“Today, you start walking, talking and acting with respect for the law and being good citizens,” Waller said Thursday to an ethics-focused orientation for first-year students at the University of Mississippi Law School.
Speaking in the packed auditorium, Mississippi Bar President Hugh Keating of Gulfport reminded his listeners that “somehow, some of our fellow attorneys have lost their way,” saying the end does not justify the means.
But, he said, in quoting former Gov. William Winter, “We must remember that it will not be enough to be good lawyers, we must be good citizens.”
Waller put his own spin on that message, citing the importance of respect for the law and being a good citizen.
He gave the incoming students three figures from history as examples of those concepts: Mississippi U.S. Sen. L.Q.C. Lamar, who became a U.S. Supreme Court justice, Mississippi Lt. Gov. Evelyn Gandy and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
He cited Lamar as a former Confederate who learned the importance of reconciliation after the Civil War, Marshall as a great protector of civil rights and Gandy who repeatedly broke historic ground for women and public education.
“These people represent three concepts – integrity, respect for others and service over self,” Waller noted as he commended them to the students.
Joseph Rivera of Huntsville, Ala., was among the first-year students.
“I think it’s important to keep ethics before us,” he said. “We should bring integrity to the profession instead of thinking about what we can get from it.”
Later, dozens of attorneys led small group discussions with the students about their future legal careers.
Ben Cooper, an assistant professor, said these discussions are “a good way to set the stage” for the students who will join the legal profession in a few years.
“We are in a monopoly profession,” the ethics teacher noted. “We must remember that it comes with responsibilities and obligations to many.”