Guest Opinions

Guest Opinion: Concordia graduates will benefit Idaho and legal community

Commencements always bring a flood of emotions about the future. For family members, the community and business leaders, there is necessarily a feeling of excitement about how these new graduates are going to improve society through the practice of law.

Certainly that’s on the minds of graduates as well. As Concordia University School of Law celebrates its inaugural commencement, we are thinking in broader terms about the potential impact of Boise’s new cohort of lawyers — not just about their employment, but also how they will give back to their communities.

The mission of Concordia University is to “prepare leaders for the transformation of society,” and that is embedded in our approach to legal education. Graduating servant leaders allows Concordia to infuse the Idaho legal community with lawyers who appreciate the importance of helping the underserved and who are prepared to transform their communities. From the start, our students understand that if they are merely looking for financial success, our law school may not be the right fit for them.

Amid recent headlines about the legal profession and the lack of access to justice for low-income and middle-income people, law schools need to do more.

Our goal at Concordia is to be a healthy and invigorating partner for the community in which we operate. In this way we are following the dictum of Concordia University President Charles E. Schlimpert, who says, “What’s good for the community is good for Concordia.”

We are not interested in developing an ivory tower. Our goal is to break down barriers to legal education by fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion and providing the opportunity for individuals to effect change in their communities using the skills they develop at Concordia.

Our graduates and their commitment to pro bono service demonstrate our mission in action.

Several of these graduates spent time volunteering for the Idaho Innocence Project, Idaho Legal Aid and the Idaho Trial Lawyers Association’s Street Law Clinic. Another group of graduates volunteered their time with child advocacy organizations such as Idaho Voices for Children and with CASA as Guardians Ad Litem, representing the best interest of children in court proceedings. The Court Assistance Offices in Caldwell and Boise hosted some of our graduates working on various projects to support people appearing in court without the assistance of an attorney. Additionally, the refugee community and veteran population were served by our graduates through work at various organizations.

This approach has led to our university’s recognition, over each of the past five years, on the U.S. President’s Community Service Honor Roll, and among the Top 10 in the nation, among universities in our category, for our community service hours by Washington Monthly magazine.

In short, we expect our students to contribute to the vibrancy and improvement of their community, and at our inaugural commencement we celebrate their success. Congratulations, graduates!

Cathy Silak, Dean of Concordia University School of Law, is a former member of the Idaho Supreme Court. Concordia celebrated its inaugural commencement on Saturday.