I recently had the opportunity to present a keynote address at the 8th annual  National Black Pre-Law Conference , Legacy Builders Awards Dinner in Houston Texas.  I was honored to have had the opportunity to share a bit of my own personal journey with the young future lawyers assembled in the banquet hall.  I am sharing the full text of my keynote address, below.

 

 

KEYNOTE REMARKS BY BRIAN TIPPENS
NATIONAL BLACK PRE-LAW CONFERENCE
HOUSTON TEXAS – NOVEMBER 3, 2012

I AM INCREDIBLY PROUD AND HONORED TO HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO ADDRESS ALL OF YOU THIS EVENING, AS WE NEAR THE END OF WHAT I AM SURE YOU WILL AGREE HAS BEEN AN INCREDIBLE FEW DAYS.
WHEN EVANGELINE ASKED ME SEVERAL MONTHS AGO IF I WOULD CONSIDER SPEAKING WITH ALL OF YOU AT THIS WONDERFUL EVENT I THINK THAT IT TOOK ME ABOUT 5 SECONDS TO COME BACK WITH A HEARTFELT YES !!!

I APPRECIATE THAT THERE SIMPLY IS NO OTHER GATHERING LIKE THIS.  I JUMPED AT THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE A PART OF THIS 8TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE WHICH DOES SUCH INCREDIBLE WORK TO HELP MOTIVATED, INSPIRED INDIVIDUALS LIKE MANY OF YOU IN THE AUDIENCE PRIOR TO BEGINNING THEIR LAW SCHOOL CAREERS SO THEY CAN HAVE THE “INSIDER” INFORMATION AND CONNECTIONS THEY NEED TO HELP THEM TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN THEIR QUESTS TO BECOME LAWYERS.
I AM SURE THAT AS YOU RESEARCHED THIS EVENT WHILE YOU WERE CONSIDERING ATTENDING, YOU SAW THE IMPRESSIVE NUMBERS THAT REFLECT THE SUCCESS OF THIS GATHERING, BUT I BELIEVE THAT THEY BEAR REPEATING.

IN THE PAST SEVEN YEARS, THIS CONFERENCE HAS:

  • REGISTERED OVER 1900 PRE-LAW STUDENTS  REPRESENTING 426 CITIES IN 36 STATES AND THE US VIRGIN ISLANDS
  • ATTRACTED  178 OF THE APPROXIMATELY 200 ABA APPROVED LAW SCHOOLS  IN THE US
  • HOSTED JUST UNDER 200 MOCK LAW SCHOOL CLASSES, CLINICS AND OTHER WORKSHOP SESSIONS
    FEATURED HUNDREDS OF COMMUNITY LEADERS, LAW STUDENTS, LAWYERS, LAW SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS, AND JUDGES WHO HAVE SERVED AS FEATURED PANELISTS, MODERATORS, AND WORKSHOP PRESENTERS.

THE LIST OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS GOES ON AND ON.  ONE NEED ONLY LOOK AT ALL OF THE TALENTED FOLKS IN THE ROOM TO KNOW THAT THIS TRULY IS AN INCREDIBLE GATHERING. 
THIS IS A GATHERING THAT IS MORE THAN NECESSARY AT A TIME WHEN AFRICAN- AMERICANS MAKE UP APPROXIMATELY 13% OF THE U.S. POPULATION, BUT LESS THAN 7% OF THE NATION’S LAW STUDENTS.
AND NONE OF THIS WOULD BE POSSIBLE WITHOUT THE TIRELESS EFFORTS OF OUR HOST EVANGELINE MITCHELL.  LET’S TAKE JUST A MOMENT TO RECOGNIZE EVANGELINE.  SHE HAS PERSONALLY AND SELFLESSLY AND SIGNIFICANTLY CHANGED THE LIVES OF THOUSANDS OF BLACK LAWYERS.

