golan, and Deeva Shah received the Irving Stenn Jr. Award, which is given to students who have demonstrated leadership and contributed through extracurricular activities to the well-being and strength of the Law School. The Jane L. Mixer Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to advancing the cause of social justice was presented to Omar El-Halwagi and Dana Leib. Recipients of the Henry M. Bates Memorial Scholarship Award, which is widely held to be the Law School's highest honor, were Katherine Hurrelbrink, Claire Lally, and Alexandra Reed.

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