June 13, 2016
Movie buff Rod West (L ’93) likes to cite “The Devil’s Advocate” — a Keanu Reeves/Al Pacino movie about temptation and the dark side of ambition — because in the film Pacino calls law “the ultimate backstage pass.”
But West, who’s also Entergy executive vice president, advised the Class of 2016 to seek more than access or affluence.
“Always remember that the law is a service profession,” West told the graduates, who with family members, friends and alumni filled Devlin Auditorium for Tulane Law School’s May 14 graduation ceremony.
“Successful lawyers become successful when they’ve mastered the art of being of service to other people through their craft,” he said, reminding them that “the impact of the law is ultimately borne by real people.”
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Tulane conferred more than 190 JD degrees, with 12 graduates receiving dual degrees and more than 90 earning a certificate in a specialized area of law: maritime, civil, sports, international and comparative or environmental.
Forty graduates received LLMs, and 12 students in the Payson Graduate Program in Global Development completed either a master’s degree or PhD.
Professor Robert Force, a 47-year faculty member and Maritime Law Center director emeritus, received the Felix Frankfurter Distinguished Teaching Award at Tulane Law’s May 14 graduation ceremony.
West, a New Orleanian who played football for 1988 national champion University of Notre Dame, has two Tulane degrees: 12 years after his law degree, he received an MBA. West had returned to school after leaving law practice for the corporate world. He joined Entergy in April 1999 as senior regulatory counsel. When Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005, he was electric grid manager of the New Orleans region, responsible for getting utilities restored to the devastated city.
Since 2010, West has been Entergy’s executive vice president and chief administrative officer, and the company recently announced that he’ll take on new and expanded leadership duties in the utility.
“Remember to listen,” he told graduates. “Do not think that you know what your client wants or needs." A law degree only demonstrates "your ability to learn, unlearn and relearn," he said. "That process of learning, unlearning and relearning is why we call it law practice.”
Class President Morgan Jackson followed with an emotional, rousing speech that recounted a lesson her young son taught her about speaking up.
“Speak up, because your voice is the most important tool you have, and there are people you will meet who haven’t found theirs yet, and it is your responsibility to speak up for them,” Jackson said.
Speak up, because I believe one day a man could change the world, and I believe it’s most likely that man is a woman, and I believe I can be that woman.
“Class of 2016, my lesson to you is: Stand up. Speak up. And go change the world.”
Professor Robert Force, a 47-year faculty member and Maritime Law Center director emeritus, received the Felix Frankfurter Distinguished Teaching Award, the law school's highest teaching honor. John C. Herbert (L' 77), Ceritas Energy general counsel, who teaches regularly in Tulane Law's Intersession boot camp and helped launch a corporate counsel externship, received the Monte M. Lemann Distinguished Teaching Award for adjunct faculty.