I THANK YOU ALL IN ADVANCE FOR INDULGING ME FOR NEXT SEVERAL MINUTES WHILE I SHARE WITH YOU JUST A BIT ABOUT MY OWN JOURNEY – MY PATH LEADING TO LAW SCHOOL – MY TIME IN SCHOOL AND MY CAREER SINCE LAW SCHOOL. 

AS I DO I WILL ALSO SHARE THREE TIPS – THREE PIECES OF ADVICE THAT I HOPE YOU WILL KEEP IN MIND AS YOU PROGRESS ALONG YOUR OWN JOURNEY.

BY SHOW OF HANDS – DOES THAT SOUND USEFUL?  WONDERFUL

I’D LIKE TO BEGIN WITH A STORY:

I CURRENTLY RESIDE NOT FAR FROM HERE IN A SUBURB OF HOUSTON TEXAS – BY THE WAY – BY SHOW OF HANDS HOW MANY OF YOU ARE FROM HOUSTON?

AS I WAS SAYING I LIVE IN HOUSTON BUT I AM ORIGINALLY FROM NORTHERN CALIFORNIA AND I ATTENDED THE UNIVERSITY OF THE PACIFIC, MCGEORGE SCHOOL OF LAW BACK IN THE LATE 1990S.
I QUITE HONESTLY HAVEN’T DONE A GOOD JOB OF STAYING CONNECTED TO MY ALMA MATER SINCE GRADUATING IN 2000, IN FACT UNTIL JUST RECENTLY I HADN’T PAID ONE SINGLE VISIT TO THE CAMPUS AFTER GRADUATION AND I HADN’T SPENT MUCH TIME REFLECTING ON MY LAW SCHOOL DAYS.
WELL JUST A FEW WEEKS AGO MY BUSINESS TRAVELS TOOK ME TO SACRAMENTO CALIFORNIA, WHERE MCGEORGE IS LOCATED, SO I TOOK THE OPPORTUNITY TO REACH OUT TO ONE OF MY LAW SCHOOL PROFESSORS – LARRY LEVINE. 

PROFESSOR LEVINE WAS A MENTOR AND A SUPPORTER DURING LAW SCHOOL AND WE HAD EXCHANGED E-MAIL MESSAGES OCCASIONALLY OVER THE YEARS, BUT I HAD NOT SEEN HIM IN OVER A DECADE. 

HE VERY KINDLY ASKED ME IF I WOULD LIKE TO COME TO CAMPUS FOR LUNCH – HIS TREAT – SO THAT WE COULD CATCH UP A BIT.  I FOUND OUT OVER LUNCH THAT HE WAS ALSO INTERESTED IN KNOWING WHAT SIZE OF CHECK I WOULD BE WRITING FOR THE SCHOLARSHIP FUND THAT HE MANAGES – BUT THAT IS A DIFFERENT STORY ALL TOGETHER.

HIS SCHEDULE WAS GOING TO BE TIGHT ON THE DAY THAT WE AGREED TO MEET, SO HE ASKED THAT I COME, SIT IN ON THE LAST SEVERAL MINUTES OF HIS TORTS CLASS, AND FROM THERE WE WOULD GRAB A QUICK BITE IN THE CAMPUS DINING HALL.

I ARRIVED ABOUT 20 MINUTES BEFORE THE END OF CLASS, RUNNING LATER THAN I’D PLANNED, RUSHING TO ENSURE THAT I WOULD HAVE A CHANCE TO HEAR SOME OF THE LECTURE.  I SNUCK IN VERY QUIETLY SO AS NOT TO DISRUPT THE LECTURE AND I TOOK A SEAT IN THE BACK OF THE ROOM.  IT WAS THE EXACT SAME LECTURE HALL IN WHICH I SAT OVER 15 YEARS EARLIER AS A FIRST YEAR LAW STUDENT – IN LEVINE’S EVENING TORTS CLASS.

