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Dean Mark West formally welcomed members of the Class of 2017 to Michigan Law on Aug. 27. 

Dean Mark West Welcomes Class of 2017 to Michigan Law

By Jenny Whalen
August 27, 2014

"Welcome. You have arrived."

Addressing the Class of 2017 in Honigman Auditorium Aug. 27, 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 spectacular individuals, but you are not just individuals; you are the Michigan Law School Class of 2017. And it’s not just a class: it’s an idea, a tradition, a tie to something greater than that," West said. "As special as you are as an individual, you are now a part of an incredibly vibrant, exciting place that connects over 21,000 alumni."

Speaking of his own experience in law, West challenged students to perceive their chosen field as more than a set of hard-and-fast rules, or a set of words to be manipulated by clever arguments.

“Law is about interpretation, processes of interpretation, and enforcement," West said. And though argument is key to the legal profession, other factors can trump even the shrewdest reasoning—namely truth, empathy, compassion, and reality.

"So while argument is important, it sometimes is less important than other tools of lawyers," he added. "It is lawyers who must be creative, imaginative, and sensitive to ensure that the legal system is fair, robust, and efficient."

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 will learn to think like a lawyer. You will learn to be a lawyer. You will get your degree. But that’s not why you’re here. You are here—at Michigan—to cultivate a lifelong association with all that is here," West said. "When you leave, you will miss it. Some people, some really successful and happy people, describe their time here as the best years of their lives. It is a special time."

And though that time promises to be challenging, West charged the Class of 2017 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. "Your predecessors—155 years of predecessors—have done amazing things, and we know that you will too."

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