BUFFALO, N.Y. – New York State’s highest-ranking
judge will be the keynote commencement speaker for the State of New
York’s only SUNY-system law school.
The University at Buffalo’s Law School’s 124th
commencement exercises, which will take place May 18 at the Center
for the Arts on the University’s North Campus, will feature
Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. Last year, Lippman led the nation by
enacting the first pro bono service requirement for
law students designed to provide additional legal resources to
expand access to the justice system for low-income New Yorkers.
He will address students, families, faculty, administrators and
alumni during the ceremony, which begins at 3 p.m. A reception will
immediately follow in the atrium of the Center for the Arts.
A total of 237 JD’s will graduate in February, June and
September 2013, 107 of whom are female. Ten LL.M.’s also will
Judge Lippman, who was appointed chief judge in 2009, previously
served for 11 years as the state’s chief administrative
judge. His career in the court system has spanned four decades,
starting as an entry-level court attorney in the Supreme Court in
Manhattan. He received his JD from New York University School of
Law in 1968.
In proposing the pro bono initiative, he said, “We
are facing a crisis in New York and around the country. At a time
when we are still adjusting to the realities of shrinking state
coffers and reduced budgets, more and more people find themselves
turning to the courts.
“The courts are the emergency rooms of our society –
the most intractable social problems find their way to our doors in
great and increasing numbers. And more and more of the people who
come into our courts each day are forced to do so without a
He continued: “The new pro bono service requirement
for admission to the New York bar serves to address the
state’s urgent access to justice gap, at the same time
helping prospective attorneys build valuable skills and imbuing in
them the ideal of working toward the greater good. It is so
important that the next generation of lawyers in New York embraces
the core values of our profession that so fundamentally include
pro bono legal assistance.”
The 50-hour requirement takes effect for those who seek
admission to New York practice after Jan. 1, 2015. Many UB Law
students already have a significant record of public-service legal
work through the school’s legal clinics, summer internships
and other opportunities to gain real-world legal experience.
Other 2013 commencement highlights will include the presentation
of the Dean’s Medal to Hon. John T. Curtin ’49, senior
U.S. district judge for the Western District of New York. The
Dean’s Medal is given annually to an individual who is
distinguished by his or her commitment to justice and the rule of
law. Curtin is among Western New York’s longest-serving U.S.
District Court judges, and has presided over some of the
area’s highest-profile federal cases during more than 35
years on the bench.
“Judge Curtin has championed issues of social justice
throughout his long and distinguished career, bringing equality and
the rule of law to the Buffalo community in multiple arenas. It is
with the greatest respect and admiration that I pay tribute to a
man of such stalwart principles,” said UB Law School Dean
Curtin served as U.S. Attorney for seven years before ascending
to the bench in 1967. He was named chief judge in 1974 and served
in that capacity until 1989, when he assumed senior status.
The Ken Joyce Medal for Excellence in Teaching and Longstanding
Service to the Law School will be presented to Helen A. Drew
’88. The award, named after SUNY Distinguished Teaching
Professor Emeritus Ken Joyce, a renowned teacher and specialist in
tax law, honors teaching excellence and service among UB Law
School’s extensive adjunct faculty.
Drew is a longtime adjunct instructor at the UB Law School with
special expertise in sports law. Having taught about issues in
sports law at the school since 1996, her courses include sports
law, drug testing in professional sports, and professional sports
contract negotiation and arbitration. A well-known booster of girls
ice hockey at the high school level, Drew has served as associate
in-house counsel and corporate officer to Buffalo’s National
Hockey League team, the Sabres, and as an associate attorney with
the Buffalo law firm Cohen, Swados, Wright, Hanifin, Bradford &
Brett, where she worked on NHL matters as well.
Mutua said the choice honors an excellent teacher and points up
the Law School’s commitment to graduating profession-ready
lawyers in diverse fields.
“Helen’s teaching truly bridges the gap between
theory and practice and offers our students outstanding skills
training that goes well beyond the field of sports law,”
Mutua said. “She draws upon her vast legal experience in
professional and amateur sports to teach students skills in
negotiating, drafting and interpreting as well as in the use of
alternative methods of dispute resolution – skills every
attorney needs, regardless of specialty.”
Professor Charles Patrick Ewing, who as vice dean for academic
affairs oversees the school’s adjunct faculty, said,
“Helen’s courses are always extremely popular with our
students, and for good reason. The broad topic – sports law
– is inherently interesting to most. But more than that, she
is a gifted teacher who is dedicated to her students and to our law
Since its founding in 1887, the University at Buffalo Law School
has established an excellent reputation and is widely regarded as a
leader in legal education. Its cutting-edge curriculum provides
both a strong theoretical foundation and the practical tools
graduates need to succeed in a competitive marketplace, wherever
they choose to practice. A special emphasis on interdisciplinary
studies, public service and opportunities for hands-on clinical
education makes UB Law School unique among the nation’s
premier public law schools.