IT WAS ALMOST A BIT SURREAL TO BE SITTING IN THAT SAME CLASSROOM.  AS I SCANNED THE ROOM THE FIRST THING I NOTICED WAS THAT 1 – THE STUDENTS WERE SOOO YOUNG.  I FELT A BIT LIKE AN OLD MAN SITTING IN THE ROOM.  NEXT I NOTICED THAT, UNLIKE 15 YEARS AGO ALL OF THE STUDENTS WERE ON LAPTOPS TAKING NOTES AS THE PROFESSOR LECTURED…BACK IN MY DAY VERY FEW USED COMPUTERS IN THE ROOM

NEXT I NOTICED THAT PROFESSOR LEVINE HAPPENED TO BE LECTURING ON A CASE AND A LEGAL PRINCIPAL WHICH IS PROBABLY ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING AND OBSCURE LEGAL PRINCIPLES THAT YOU WILL HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN ABOUT IT LAW SCHOOL.

THE LAWYERS AND LAW STUDENTS IN THE ROOM WILL KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I MEAN WHEN I SAY THE 3 LATIN WORDS : RES IPSA LOQUITUR

NOW – I KNOW THIS IS NOT A LAW SCHOOL TORTS LESSON BUT LET ME QUICKLY EXPLAIN WHAT THIS MEANS :
THE PRINCIPLE GOES BACK TO AN ANCIENT ENGLISH CASE CALLED BYRNE VS. BOADLE – IT DATES BACK TO 1863. 
THE FACTS – AND I AM SUMMARIZING GREATLY – BYRNE IS WALKING DOWN THE STREET, AND HE WALKS BY BOADLE’S SHOP – A SHOP WHERE THEY SOLD FLOUR FOR BAKING.  AS BYRNE WALKS PAST THE SHOP A LARGE BARREL OF FLOUR SUDDENLY HIT HIM ON THE HEAD. 

BYRNE WHO WAS INJURED BY THE BARREL TAKES THE SHOP OWNER BOADLE TO COURT ARGUING THAT THE SHOP OWNER WAS NEGLIGENT.  THE DEFENDANT BOADLE, THE FLOUR DEALER ARGUED THAT BYRNE MUST PROVIDE EVIDENCE AS TO FACTS TO ESTABLISH NEGLIGENCE.  AND THE COURT AGREED WITH HIM. 

YOU WILL LEARN IN LAW SCHOOL THAT CERTAIN ELEMENTS MUST BE PRESENT TO PROVE NEGLIGENCE – AMONG THEM CAUSATION – AND IN THIS CASE BYRNE HAD LITTLE TO OFFER – ALL HE KNEW WAS THAT A BARREL HIT HIM ON THE HEAD – HE COULDN’T PROVE THAT BOADLE WAS NEGLIGENT.  BYRNE WAS OUT OF LUCK.
HOWEVER ON APPEAL THE HIGHER COURT DECIDED THE OTHER WAY.  THE COURT FOUND THAT EVEN THOUGH THE TYPICAL ELEMENTS OF NEGLIGENCE WEREN’T PRESENT, THEY DECIDED THAT IT WAS PROBABLY THE DEFENDANT AND IT WAS PROBABLY NEGLIGENCE.

THE COURT SAID SOMETIMES RES IPSA LOQUITUR WHICH IS LATIN FOR “THE THING SPEAKS FOR ITSELF”.
AGAIN – ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING AND MEMORABLE CASES AND LESSONS AND HERE I, MORE THAN 15 YEARS LATER HAPPEN TO WALK IN AS PROFESSOR LEVINE IS LECTURING ON “THE THING SPEAKS FOR ITSELF”

AS I SAT I THAT CLASSROOM LISTENING TO PROFESSOR LEVINE SPEAKING I REMEMBERED BACK TO 1996, SITTING THERE IN A FIRST YEAR CLASS OF 115 IN THE CAPITAL CITY OF ONE OF THE MOST LIBERAL AND ETHNICALLY DIVERSE STATES IN THE US – ALONG WITH FOUR ….YES, FOUR OTHER BLACK FIRST YEAR STUDENTS. RALPH, PERRY, KYRON AND ONE BLACK FEMALE, ALEXIS. 

