By Travis Gulbrandson
South Dakota’s attorney general has some advice for the recent graduates of the University of South Dakota School of Law: Practice, and rely on your classmates.
Marty Jackley spoke to the outgoing students at the hooding ceremony, which was held in Aalfs Auditorium Friday, May 3.
“Some of you are probably sitting here wondering, ‘Do I want to practice law?’ and in the next few months you’re going to have to make that decision,” Jackley said.
He added that there are several reasons they should practice, not the least of which is the fact that they have spent the past three years getting their degrees.
“Number two, don’t spend the rest of your life asking yourself, ‘What if I would have done it?’” Jackley said. “I have classmates that ask that question. They went and did something else, and some people can do that and be happy, but if you’re teetering on that, don’t be one of those people that wishes you would have done it.”
The final reason is the work itself.
“I will tell you from experience – and you really have to experience it – the law is one of the most gratifying and satisfying things you will do,” he said.
Jackley added that the students should rely on each other well into the future.
“Now you will study for the bar exam, and you will do that together, and every week here you will continue to help each other whether you’re actually practicing or doing other functions,” he said. “You will be amazed at how often you will depend upon each other. I look back on my class, and I would never have been partner in a law firm but for the clients my classmates sent me, the questions they answered, the late-night calls.
“I would have never gotten elected attorney general without my classmates,” he said.
For example, Jackley said that when he was running one of his campaign workers spoke to him expressing concern because a state’s attorney from another political party asked for a second bundle of signs to place around the community.
“I asked the name, and when I got it, I said, ‘(That’s) a law school classmate of mine,’” Jackley said. “Some day you’re going to appreciate that. You need to make sure you help each other out to get through the very difficult times.”
And there will be difficult times, Jackley said.
“The practice of law is draining, and it takes a considerable amount of effort and time,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for lawyers to suffer from alcoholism, substance abuse, aggressive behavior, sometimes suicide. We have high divorce rates. But I would suggest to you, stay grounded, and keep things in perspective.”
There are several ways to do this, he said, including having a family and hobbies, as well as being active in the community and doing public service.
“We’re a small state. You’re going to find out that you know every lawyer in the state personally or by reputation,” Jackley said. “I cannot stress enough, in South Dakota, you only lose your integrity as a lawyer one time. …
“I ask that you keep those things in mind,” he said. “If you’re going to practice law, you’ll have tough days, tough problems. But if you keep the right attitude, you’ll be a successful lawyer.”