Over the weekend, Mississippi Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann delivered a commencement address to the 2020 graduating class at the University of Mississippi School of Law, his alma mater.
Hosemann offered the following insight (as shared via his Facebook page):
I sat in your same chair about a half a century ago.
Back then, Archie was playing for the Rebels, and our apartment rent was $49 a month. I assume that amount has increased.
When we watched one of the three stations, you had to go to the TV to turn the knob to change the channel.
People actually drove their cars to the Grove and served food and beverages from their trunks. The rumor I helped to plant the trees in the Grove is at least slightly exaggerated.
So now, I have been invited back to speak to you. The invitation gave no limitation as to content—only to give the address.
I thought about the words William Faulkner used when he addressed the Delta Council in May of 1951: “What we need is not fewer people, but more room between them, where those who stand on their own feet, could, and those who won’t, might have to.”
As I thought about those prophetic words, I concluded this was way too deep for me—and on this day, probably for you as well.
And so, I want to just give you some brief advice from 49 years of practicing law and being in public service.
The University Mississippi School of Law is a place you go from, not a place you go to.
You will leave here to the honored practice of law. The practice is unlimited in scope and continually parsed into sub-specialties. Gravitate toward the one which fulfills your expectations, and one you look forward to daily.
You will not reach your expectations if it is just a job.
If you join a firm, come to work before the partners and leave after they do.
Legal assistants and court personnel will control at least one-half of what you accomplish.
Appreciate the ones who assist you and respect all the others. They will make you look smarter than you really are.
Read voraciously about matters which affect your clients. You will always be learning about the law, as you have been trained to do so.
Your worth to your client will not only be based solely upon legal knowledge, but your ability to assimilate their personal needs into a legal context.
The most important person in the lawyer-client relationship is the client. They have entrusted you with a legal matter for which they are not capable of performing themselves. You are licensed to do so. Anything less than your full effort will eventually erode your own ability and you will fail in your fiduciary capacity.
Because you are competent, you will be battered with numerous requests for your time and expertise. Devote the time and expertise required to each legal matter.
You are a professional and you can and should decline representations where time constraints or ethical considerations prohibit you from fulfilling your clients and your expectations.
Politicians will draft, implement, and judge the laws you practice under. Know them personally. Commit some of your time, talent, and funds to support those you believe are like-minded to you. Oppose those who are not.
Most importantly, less than one percent of the citizens achieve what you have achieved here today.
It is an honor, but as importantly, an obligation. Your peers will value your opinion. What you believe important to your society will become important to others.
The matters to which you devote your personal time will shape the public discourse. This may be in public office—which is an honorable endeavor—or in your now much larger sphere of legal influence. Embrace this personal obligation.
Mississippi will not be a better place without your leadership.
The University of Mississippi School of Law is a place you go from. Your professional and personal life’s journey will continue from here.
You are well prepared.
Good luck and may God Bless each one of you!