REGRETTABLY ALEXIS LASTED ONLY A FEW MONTHS BEFORE DROPPING OUT OF SCHOOL FOR PERSONAL REASONS, LEAVING JUST THE FOUR OF US GENTLEMEN.

WE SAT TOGETHER – THE FOUR OF US – ELBOW TO ELBOW – THE ONLY BLACK STUDENTS IN AN AMPHITHEATER FULL OF FIRST YEAR LAW STUDENTS. 

WE STAYED VERY CLOSELY CONNECTED THROUGHOUT LAW SCHOOL AND A FEW OF US REMAIN CLOSE TO THIS VERY DAY. 

IT WAS ALONG WITH THOSE OTHER FOUR GENTLEMEN THAT I LEARNED THE FIRST LESSON THAT I WANT TO SHARE WITH YOU THIS EVENING – AND THAT IS QUITE SIMPLY “HAVE A PLAN”.  IT DIDN’T TAKE LONG TO FIGURE OUT THAT THERE WERE STUDENTS IN MY CLASS THAT HAD BEEN PLANNING AND PREPARING FOR LAW SCHOOL SINCE THEY WERE IN DIAPERS. 

THESE WERE THE FOLKS WHO CAME IN KNOWING EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANTED TO DO WITH THEIR FUTURE JD’S – WHAT TYPE OF LAW THEY WANTED TO PRACTICE – THE EXACT FIRM FOR WHICH THEY WANTED TO WORK. THEY  KNEW WHAT COURSES THEY WANTED TO TAKE, WHAT RANK IN THE CLASS THEY NEEDED IN ORDER TO BE COMPETITIVE FOR THE TOP FIRMS. 

THEY KNEW THAT THEY HAD TO WRITE FOR LAW REVIEW, TO PARTICIPATE IN A SUMMER ABROAD PROGRAM.  THEY WERE THE FOLKS THAT HAD A PLAN.
I AM NOT ASHAMED  TO SAY, WAS NOT ONE OF THESE PEOPLE. I HAD NO FRAME OF REFERENCE GOING INTO LAW SCHOOL.  THERE WERE VERY FEW IN MY FAMILY THAT HAD UNDERGRADUATE DEGREES AND NONE WHO HAD ATTENDED LAW SCHOOL. 

I CAN’T EVEN HONESTLY SAY THAT AS A CHILD GROWING UP I EVER TRULY INTENDED TO GO TO LAW SCHOOL. 
THROUGHOUT HIGH SCHOOL AND EVEN IN UNIVERSITY – I WAS INTERESTED IN COMPUTERS.  I DID PROGRAMMING JOBS AND STUDIED INFORMATION SYSTEMS MANAGEMENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO.  BY THE TIME I WAS IN MY THIRD YEAR OF UNDERGRAD I WAS A MARRIED WITH A YOUNG SON AND STRONG DESIRE TO BOTH BETTER MYSELF AND TO MAKE AN IMPACT.  BUT I WASN’T SURE HOW…
THEN IT HAPPENED !!  IN 1995 – A PIVOTAL EVENT THAT PROBABLY SENT THOUSANDS OF STUDENTS RUSHING TO LAW SCHOOL. —–THE O.J. SIMPSON CRIMINAL TRIAL.

THE O. J. SIMPSON MURDER CASE – OFFICIALLY CALLED THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA V. ORENTHAL JAMES SIMPSON – WAS A CRIMINAL TRIAL HELD IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY.  IT INVOLVED AN AFRICAN AMERICAN FOOTBALL STAR AND ACTOR O. J. SIMPSON WHO WAS TRIED ON TWO COUNTS OF MURDER FOLLOWING THE JUNE 1994 DEATHS OF HIS EX-WIFE NICOLE BROWN SIMPSON AND HER FRIEND RONALD GOLDMAN.
THE CASE HAS BEEN DESCRIBED AS THE MOST PUBLICIZED CRIMINAL TRIAL IN AMERICAN HISTORY. IT WAS TELEVISED FOR 134 DAYS IN 1995 – FROM OPENING ARGUMENTS TO DECISION.

