J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Inspiring the Next Generation of Trial Lawyers: 2008 Orrin Hatch Lecture Series

Inspiring the Next Generation of Trial Lawyers: 2008 Orrin G. Hatch Distinguished Trial Lawyer Lecture Series

by Justin Forsyth

Fifteen of the country’s most distinguished trial lawyers, judges and teachers of the law dedicated two days (Nov. 7-8) to sharing their experience with the BYU law students at the annual Orrin G. Hatch Distinguished Trial Lawyer Lecture Series.

In 2003 the Orrin G. Hatch Distinguished Trial Lawyer Lecture Series was created to inspire students to become trial lawyers and to educate them on the basics of trial practice.

"Attending the lecture series has really given me direction. I didn’t know what area of law I wanted to practice, but I knew I wanted to do some kind of trial practice. The causes, the emotion, the passion [these trial lawyers] have is contagious. I want to be able to have their experiences. I want to have that sort of passion for my job," says Ryan McBride, a third-year at the law school. McBride decided to practice trial law after attending the lecture series in 2007.

Five years after the first lecture series, the Orrin G. Hatch Distinguished Trial Lawyer Lecture Series continues to inspire students by showing them how, through the practice of trial law, they can apply their legal knowledge in support of the constitution and in service to others.

"(Trial law) is very interesting and important to our society as a whole", said Justice Douglas Miller, lecture series vice chair. "From my perspective, it is the most interesting and rewarding of all the different law-related fields you can enter, because the issues for which a trial lawyer argues are of importance to clients and often to the general society."

Exposing students to the finest trial lawyers to teach, inspire and motivate a new generation of trial advocates is the over-arching mission of the lecture series. "I believed that the law school students needed to hear from the very best trial lawyers in America about what motivated them to do it, to inspire the students to go into trial law," said James Parkinson, lecture series chair.

Miller agreed and added to Parkinson’s comment, "By exposing students to the very best of our profession, they will better understand the significance of what they will be doing after graduation."

Parkinson spoke of the important element of service and sacrifice in the experience of a trial lawyer. "It all came to me why I’m doing what I’m doing—because it takes a Rex Lee to make the next generation. You have to see what you can become before you have that desire," he said. "There is no higher calling in life than to have somebody come to your office, share their problem, and ask you to stand and speak for them."

Andrea Leavitt, a distinguished trial lawyer from California, spoke to students and faculty about a trial lawyer’s responsibility to stand and speak for those in need of an advocate. In her keynote address, Leavitt discussed her involvement with child sexual abuse cases against the Catholic Church in California. In describing her work on over 1,000 cases, students, faculty and guests alike could feel her commitment to her clients and her passion for restoring justice to them.

"I worked for five and a half years without vacation and ten hour a day weekends. How can you work like this? How can you not? When you are a trial lawyer, you feel their pain. You become a channel. You are very committed." She became emotional. "It was a beautiful thing to see. My clients felt they were finding justice, and they were feeling healed."

In response to Levitt’s address, third year student John Boyle said, "It was inspiring to see the human aspect of lawyering."

LaReina Hingson, also a third year student, agreed. "I saw all the work that goes into a case, and how well you have to know and use the law. It validates those who are wronged. That’s why the verdict doesn’t matter so much. Those people were helped by her commitment."

Throughout the lecture series, students learned that trial law can be inspiring, emotional, and challenging.

"My first trial, I was a wreck. You have to get over all the nerves you have when you stand up to speak. The more you do it, the easier it gets," said presenter, Justice Ming W. Chin of the California Supreme Court. "One thing I found helpful was going to court. You can go to any court and watch a jury trial. The hard thing is you don’t know what’s going on, but you figure it out quickly."

Other presenters spoke of events or experiences that inspired them to pursue trial law. Justice Paul Warner of the U.S. Magistrate Court in Utah said that his inspiration was Woody Deem, his criminal law and criminal trial practice professor at the law school. Criminal defense attorney Ronald Yengich, said that "there are people who need help, and the government needs people to help them. I wanted to defend people who were in trouble."

The Orrin G. Hatch Distinguished Trial Lawyer Lecture Series is a free event for students, and occurs every fall at the BYU Law School.

Posted: 2008-11-21