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Cincinnati Law Dean delivers address at 2018 Ohio Bar Admissions ceremony

Law dean’s speech highlights how commitment to justice can guide attorneys through career

Delivering the Law Dean’s Address at this year’s Ohio Bar Admissions ceremony, Verna Williams, interim dean and Nippert Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, presented the career of UC Law alumnus William Howard Taft as a model for the nearly 600 newly minted attorneys.

Whether they will build careers in the corporate world, become prosecutors or defense attorneys, or launch their own firms, the new attorneys who took the oath of office at this year’s Bar Admission ceremony learned about the impact one attorney can make.

“The amount of good one attorney can accomplish can be monumental,” said Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. “Sometimes it changes the legal system. But it always changes the life of the client.”  

In her address Williams shared the story of William Howard Taft, who, before going on to serve as both President and Chief Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States (as well as dean of Cincinnati Law), worked as a junior associate in Cincinnati. Williams’ speech illustrated how Taft’s dedication to the rule of law and commitment to justice put him on a path to serve the country, and how his life and experience could be a model for the attorneys.   

How a murder case led to a seat on the court   

Many decades ago, a high profile murder case led to a public riot, charges of jury tampering, and calls for the disbarment of the defense attorney. Taft, dismayed by the events that took place, investigated the disbarment case on behalf of the Cincinnati Bar. He travelled the state as he followed leads; and his hard work and thorough research prepared him to step in to give the fiery summation before a packed court room.

Though he lost the case, Taft impressed the legal community and within months he landed a new position as assistant city solicitor. Sometime later, he was tapped for a seat on Superior Court and ascended to the bench.

“Will was tested,” said Dean Williams. “His drive to serve, his drive for justice, propelled him to the spotlight, and on a path that would enable him to serve at the highest levels. A path he likely never anticipated.”

Dean Williams encouraged the attorneys to think about the life and impact of Taft and “the fire for justice, ethics, and rule of law [that] burned in him throughout his career.”  He was an Ohio lawyer, just as they are.

Seventy-nine percent of Cincinnati Law’s first time takers passed the July 2018 Ohio Bar Exam. The college’s overall passage rate was 75 percent, exceeding the state-wide average of 69.9 percent.