I WATCHED THE BETTER PORTION OF THE TRIAL AS WAS SO INCREDIBLY IMPRESSED BY SOME OF THE LAWYERS INVOLVED – INCREDIBLY PUT OFF BY OTHERS.  I WAS INTRIGUED BY THE LEGAL PROCESS – AND THE POWER OF THE ATTORNEYS TO IMPACT LIVES.

 I DECIDED THEN AND THERE THAT I WANTED TO BE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE – NOT NECESSARILY TO BE A TRIAL ATTORNEY, BUT TO HAVE THE SKILL TO REASON, TO ANALYZE, TO FRAME ARGUMENTS, TO PERSUADE.

NOW I DON’T MEAN TO SUGGEST THAT I DECIDED ON LAW SCHOOL ON A WHIM, BUT I DO REALIZE NOW THAT I HAD NO PLAN, NO DIRECTION – NO FRAME OF REFERENCE AND NO STRATEGY GOING INTO LAW SCHOOL AND FOR THAT REASON I FEEL THAT I DIDN’T PERFORM AS WELL AS MY PEERS THAT DID PREPARE AND DID HAVE A PLAN..
MY ADVICE TO YOU – HAVE A PICTURE OF WHAT YOUR DESTINATION LOOKS LIKE. WRITE IT DOWN – MAP OUT A PLAN :

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES YOU WANT TO TAKE, WHAT TYPE OF LAW YOU ULTIMATELY WANT TO PRACTICE, WHAT EXPERIENCES YOU FEEL YOU MUST HAVE ALONG THE WAY.  LEVERAGE THE RESOURCES OF THIS CONFERENCE AND THE CONNECTIONS THAT YOU MAKE HERE TODAY TO HELP YOU CHART YOUR COURSE. 

I ONLY WISH THAT I HAD AN EVANGELINE MITCHELL TO HELP ME BACK IN 1995.

MY SECOND PIECE OF ADVICE – MY SECOND LESSON THAT I HOPE YOU WILL BEAR IN MIND AS YOU PROGRESS THROUGH LAW SCHOOL AND INTO YOUR LEGAL CAREERS – ALWAYS BEAR IN MIND THAT AS A LAW STUDENT, AS A LAWYER, POTENTIALLY AS SOMEONE WITH A LAW DEGREE WHO OPTS TO WORK OUTSIDE OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION :   YOU ARE A LEADER – AND YOU MUST LEAD BY EXAMPLE.

LAW SCHOOL, PARTICULARLY THE FIRST YEAR OF LAW SCHOOL, IS BY FAR ONE OF THE MOST INTIMIDATING AND HUMBLING EXPERIENCES OF A LIFETIME.

I RECALL – BACK IN THAT SAME TORTS CLASS IN 1996, IN A PACKED ROOM OF 115 LAW STUDENTS – LITERALLY SHAKING IN MY SEAT, HOPING NOT TO GET CALLED ON.  AND I SAT THIS WAY – PAINFULLY NERVOUS AND SHAKING UNTIL THE FIRST TIME I WAS CALLED ON TO EXPLAIN THE COURTS HOLDING IN SOME CASE. 
I CAN’T REMEMBER THE EXACT CASE OR THE PHRASING OF THE QUESTION – BUT I DO RECALL THAT I FELT VERY PROUD OF MYSELF AS I GAVE WHAT I THOUGHT WAS A VERY INTELLIGENT, ASTUTE ANSWER.  I THOUGHT I SOUNDED QUITE LAWYERLY AND THAT I HAD DONE MY GROUP PROUD !  THAT SHINING MOMENT WAS ENDED JUST A FEW SECONDS LATER WHEN PROFESSOR LEVINE RESPONDED.  “MR. TIPPENS, YOU COULD NOT BE MORE WRONG…”

