Distinguished IP lawyer shares rules to succeed in practice of law
Toledo Law community celebrates Class of 2012
May 24, 2012
On May 6, 2012, over 1400 friends and family members were in attendance to celebrate the Class of 2012 at The University of Toledo College of Law commencement ceremony at the Student Union Auditorium.
Those 147 candidates eligible for law degrees in December 2011, May, and August marched in the ceremony. Music from the Glass City Brass Quintet led the faculty and graduates into the auditorium.
Christopher P. Bussert ’83, a partner at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP in Atlanta, returned to his alma mater to deliver the commencement address.
Bussert has over 25 years of experience helping clients such as Sony Music Entertainment, Harley-Davidson, and National Football League Properties, protect and defend their assets and brands in trademark, copyright, unfair competition, franchise litigation, and licensing matters.
At his own law school graduation 29 years earlier, Bussert recalled, the graduation speaker suggested that he and his fellow graduates “work hard and no matter what else life throws at you, you will be alright.” Bussert modified this advice for the Class of 2012 by distilling the “work hard” appeal into five basic rules.
What does “work hard” mean for today’s new attorneys?
Rule 1 - Always bring your “A” game. Bussert told the graduates that their work product should be uniformly exceptional, “Your work product is your legal mark and by it you will be judged by your colleagues, your clients, and the profession.”
Rule 2 - The practice of law is much more than producing exceptional work product. “Part of being successful in the practice of law is not only enhancing the reputation of the firm or organization with whom you may be working, it is also enhancing your own individual brand and reputation, and building individual relationships,” said Bussert. He encouraged graduates to get involved in a meaningful way with local and state professional bar associations, to find opportunities to speak and write, and to volunteer for pro bono work in their communities.
Rule 3 - Stay on top of the technology. This rule goes to self-preservation, said Bussert. “Many law firms and in-house departments have dramatically decreased support staff in recent years. What that means is the more self-sufficient you are, the better off you will be.”
Rule 4 - Don’t be a jerk. Bussert appealed to graduates to treat both colleagues and opposing lawyers with respect. With regard to opponents, Bussert said, “Every battle does not have to be a land war in Asia. Litigation, negotiations, and other adversarial relationships should not be unnecessarily confrontational, and should never be personalized in terms of allegations of bad faith. … Civility is not a sign of weakness.”
Rule 5 - Remember that in the practice of law your legal education never stops. “The fact that you are graduating today does not mean that you will stop learning. In fact, law school is only the starting point. … As long as you practice, you will continue to learn new subject areas and skills; you will learn from your opponents, your clients, and your colleagues,” Bussert told the graduates. “Position yourself to take maximum advantage of these opportunities.”
Bussert’s final rule echoed Dean Steinbock’s message for the graduating class. “To be a competent and effective attorney nowadays, one must keep learning new cases, new statutes, rules – sometimes whole new fields of law,” said Steinbock.
“I trust we have given you the tools to be lifelong learners, not only in law, but in all aspects of life – skills of close reading, careful speaking and writing, thorough research and analysis, good judgment, ethical behavior, and interpersonal skills – hopefully, coupled with intellectual curiosity. Far more than any particular legal rules, these abilities are what you will come to see as the lasting legacy of your legal education. If we have done that, we, the faculty, really have done our jobs,” he continued.
Several graduates addressed their class. Miranda M. Vollmer, the 2011-2012 Student Bar Association president, delivered the Student Greeting, and M. Zack Hohl gave the Class Address. Class valedictorian Carl Alfred Schaffer also made remarks.
In addition, Lee A. Pizzimenti, associate dean for student affairs and professor of law, gave a musical Faculty Welcome that included a rendition of the Sound of Music’s “So long, farewell” – complete with a pirouette – and Jill Hayes ’90, president of the Law Alumni Affiliate, welcomed the new alumni.
Degrees were officially conferred by University Trustees Judge Richard B. McQuade, Jr. ’65 and Joseph H. Zerbey, IV.
Various awards were handed out over the course of the afternoon. Kelly Moore, assistant professor of law, was chosen by the graduating class for the Outstanding Faculty Award for the third time in as many years on the faculty. Moore teaches tax and trusts and estates.
Dean Steinbock awarded M. Zack Hohl the American Law Institute/American Bar Association Scholarship and Leadership Award. The award is presented to one student at each of the country’s ABA-accredited law schools. In addition to free CLE courses, each winner receives a copy of ALI-ABA’s bestselling text “Red Flags: A Lawyer's Handbook on Legal Ethics,” by Lawrence J. Fox and Toledo Law’s Susan R. Martyn, the Stoepler Professor of Law and Values.
Hohl holds a B.S. in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Michigan. A summa cum laude graduate of the College of Law, Hohl was co-president of the Environmental Law Society and served as articles editor on The University of Toledo Law Review.
Dean Steinbock presented Miranda M. Vollmer with the 2012 Dean’s Award calling Vollmer “a great ambassador of the law school.” Vollmer holds a B.A. in political science from Bowling Green State University. In addition to serving as the 2011-2012 Student Bar Association president, Vollmer was an Inns of Court member, the College of Law liaison to the Toledo Bar Association, and vice president of the Labor and Employment Law Association and the Public Interest Law Association. She graduated with a Certificate in Labor and Employment Law and will begin the Master of Public Administration program at The University of Toledo this fall.
During the reception at the Law Center following the commencement ceremony, the Law Alumni Affiliate presented each graduate with a bronze “Scales of Justice” gift.