Simkins, who has devoted her career to the cause of juvenile justice, advised students in the audience to make sure they are passionate about practicing law and that they go on to help others.
“It’s an incredible privilege to be a lawyer, and you should give back,” she said.
Similar advice came from Theodore Ruger, dean and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law at University of Pennsylvania Law School, who also addressed the group.
“You are the future of our profession,” he told students in the audience. A much smaller percentage of college graduates today are applying to law schools than a few decades ago, he said, “but there is no shortage of problems to be solved.”
The legal profession and society, Ruger said, need “your energy, your intellect [and] your commitment to justice.”
Ruger’s and Simkins’ advice to today’s undergraduates was similar to that offered by many participants in the day’s panel discussions, which focused on such topics as choosing the right law school, succeeding in law school and beginning a legal career. A special workshop, led by Kenworthey Bilz, professor of law at the University of Illinois College of Law, discussed the problem of implicit bias.
During the panels, many practicing lawyers talked about the need for both flexibility and passion in deciding on the course of a career.
“Your career path won’t necessarily be a straight line,” said Leslie McNair-Jackson, CAS97, who found that her dream job with a Manhattan law firm didn’t turn out to be fulfilling. Instead, she went on to work as a public defender and now serves as the deputy public defender for the Camden Region of New Jersey’s Office of the Public Defender.
“It can take a circuitous journey to find your passion,” McNair-Jackson said, urging students to be open to unexpected opportunities whenever they arise.
Also at Saturday’s event, students and alumni had a chance to test out some mentoring skills during a presentation, “Law Mentoring at UD and Beyond,” by Julie Silard Kantor, CEO and founder of TwoMentor.