NOW, AS YOU CAN IMAGINE I FELT A BIT DEFEATED AT FIRST…AND THERE WERE TIMES IN THE BEGINNING WHEN I FELT – WHEN MY FELLOW BLACK LAW STUDENTS FELT, LIKE WE WEREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE THERE. 
BUT IT DID NOT TAKE LONG TO LEARN THAT WE WERE ALL INTIMIDATED AND NERVOUS.  MY MALE AND FEMALE PEERS – MY MINORITY AND NON-MINORITY FELLOW STUDENTS – REGARDLESS OF THE EXPERIENCES AND EXPERTISE WE BROUGHT INTO THE CLASSROOM WE WERE ALL FIGHTING THE SAME BATTLE ONCE WE GOT THERE. 
NO ONE IN THAT ROOM WAS ANY MORE INTELLIGENT OR CAPABLE THAN ME, THAN PERRY, THAN KYRON, THAN RALPH.

SO WE NEVER LET THEM SEE US SWEAT – AND LED BY EXAMPLE.  WE HELPED EACH ALONG THE WAY AND NEVER ACTED AS IF WE WERE OUT OF PLACE. 

THROUGHOUT LAW SCHOOL WE TOOK EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO HELP EACH OTHER AND TO PROVIDE ASSISTANCE AND A POSITIVE EXAMPLE TO THE MINORITY LAW STUDENTS WHO CAME ALONG IN SUCCESSIVE YEARS – THROUGH BLSA – BLACK LAW STUDENTS ASSOCIATION ACTIVITIES, STUDY GROUPS, MENTORING, AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY. 
 
PLEASE REALIZE AND REMEMBER THAT SIMPLY BY BEING HERE TODAY YOU ARE SETTING AN EXAMPLE – DOING SOMETHING THAT ONLY A SMALL NUMBER OF US ARE BLESSED TO HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO. 
TWENTIETH CENTURY PHILOSOPHER ALBERT SCHWEITZER SAID “EXAMPLE IS NOT THE MAIN THING IN INFLUENCING OTHERS. IT IS THE ONLY THING. “  ALWAYS BE CONSCIOUS OF THE FACT THAT AS LAW STUDENTS AND AS LAWYERS – YOU SET THE EXAMPLE. 

FOCUS NOT ONLY ON WHAT YOU SAY BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY WHAT YOU DO. IN THE IMMORTAL WORDS OF USHER RAYMOND – “…DON’T TALK ABOUT IT, BE ABOUT IT !!”

 NOW – NOT EVERYONE IS SUPPORTIVE AND THERE WILL BE THOSE THAT TRY TO TEAR YOU DOWN – WHETHER BECAUSE OF JEALOUSY , OR MALICE, OR PURE IGNORANCE.  DON’T EVER BE DISSUADED BY THOSE WHO CAN’T DO WHAT YOU ARE PREPARED TO DO. TURN THEIR NEGATIVE ENERGY INTO YOUR POSITIVE ENERGY. 

FOLLOW THE ADVICE OF MY 16 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER LAUREN, SHE IS HERE WITH ME TONIGHT,  WHO ADVISES ME  “ I LET MY HATERS BE MY MOTIVATORS”

 MY THIRD AND FINAL PIECE OF ADVICE TO YOU – ALWAYS REMEMBER, AS YOU PROGRESS THROUGH LAW SCHOOL AND INTO YOUR CAREERS, THAT YOU WILL HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO CHANGE THE WORLD.  YOU WILL HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO CHANGE THE WORLD. 

NOW, I KNOW THAT THIS SOUNDS QUITE LOFTY, QUITE ROMANTIC – BUT I ASSURE YOU IT IS TRUE.  AS LAW STUDENTS AND AS LAWYERS YOU WILL POSSESS AN INCREDIBLE AMOUNT OF KNOWLEDGE AND HAVE ACCESS TO A POWERFUL SET OF TOOLS. 

