The law school’s seventh commencement exercises on May 21 saluted the Class of 2015’s victories, past and future.
The 129 graduates had gained more than 58,000 hours of practical experience in co-op and clinic placements as well as through the pro bono program. Most members of the class had far exceeded the 50-hour pro bono service requirement, providing more than 17,000 hours of legal assistance to under-served members of the community.
Commending the class for its accomplishments, towering trial lawyer and law school benefactor Thomas R. Kline reminded the graduates of the profound responsibilities they bear as practitioners.
“We hold the lives and livelihoods, the reputations and the rights, the property and privacy, the freedom and the liberty of people who entrust us, in our hands,” Kline said. “And every matter that you handle, from drafting a real estate closing to a closing argument, involves a person who will rely on you.”
Kline is one of the nation’s most influential trial lawyers, whose groundbreaking cases have helped shape the law and produced corporate, institutional and governmental reforms and earned him widespread recognition from the National Law Journal and national rating agencies like Super Lawyers, as well as from prominent peers who have turned to him for leadership.
Yet Kline said that what he treasures the most are his grateful clients’ emails, phone calls and letters, some of which he keeps under glass that covers his desk.
Having gifted $50 million to Drexel – the single largest donation in the University’s history – Kline joked that this should help the graduates in the decades to come remember who gave their commencement address.
“I have made it easier for all of you,” he said. “I have put my name on your diploma.”
Prominent Philadelphia attorney and former Pennsylvania General Counsel Leslie Anne Miller received an honorary degree, in recognition of her leadership in the legal profession and the business community.
Miller’s accomplishments on behalf of clients, her leadership as the first woman president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association and her service to citizens as Gov. Edward Rendell’s general counsel and oversight of 450 attorneys in 32 state agencies provide “a checklist of what we hope our graduates will become,” President John Fry said.
Fry also commended the graduates, the faculty and the law school’s administration for inspiring Kline’s generosity.
“Tom Kline said to the legal profession, and to America at large, ‘I stand behind Drexel’s law school, and so should you,’” Fry said.
Dean Roger Dennis noted the skills and leadership that members of the class have already demonstrated:
- Katherine Constantine who provided many hundreds of hours of pro bono service to victims of domestic violence and Anthony Magdalinski, who devoted hundreds of hours of service to a medical-legal partnership that expands access to health services for area residents with limited income
- Stephany Gordon, Peggy Costello and Tamara Sharp, whose work with the Community Lawyering Clinic saved a nearby resident’s home from foreclosure and supported Fry’s vision for making Drexel the most civically engaged university
- Elia Robertson, and other members of the Moot Court Board and Trial Team who logged numerous victories in competition this year.
“Suffice it to say that the trophy cases we installed just two years ago are now beyond capacity,” Dennis said. “We will have to install new ones next year at 12th and Chestnut, the home of our new Thomas R. Kline Institute of Trial Advocacy.”