MD Bar BulletinMaryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin

Editor: W. Patrick Tandy

March, 2004


The Virtues of Public Service
~ABA President Encourages Law Students to Pursue Public Service~

By Janet Stidman Eveleth

When Dennis Archer, President of the American Bar Association (ABA), visited the University of Maryland School of Law last month, he extolled the virtues of public service in the legal profession. Archer, the first African-American President of the ABA, was honored with the School’s “Leadership in Public Service” award, presented by Dean Karen Rothenberg on February 24, 2004. Archer was part of the law school’s Leadership in Public Service series, launched in November with Harry S. Johnson, MSBA’s President.

Addressing the audience of future lawyers, Archer encouraged the law students to “become involved in public service and their community,” something he has done all of his life. Archer first offered insight into his own illustrious career, which has been devoted to public service.

Archer emphasized his family’s poverty growing up in Michigan with no indoor plumbing, his first job as a caddy at the age of eight and his parents’ wish for him to pursue a college degree, which he fulfilled. Archer taught students with learning disabilities in Detroit’s public school system while earning his law degree from the Detroit College of Law in the evening. He has practiced law, taught law school and served as an associate justice on the Michigan Supreme Court and the Mayor of Detroit. He currently practices with a large law firm in Michigan while heading the ABA.

“I am here to celebrate the importance of public service and diversity in the legal profession,” Archer proclaimed. “I fell in love with the majesty of the law. There is power in being an attorney. It helps you do good; it helps you help people.”

“Lawyers have a sense of calling to do good,” he continued. “As a profession, we have a long history as public servants and public officials – look at Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, who abolished slavery, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, who brought social reform to this country. More importantly, there are lawyers out there every day who are doing pro bono work and helping people and getting no credit whatsoever. It’s simply what they do.”

“Lawyers have the power to change injustice in society, help those in need and contribute to society,” exclaimed Archer. “We are healers, counselors, problem-solvers and peace-makers. We come to the aid of people when they need us the most, in times of crisis. We right wrongs.”

“The practice of law is a privilege, and it involves leadership, public service and ethics,” Archer added. The ABA President advised all law students to “be ethical, get malpractice insurance and practice law in an ethical way. Plus, use your legal training, talent and advocacy skills in public service.”

Citing law school clinical experiences, Archer praised these “inspiring opportunities that give law school students the chance to jump into public service.” He also promoted bar associations as another valuable public service experience. “Members of bar associations grapple with the same issues and problems and are able to exchange ideas and learn from one another,” he said. “They also offer mentoring opportunities, which are vital in the practice of law.”

“Lawyers play a unique role in society,” concluded ABA’s President. “It’s our calling. We are ministers of justice, defenders of the oppressed and guardians of the Constitution. Lawyers have the power to heal, right wrongs and make a difference in people’s lives. We give back to the community, it’s our calling. Therefore, it is our responsibility to respond to public service.”

Archer’s inspirational message is a refreshing reminder to all members of the Maryland Bar about all of the good work that you do. It is recognized and appreciated!



Publications : Bar Bulletin: March, 2004

Back to top