Carolyn B. Lamm, an international arbitration, litigation and trade lawyer from Washington, D.C., who has been the ABA president since 2009, addressed Washington and Lee's law graduation on Saturday, under a bright blue sky on the University's historic Front Campus.
During the ceremonies, the University awarded 123 juris doctor degrees, along with two master of laws degrees, to M. Asif Ehsan and Sebghatullah Ebrahimi, students from Afghanistan who attended W&L through a U.S. State Department initiative promoting justice reform in Afghanistan.
In her remarks, Lamm told the graduates that they must always be principled and true to themselves and that "it is not just the rule of law that we are called upon to strength, but the rule of just law."
Lamm also said that the new lawyers must protect the justice system for everyone, "even those who cannot afford it or are unpopular."She said that nearly 80 percent of the legal needs of the poor in America are going unaddressed, and that ensuring justice for the unpopular remains "a popular calling."
"Never has the role of lawyer been more important than it is today. All persons are entitled to the benefit of the rule of law and adjudication of their rights," Lamm said. "Our American legal profession has a proud history of standing up to right wrongs, no matter how unpopular the cause, and to ensure that the defense of the unpopular is as vigorous as the defense of the mainstream."
She singled out the new Arizona law on immigration, saying that "we see all too much evidence of denying those ... whom certain segments of society may hate the benefit of law, in the name of national security, immigration enforcement and control, or otherwise.
"We must condemn such laws and seek to have the courts declare them unconstitutional and take a constitutional approach to immigration control," she said. "Denial of legal rights and due process to any may evolve to denial of legal rights to many. We cannot tolerate this."
The John W. Davis Prize for Law, awarded to the graduate with the highest cumulative grade point average, went to Erica Blayre Haggard, of Carrollton, Tex.