As teachers, we always try to inspire our students. That inspiration can be kindled in many forums, whether in the classroom, our offices, our communities—or, more rarely, in front of an entire graduating class. This article reflects the remarks I delivered to my students, our graduating class, on such a rare occasion, now several years past. The genesis of my speech, a simple child’s game (one we all know), led me through the reflections I offered to the class of 2014 and now offer to a much larger audience. I began writing these remarks with a question in mind: What might a simple child’s game symbolize in terms of the personal and professional qualities that will assist law graduates in acclimating to the world at large, in best serving their future clients, and in remembering where they came from, as they make the transition from law student to law professional? I found that the imagery and ideas behind “rock,” “paper,” and “scissors” translate quite well into the many facets of lawyering, including the reminder that being a lawyer is not all about monetary payoffs. My comments are indeed a gentle reminder—to all of us in the profession—that each of us is both a professional and a student; that we should always chase our highest aspirations and continue our intellectual growth; and that we should never forget the importance of our roles as such—as the bulwark of a free society—in serving our clients and the public at large. In my efforts to express these ideas, I reflected upon my own sometimes humbling experience as a practitioner and educator. What speech would be complete without an embarrassing story or two? (Or, of course, the occasional reference to some classic literature and “classic” music?) This intersection and combination of seemingly disparate subjects—a simple child’s game, “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” and the much-more-complex job of becoming a lawyer—prompted and inspired me to write what I hope will serve to motivate, guide, and remind graduates (past and future alike) of all law schools to live up to their professional responsibilities in their service to the law and society.
Michael Mogill is a professor of law at Penn State Dickinson Law. He teaches Torts, Remedies, Evidence, and Products Liability. He is also an active court-certified mediator and court-appointed arbitrator. He has worked in private practice, as a legislative lobbyist, and as a supervising and managing attorney for Georgia Legal Services, an independent, non-profit organization providing free legal services to low-income people in civil matters.
Michael Mogill, Rock, Paper, Scissors... Loot!, 2 Nev. L.J. Forum 1 (2017).