University of San Francisco stresses social justice within justice education

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I attended the graduation or our daughter, Giuliana, from law school at the University of San Francisco (USF). It was a wonderful event and we’re very proud of our daughter for her hard work and perseverance over the last three years. But she now has her law degree and this summer is already hard at work again preparing to take the California bar exam in a couple of months. I know that she will succeed.

But what I want to write about in connection with my daughter’s graduation is how impressed I have been with how USF, a Jesuit institution, has stressed the importance of social justice issues with relation to a law degree. At a time when many Americans have low opinions of lawyers (and for good reasons), it is also important to recognize that many lawyers such as those trained at USF are not into the profession just to make money or to support criminals (as some critics allege), but to use their training and legal skills to advance social justice and democracy in this country.

The law is often a tension between those who use the law to support the status quo and those who use the law to advance the cause of an enlarged and empowered citizenry. USF and other Catholic law schools promote the latter and I, for one, am very appreciative of this.

The rich and powerful will always have legal support, but it is equally if not more important for working people, the middle class, and minorities to have legal advocates for their interests. The law is not neutral; it is a contested ground over the meaning of our society. I am proud that Catholic law schools such as USF promote among their law students that in whatever area of law that they practice, that they not forget that as graduates of a Catholic law schools they owe an obligation and responsibility to help others and to advance social justice.

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I hope we never lose this perspective. I know our daughter will carry it forward in her own legal career.

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