By Katie VloetAugust 28, 2015
Integrity and decency are the fundamental building blocks on which one should construct a successful and rewarding legal career, the Hon. Judith E. Levy, '96, told incoming students at Michigan Law.
"Your reputation for truthfulness, honesty, civility, and decency, and even kindness is the most important thing you have as a lawyer," said Levy, U.S. District Court judge for the Eastern District of Michigan. "It matters what you do now, during your education, and during your early years as a lawyer...how you will be viewed for years to come."
Levy, also a lecturer at Michigan Law, was the speaker at the annual Commitment to Integrity ceremony, during which new students promise they will maintain high standards of academic conduct, professional conduct, and personal conduct. The language of the commitment is taken in part from the words of Law School alumnus and benefactor William W. Cook, class of 1882. The words also echo the beginning of the Law School's code of conduct.
"It's not OK to fail to take responsibility for your actions," Levy said. "I challenge each and every one of you here today at the University of Michigan Law School to practice humility, honesty, decency, and truthfulness." The judicial system, she said, "is only as good as the hands to whom we entrust it."
When she has experienced ethical challenges as a lawyer or judge, she said, she has found a trusted colleague to work through the issues with her. She encouraged students to find a colleague they can trust as a soundboard on ethical matters.
"These issues will come up for all of you—this profession is full of them. They can be subtle, complicated, and heart wrenching. The key to working through them and coming out on the right side of the law is to do just that—identify the issues, do your own research, but also find an experienced lawyer, including your professors and classmates, to help you sort them out."
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