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Summer Starters Begin Their Student Careers With Integrity Pledge

By John Masson
May 30, 2013

For Michigan Law's incoming summer starters, the first order of business is integrity.

That's why, as they wound up their first day on campus Tuesday, the entire class gathered in a classroom in South Hall to pledge their commitment in a ceremony led by 1993 Michigan Law grad Raymond M. Kethledge, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.Image of integrity pledge and Constitution

Kethledge urged the incoming 1Ls—each of whom received a hardcover copy of the Constitution thanks to the generous support of 1959 graduate John Butler Schwemm—to remember that character is key in the legal profession. He also reminded them that character means "you see the right, and follow it."

It's not always an easy path, acknowledged Kethledge, who was introduced by Assistant Dean David Baum. "Seeing the right" can entail harsh intellectual honesty and a hard-headed, objective analysis of each tricky situation, with no room for personal exceptionalism. The reward, however, is worth the cost: integrity.

The short event wasn't entirely solemn, though. Kethledge urged the new students to cultivate personal relationships with the highly qualified people who now make up their coterie of classmates and professors, and he recommended enjoying some of the other perks of law school, as well.

"Remember, you're surrounded by remarkable people," he said. "Enjoy working in shorts and carrying a backpack while you can."

Michigan Law's integrity pledge is based on a quote from the school's early benefactor, 1882 graduate William W. Cook, who wrote, "The character of the legal profession depends on the character of the law schools. The character of the law schools forecasts the future of America."

It's been on the opening day agenda of each incoming class since 2009. A copy of the Commitment to Integrity pledge is available here.

(View an image gallery of summer starter orientation events.)


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