NO MATTER WHAT AREA OF PRACTICE YOU CHOOSE TO PURSUE, YOU WILL HAVE THE POWER TO EFFECT MASSIVE CHANGE. 

EVEN BEFORE I GRADUATED FROM MCGEORGE I HAD MOVED FROM MY JOB DOING TECHNICAL COMPUTER WORK AND FOUND A HOME IN THE LEGAL DEPARTMENT OF INTEL CORPORATION.  SHORTLY AFTER GRADUATING I MOVED TO HEWLETT-PACKARD COMPANY IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA AND DID TRANSACTIONAL LEGAL WORK.
FOR YEARS I PROVIDED LEGAL SUPPORT FOR DIFFERENT DIVISIONS OF THE TECHNOLOGY COMPANY – INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LICENSING; PURCHASING CONTRACTS.  I HAD EXPOSURE TO A WHOLE RANGE OF CORPORATE TRANSACTIONAL ACTIVITIES:
FROM ADVISING BUSINESS UNIT LEADERS ON ACQUISITIONS, TO NEGOTIATING  THE PURCHASE OF AIRPLANES FOR THE CORPORATE JET FLEET. 

I FOUND THE WORK TO BE INTERESTING BUT NOT NECESSARILY REWARDING.  YOU SEE – I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN MOTIVATED BY A DESIRE TO – AS MY FRIEND AND MENTOR BESTSELLING AUTHOR  JOHN HOPE BRYANT SAYS “TO DO WELL BY DOING GOOD…”. 

I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN DRIVEN BY A DESIRE TO GIVE BACK, TO HELP MY COMMUNITY, TO MAKE A POSITIVE IMPACT ON SOCIETY – AND SO ALONG WITH MY DAY JOB I TOOK  EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO VOLUNTEER IN THE COMPANY’S OUTREACH ACTIVITIES :

WHETHER IT WAS HABITAT FOR HUMANITY COMMUNITY HOMEBUILDING PROJECTS, OR REPRESENTING THE CORPORATION AT LOCAL MINORITY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE EVENTS; OR SUPPORTING THE CORPORATE BUYING TEAMS THAT FOCUSED ON INCREASING THE COMPANY’S SPEND WITH MINORITY AND WOMAN OWNED SUPPLIERS. I EMBRACED THESE OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE A POSITIVE IMPACT.

I LIVED THIS SCHIZOPHRENIC LIFESTYLE FOR SEVERAL YEARS – DOING LEGAL WORK  BY DAY AND EXTRA CURRICULAR COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT WORK IN MY FREE TIME – UNTIL 2004 WHEN I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY STEP INTO A DIFFERENT ROLE INSIDE THE COMPANY. 

I WAS SO DETERMINED TO FIND A WAY TO USE MY LEGAL SKILLS TO DO WELL BY DOING GOOD THAT I TOOK A CAREER DOWNGRADE TO MANAGE THE COMPANY’S SUPPLIER DIVERSITY PROGRAM.

DO YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN WHEN I SAY SUPPLIER DIVERSITY ? 

LET ME EXPLAIN : CORPORATIONS LIKE HP AND LIKE MANY OF THE OTHER COMPANIES AND FIRMS REPRESENTED IN THE ROOM BUY A LOT OF “STUFF” TO KEEP THEIR OPERATIONS GOING.  A LARGE CORPORATION CAN SPEND TENS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS WITH SUPPLIERS TO BUY EVERYTHING FROM – OFFICE SUPPLIES FOR THEIR EMPLOYEES, JANITORIAL SERVICES FOR THEIR OFFICE BUILDINGS, NUT AND BOLTS TO GO INTO THEIR PRODUCTS, MARKETING AND ADVERTISING TO SELL THEIR PRODUCTS…EVERYTHING YOU CAN IMAGINE. 

