The Catholic University of America

The last steps to climb for the Class of 2010 were those that led into the the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. 


Class of 2010 is Urged to Follow "Three Signposts"


Over their three years they have weathered demanding exams, long and exhausting days, significant debt and, on their final day as law students, threatening thunderstorms that drove the post-ceremony reception indoors. 

But nothing could dampen the spirits of the approximately 300 members of the Class of 2010 and their families and friends as they gathered together one last time on May 28 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Smiling, happy and relaxed at last, the new graduates reveled in the camaraderie of a unique shared experience. They were also treated to some outstanding speeches during the program.
L-R: Preston Thomas, Class of 2010; Veryl Miles, dean of the Columbus School of Law; and Hon.Paul Michel, chief judge of of United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, delivered the commencement addresses.
First up was Preston Thomas, chosen to give the commencement address on behalf of students. Thomas, who was named Best Oralist at the Sixteenth Annual National Telecommunications Moot Court Competition in March, displayed his oratorical skills again as he discussed the critical role that lawyers play in a civil society.
“It starts now. A lot of people have been very good to us, and there are a lot of people in the world who desperately need our help,” said Thomas “It’s time to return the favor and we have all the skills we need to get to work. I don’t say this to you lightly: We’ve literally got a world to save.”
The theme of service to others was echoed by Veryl V. Miles, dean of the Columbus School of Law. Reminding the graduating class that “the law school is a better place because you came this way,” she enumerated her reasons for saying so. Miles ticked off a number of pro bono highlights over the past three years, including an unwavering commitment to helping the residents of the post-Katrina Gulf Coast.
“Through your commitment to community service, your generosity has touched communities as far as Haiti and as near as the Taylor Street Capital Area Food Bank. As CUA lawyers, I know that you will continue to combine all that you have learned with all that you can give – and it will be for the better,” said Miles.
The featured commencement speaker was the Hon. Paul R. Michel, chief judge of United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. A highly respected jurist with a national reputation, Judge Michel has adjudicated several thousand appeals and written more than 800 opinions during his 44-year career. His legal expertise covers an amazing breadth, including constitutional, criminal, administrative, securities, immigration and state law cases.
Judge Michel has spent most of his legal career in public service, a path that he cheerfully conceded “may have left me with fewer assets than many lawyers, but I have no regrets and savor many satisfactions.”
And that was exactly the point. The distinguished jurist, who has seen it all, offered the graduates six propositions, three to reject and three to embrace. The three “signposts” that must be passed by, said Michel, are the ideas that law is a good way to get rich, a useful tool to compel others to do what you want, or that if an act is “legal” it should be condoned and done. All three are false and must be rejected.
Left: Judge Michel was awarded on honorary degree from Catholic University; right; the members of the Class Gift Committee.  
On the other hand, said the judge, the signposts to follow are these:
  • Law as a learned profession requires life-long study. “You did not complete your law studies; you completed just the first three years. I am now in year 45. Learning beats earning by miles,” he said.
  • Law is a service profession, like medicine or the religious life. It should be a calling, a vocation. Your highest role is to advise and assist others. Service also means working for the community and the poor.
  • Life in the law is meant to be joyful. Search for joy, seek satisfaction, sow self-respect, and secure the respect of others. Build a career by earning a reputation, a true asset. 
Judge Michel’s commencement address for the Columbus School of Law, which conferred an honorary degree upon him, was his last speech as a public official. He retires from the bench on May 31, 2010. In his concluding remarks, given at the end of a long and stellar career, he offered 300 young people at the beginning of their careers much to think about.
In addition to thanking their families for the sacrifices they made in sending them to law school, Michel urged the newly minted lawyers to never forget the contributions of the professors who taught and guided them along the way.
“Remember them, visit them, imitate them. The examples you have experienced in school lit the spark that fans into flame that will light and warm your life-long way in the law,” said Michel.