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UNH School of Law grads urged to give back to community

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 17. 2014 9:36PM
U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. addresses the gathering at Saturday's ceremony. (Tim Buckland/Union Leader)

CONCORD - Use at least a portion of your upcoming legal career to serve those who can't afford your hourly rates, the 123 law graduates, to go with 36 Master's degrees, for the University of New Hampshire School of Law were told during Saturday's commencement.

"You've got a duty to represent your clients zealously, but you're not just a hired gun when you're out there. You also have a duty to the public," U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said during his commencement address. "You take on an obligation to do your part to ensure that our legal system offers equal justice to all, not just the economic elites."

Verrilli, who was conferred an honorary doctorate of law, urged the graduates to spend 10 percent of their careers performing pro bono work.

He said he has strived to do so during his career, often defending death row inmates.His urging was echoed by fellow honorary doctorate recipient Jonathan Lippman, chief justice of the New York Court of Appeals, New York state's highest court, who said there is a "crisis" in access to justice for the poor. Lippman has mandated pro bono work for New York state law students.

"We have to recognize, as lawyers, as judges, that it is our special, moral and ethical obligation to provide representation for those most in need of legal services," he said.

Patrick Ives, student speaker for the juris doctor graduates, said he and his classmates put in the equivalent of 600,000 combined hours of legal work during their three years of law school.

"If those hours had been billable, our class gift could have been a minor league baseball stadium," Ives said.

Despite a forecast that had called for rain throughout Saturday, the ceremony was held outside under a tent at Concord's White Park, which is adjacent to the school, in 75 degree weather featuring blue skies.

"You have one principle responsibility as dean of the law school, and that's to ensure good weather," law school Dean John T. Broderick Jr., a former chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

Concord Commencement