Scott Sternberg, President of the LSU Law Student Bar Association (SBA), accepted the Distinguished Service Award on behalf of the Class of 2010 from Chancellor Jack M. Weiss at the LSU Law Center’s Commencement exercises.
“Your class has had an enduring, positive impact on the school,” said Chancellor Jack M. Weiss as he presented the LSU Law Center’s Distinguished Service Award to the Class of 2010 during Commencement exercises held on May 28. “You made a difference.”
The Distinguished Service Award is the highest honor that is bestowed by the Law Center. The award was made in recognition of the extraordinary contributions by the Class of 2010 to academic and student life.
Scott Sternberg ’10, President of the LSU Law Student Bar Association (SBA), accepted the award on behalf of the class. “The Distinguished Service Award was the exciting culmination of a long journey for the Class of 2010,” said Sternberg, upon reflecting on the award.
In his Commencement remarks, Weiss recalled the unprecedented level of student engagement and service by this year’s graduating class.
You are, in all seriousness, a very special class to me.
We started here at LSU Law together, in August 2007, nearly three years ago.
I was a rookie Chancellor; you were brand new law students.
Neither of us knew what to expect of the other, or of the school itself.
We’ve come a long way since then, together.
We’ve shared some great classroom discussions.
We’ve had countless meetings to discuss things that concerned us.
I’ve been to your tailgates, and you’ve been to my home.
You have made the transition from backpacks to briefcases, ready to uphold the highest standards of the legal profession and to grow into leadership roles in your community, your state, and your nation.
I have treasured getting to know you, and will truly miss you.
Your class has made a lasting mark on the Law Center. In doing so, you have discovered something far more important about yourselves than we could ever hope to teach you in a classroom.
I will call that “something” civic virtue: the power of those who care about their community to improve it through commitment, creativity, and courage.
There are lots of forms of courage. But among them is the willingness to get involved when you don’t have to, and to speak out when others won’t or just don’t.
Thanks to the engagement of your class, the vital core of the Law Center remains intact, indeed, more so than ever before. But, we are a very different school today than we were three years ago, and one far better attuned to the needs of 21st century law students.
You’ve initiated some changes; inspired others; supported and helped to shape the updating of important parts of our law school curriculum and student life.
Let me just remind you of a few of which we can all be justly proud.
Three years ago, we recognized only the top ten percent of the class at graduation—Order of the Coif. That was it.
Today, the top 25% of the class—some 46 of you versus about 19 who would have been recognized under the old system—will graduate with various levels of academic honors signified by honors cords; the leaders of moot court and trial ad are recognized in our program; and those who have distinguished themselves through pro bono service also are listed in the program and will wear their own honors cords.
Three years ago, we had no International Law Society; no Chancellor’s Student Advisory Board; no student organization serving the Law Center’s LGBT community; and we had never hosted a Black Law Students Association regional convention.
All that, too, has changed in your three years, with your help.
Three years ago, we had no clinical legal education program worthy of the name.
Today we have a vibrant and coherent array of live client clinics and externships. You embraced the new program and made it work.
Three years ago, our 4.0 grading system looked to employers just like every other law school’s. But in fact the grades we awarded were nearly half a point below law students from other schools. And grades varied unevenly from class to class and section to section.
Today, your grades, and those of classes to follow, are on a par with other schools, and the disparities between classes and sections have been eliminated. LSU Law students will compete with students from other schools, and with each other, on a level playing field.
Three years ago, you, and every other LSU Law student, were required to attend a semester of summer school. This requirement interfered with job opportunities and made choices for students that students should be able to make for themselves.
Today, we still offer our wonderful program in Lyon (which has a high enrollment again this year), and we still teach summer school for those who want to attend (and many do), but students who have other priorities and opportunities are free to pursue them.
The Law Review, Moot Court, Trial Advocacy, the Civilian, the Barrister’s Bowl, football tailgates, even Assault and Flattery (despite that utterly despicable skit portraying me as Dean Vernon Wormer from Animal House) have all leapt forward under the leadership of your class.
But something even more profound has changed.
Three years ago, students at LSU Law were, to a far greater degree than they are today, the more or less passive recipients of whatever the faculty and the Administration decided about academic policies and student life.
Not the Class of 2010!
On your watch, students have become active participants in the governance of the school.
And you earned that seat at the table through your thoughtful and constructive contributions to the changes we have made together in the last three years.
You leave this legacy of responsible participation to generations of LSU Law students who will come after you.
Sternberg recalled the many substantive opportunities for engagement that were given to the Class. “The LSU Law Center was a lot different the first day we showed up for class. As we leave the school, we know that it took a lot of cooperation and vision from the administration, faculty and the student body to make the school a better place to teach and learn. The Distinguished Service Award meant so much to our class because we had so many people heavily involved in a diverse list of campus activities, all of which we feel our class made a distinct mark on. I think the faculty and administration also share in this award, because without their support, we would not have felt so empowered. When I talk to alumni or prospective students about LSU Law, I always talk about the amazing campus community we have in such a small environment. From the Law Review to the Black Law Students Association, our traveling advocacy teams, the International Law Society, the Student Bar Association, The Civilian, and the plethora of other organizations, students in the class of 2010 have left a legacy of involvement. We revived or injected life into some organizations, like the Public Interest Law Society and the Black Law Students Association, and started others, like the International Law Society or the Law School Tailgating Club. I think that our class was honored and humbled to receive the award, particularly humbled because in being so involved, we believed we were just doing what was best for our campus,” concluded Sternberg.
“The bronze Distinguished Service plaque will hang in a place of honor at the Law Center,” said Chancellor Weiss. “We want all future students to know of the important contributions that the Class of 2010 made to their future.”