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Dean Mark West formally welcomed members of the Class of 2016 to Michigan Law on Aug. 28.

Dean Mark West Welcomes Class of 2016 to Michigan Law

By Jenny Whalen
August 30, 2013

"You have made it. You've arrived."

Addressing the Class of 2016 in Honigman Auditorium Aug. 28, Dean Mark West formally welcomed the newest members of the University of Michigan Law School to the community they will share for the next three years.

"You are not just individuals. You are the Michigan Law School Class of 2016, and you will always be a member of that class. And it's not just a class: It's an idea, a tradition, a tie to something greater than you," said West, who begins his term as the 17th dean of the Law School this fall.

West challenged students to perceive their chosen field as more than a set of official rules, or a collection of words to be manipulated by clever argument.

“The essence of the law lies in the interpretation of those rules, in the processes that are used to interpret those rules, and in the actors and institutions that enforce those rules," West said of the law. And though argument is key to the legal profession, other factors can trump even the shrewdest reasoning—namely truth, empathy, compassion, and “pesky” reality, he added.

"It is lawyers who must use creativity, imagination, and sensitivity—along with, yes, argument—to ensure that the legal system—this fascinating morass that is far more than a set of rules or a debate competition—is fair, robust, and efficient," he said.

But not all of these skills will be taught in the classroom. Many, West said, will develop as a result of the collegiality that defines the Michigan experience.

"You are not here to get your degree, and not simply to learn to 'think like a lawyer' or even merely to learn how to be a lawyer," West said. "You are here—at Michigan—to develop a lifelong association with all that is here. There will never be another time like this for you."

As he stated the Law School community’s expectations of “piercing analytical rigor and the highest quality of thought,” he charged the Class of 2016 to strive over the next three years to maintain their authenticity, remain conscious of the changes they make, and take the time to laugh and love. “You have exciting times ahead,” West said. “And we know you will make us proud.”

(View an image gallery of fall orientation.)

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