MU School of Law sends off 163 new graduates

Sunday, May 13, 2012 | 5:46 p.m. CDT
David Huffman Ward is hooded by MU School of Law professors Kandice Johnson* and Thomas Lambert at the school's graduation ceremony. The ceremony was held Sunday afternoon in Jesse Auditorium.

COLUMBIA — Before the new graduates were presented with their hoods, the dean of the MU School of Law had one last lesson to teach them.

"Don't ever forget why you wanted to be a lawyer," R. Lawrence Dessem said.


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The MU School of Law had its graduation ceremony at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in Jesse Auditorium. The school issued 163 degrees: 12 master of laws degrees in dispute resolution and 151 juris doctor degrees. Of the 17 commencements held over the course of the university's graduation weekend, the law school's was one of two held Sunday.

Dessem opened up the ceremony by explaining to the students that what is important now is what they do with their degree and to always hold onto why they wanted it in the first place.

"The question is not what has this student learned but what has this student become," Dessem said. "The same reason I went into the military is the same reason I went into law school. I felt a call to a public service, and a desire to be a part of something larger than myself."

Kenneth McClain, father to law school graduate Lauren McClain, elaborated on his positive experience with the MU School of Law. This is his second daughter to go through the law school and a third will be attending in the fall.

"I was very appreciative to the law school and the support of the community here," he said. "She had a wonderful experience with the London Law Consortium and she wouldn't have been able to do that without the law school here."

Patrick Starke, president-elect of the Missouri Bar Association, was invited as a guest speaker. His speech included 11 pieces of advice he believed most useful for young attorneys, some being as simple as not "messing with your trust fund."

"You're gonna have clients you don't like and cases you don't want," Starke said. "Remember the sign on your door doesn't say, 'Friend at Law.'"

Starke nailed in the point that it isn't important if something becomes routine for the graduates, because it will never be routine for the clients. He said that, chances are, even if the graduates have handled several divorces or DWIs, it's the client's first time in that situation and it's important the future lawyers treat it as such.

"People want to have hope," Starke said. "Your job is to tell them what hole they have fallen into, but always make sure to let them leave with some hope."

Justin Rapoff, brother of law school graduate Jordan Rapoff, said they have lawyers in the family and that Jordan has always wanted to help others in the same way.

"She's put a lot of hard work and dedication into her schooling," Justin Rapoff said. "Her parents were a tremendous help to her the entire way."

Josh Moore, a law school graduate, said the biggest challenge was trying to balance things while in law school. He said his family helped him get through it.

"I'm glad it's over," Moore said. "It was a fun three years."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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