Opportunities to promote the public interest are embedded in the practice of law itself, Judge Gerald Austin McHugh of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said at the Second Annual Oxholm Colloquium on Public Service on Oct. 17.
Although most lawyers don’t spend their careers in government agencies, McHugh said, all Pennsylvania attorneys take an oath to support and defend the constitution, to discharge their duties with fidelity and to refuse to delay anyone’s cause for enrichment or malice. While all advocates serve their clients, McHugh said, they also serve something bigger.
“The best lawyers are known for honesty, integrity and candor,” McHugh said. “The most effective advocates recognize what’s true in a case and only argue that.”
McHugh, who was appointed to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania bench by President Obama in 2014, is a recognized authority on Pennsylvania tort law. Currently the president of Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, he has served as chairman of the Pennsylvania Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts Program, which generates funds to support civil legal services for the poor. He also served as president of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.
The event celebrated a generous gift from former Drexel Senior Vice President and General Counsel Carl “Tobey” Oxholm III, who led the launch of the Kline School of Law after having served as chief deputy city solicitor for the City of Philadelphia.
Oxholm’s gift endowed a fellowship that each year provides a student with a $10,000 stipend to spend a summer between their second and third year of law school working in the Philadelphia City Solicitor’s Office. So far, 10 students have received the fellowships.
“I learned a lot about Philadelphia child welfare law and the Philadelphia courts,” 2017 fellow Stacie Tepe said in her introduction to Oxholm.
Having practiced at some of the nation’s leading law firms, Oxholm said his job in city government was the most rewarding.
“The best job I ever had was having the burden, the obligation not to win but to do justice,” Oxholm said. “This is really important work.”
Dean Daniel Filler called it “an amazing honor” to host the event, which honors both critical work in the legal profession and Oxholm’s central role in launching the Kline School of Law.
“The foundation of our community started with his vision for creating a law school,” Filler said, noting that those in attendance included alumni who represent the school’s early history as well as members of the school’s advisory board and other leading practitioners and jurists.