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UC Law's Alumni Celebration a Big Hit!

Guest speakers. Great music. Amazing food. Lots of memories. Saturday, November 4, 2017 was the big day: Cincinnati Law’s "All Alumni Reunion". With sold-out events in the morning and a jammin' party atmosphere in the evening, UC Law was “the place” to be last weekend!

ICYMI: A Recap

 Alumni began the day with breakfast and the familiar faces of their peers and former professors. After the meet-and-greet, Dean Verna Williams commenced UC Next, a series of mini-lectures in the style of TedX talks.

Williams described the class of 2020 and the changes coming to Cincinnati Law. Of the latest class of JD candidates, she noted, “It’s 97 students strong, and for the first time in many years, we have more women than men. They’re diverse coming from as close as Indiana and Kentucky, and as far away as Utah and California.” Williams also shared the story of the successful LLM program, which brings in students from around the world and features a special partnership between UC Law and Javeriana University in Bogotå, Colombia.

The guest lectures were presented by distinguished alumni. In order of appearance, these were: Kathy Woeber Gardner, Sally Young, Chris Chapman, and William “Billy” Martin.

Gardner’s talk covered her professional path, in which she overcame career speed-bumps but ultimately landed her dream career. She even followed her husband out West and took the California bar exam, after years of practice in Ohio. Gardner now practices International Law and works with large companies in Silicon Valley and around the world.

Sally Young cracked up the alumni crowd, largely because her current line of work is atypical for someone with a law degree—or anyone else, for that matter. She writes romance novels, using the penname, Ann Christopher. Young referred to retiring from private practice after the birth of her second child, noting that she has “been in legal recovery for 18 years now.” Some time passed before she took up writing romance novels, but Young made it clear that reflection led her to do the things she enjoyed most in life.

Chris Chapman discussed the “image problem” the legal community faces. He noted that the stereotype of the greedy, heartless lawyer is entrenched in our culture, reaching as far back as Shakespeare’s joke, “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Chapman noted, however, that lawyers can and often do give back to their communities, and that civilizations with many lawyers have historically been the most able to provide justice to all.

Billy Martin’s talk dealt with his rise to professional success as an attorney with a UC Law degree. He maintains that his education at UC Law prepared him for these heights within the legal profession. He shared that the pinnacle of his career was representing a witness in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. Martin also shared an anecdote in which he represented movie star Wesley Snipes, when he was wanted by the Federal government for tax evasion. Snipes was at the time filming in Namibia, and would have faced immediate arrest if he went to any airport, because he had ignored an arraignment in order to continue filming. Martin smilingly recalled, “So what does an actor with unlimited resources do? We rent our own jet.” Snipes was able to surrender on US soil.

The alumni were then treated to a delicious, full barbecue meal provided by Cincinnati’s own Sweets and Meats, a client of our Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic. At lunch, Cincinnati Law alumnus and Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, Aftab Pureval addressed the crowd.

Pureval mentioned his own success story. On entering politics, he recalled, “people would say, ‘are you crazy? You’re running for this office that no one cares about, against an opponent who cannot be beat in conservative Hamilton County. And to do all that, you have to leave Proctor and Gamble. What are you thinking?’” He added, “and that was just my mom” to tremendous laughs.

Pureval’s run ended up being a successful, of course. His speech took a serious turn when he talked about the new Hamilton County Help Center. Pureval implored everyone in the room to put themselves in the shoes of those who are facing evictions and now have to deal with the legal system. He said there is cause to be optimistic, however, as the Help Center, which started only two months ago, has already aided over 800 people.

After an afternoon touring campus and the city of Cincinnati, alumni and friends gathered at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center for the Red and Black Gala. This was an opportunity to continue catching up with old friends (and new ones), eat some good food, and enjoy the music of The Exoneree Band.

The band is comprised of musicians from around the country who were wrongfully imprisoned for a combined 100 years. One band member, Raymond Towler (who is also the manager), was freed through the work of our own Ohio Innocence Project.

Throughout the concert, the band members shared their stories and their music borne from their incarceration experience. They even covered great singers like Stevie Wonder. The crowd was literally on their feet, dancing the night away. In the end, they didn’t want to leave… and the crowd didn’t either.

Thanks for everyone who came and we’ll see you next year for #Celebration2018!

Here's a peek at the day! (More pics and video to come soon!): Celebration2017

Writers: Pete Mills, Sherry English