WELL, MANY OF THESE CORPORATIONS ARE SUBJECT TO LEGISLATION RULES AND REGULATIONS AT THE FEDERAL STATE AND LOCAL LEVEL THAT REQUIRE A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF THAT SPENDING FLOW TO SMALL BUSINESSES…TO MINORITY OWNED BUSINESSES…TO WOMAN OWNED BUSINESS…TO VETERAN OWNED BUSINESS…SUPPLIER DIVERSITY PROGRAMS HELP ENSURE THAT THESE GOALS ARE MET.  AND IN SO DOING – THEY HELP TO BUILD WEALTH IN UNDERSERVED COMMUNITIES.

SO I TOOK THIS OPPORTUNITY TO DO WELL BY DOING GOOD – TO LEVERAGE MY LEGAL SKILLS TO GROW AND EXPAND AND FASHION A PROGRAM THAT LOOKS AFTER ALL AREAS OF CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY FOR MY COMPANY – THE WORLDS LARGEST TECHNOLOGY COMPANY. 

TODAY I LEAD A GLOBAL ORGANIZATION WHICH HELPS DRIVE OVER $1B IN SPEND WITH MINORITY AND WOMAN OWNED BUSINESSES ANNUALLY; THAT ROUTINELY AUDITS OUR SUPPLIER IN HIGH RISK DEVELOPING COUNTRIES TO ENSURE THEY ARE TREATING THEIR EMPLOYEES FAIRLY; THAT WORKS TO ROOT OUT AND STOP BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE FCPA – THE FOREIGN CORRUPT PRACTICES ACT, THE UK BRIBERY ACT AND OTHER LEGISLATION AROUND THE GLOBE.

I HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO, DAY IN AND DAY OUT, USE THE SKILLS OF REASONING, LEGISLATIVE INTERPRETATION, LEGAL ANALYSIS, COMMUNICATION, LOBBYING AND PERSUASION THAT I LEARNED IN LAW SCHOOL TO IMPACT SOCIETY AND CHANGE LIVES

REMEMBER – AS LAW STUDENTS AND AS LAWYERS YOU WILL HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO CHANGE THE WORLD – TO MAKE A POSITIVE IMPACT ON SOCIETY… TO DO WELL BY DOING GOOD.

CONCLUSION

SO WHEN, FROM TIME TO TIME, I AM ASKED IF I AM STILL GLAD THAT ATTENDED LAW SCHOOL.  WHEN I READ THE BLOGS AND I SEE IN SOCIAL MEDIA WHERE INDIVIDUALS SAY THAT THE LEGAL PROFESSION IS TOO CROWDED, THAT LAW SCHOOL IS NOT WORTH THE INVESTMENT, THAT IN THIS CONSTRAINED ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT A LAW DEGREE DOESN’T CARRY THE WEIGHT THAT IT ONCE DID… WHEN I ASK MYSELF – WAS IT ALL WORTH IT.

I REFLECT BACK TO HOW FAR I HAVE COME – FROM THE FIRST TIME I SAT IN PROFESSOR LEVINE’S TORTS CLASS AS A 1L IN 1996, TO WHERE I AM TODAY AS I STAND BEFORE YOU TONIGHT.

I THINK THAT THE ANSWER QUITE CLEARLY IS RES IPSA LOQUITUR – THE THING SPEAKS FOR ITSELF.
AND I HOPE THAT YOU WILL AGREE AS YOU REFLECT ON THE POSITION AND INFLUENCE OF EVANGELINE OF ANGELA RYE, OF ALL OF THE DISTINGUISHED GUESTS TODAY WHO HAVE LEVERAGED THEIR TIME IN LAW SCHOOL TO DO GREAT AND BOLD THINGS –
I HOPE THAT YOU WILL AGREE THAT THE THING SPEAKS FOR ITSELF.

AND I AM CONFIDENT THAT YOU WILL ALL TAKE WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNED HERE AND YOU TOO WILL DO GREAT AND BOLD THINGS – AND THE WORLD WILL BE BETTER FOR IT.
THANK YOU – AND I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST IN YOUR LAW SCHOOL JOURNEY.

 

 

ShareShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterGoogle+Share on LinkedIn

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *