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High Spirits, Sober Notes at Law School Breakfast

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Alongside the humorous anecdotes and good cheer at Miami Law's 63rd Annual Morning Spirits and Homecoming Breakfast on Saturday morning, there was a serious message conveyed to the august gathering of alumni, who included many judges, lawyers and others in positions of influence.

"Help our students get jobs," Dean Patricia D. White said in her remarks at UM's Newman Alumni Center. "Hire them first, to the extent you can."

The law school is giving its students "fabulous skills," Dean White said, describing them as "the most talented group of students we've ever had." Once they graduate, "they will be phenomenal lawyers," she said, although many will be burdened with debt that will require attention and solid, productive employment.

The event's keynote speaker, the Hon. Kathleen M. Williams, JD '82, sounded a similar theme, saying that it is the obligation of alumni to help the current graduating classes. "We're all alums," she said. "We should all be nurturing them and promoting them. It's our future. We all of us need to find time to share our talents and our insights."

Williams, who was recently appointed a federal judge in Florida's Southern District, urged her audience to "find time" to judge moot trails, for instance, or at the very least to come to the campus and talk with students.

On a lighter note, Williams, citing the requirement that judges be impartial in their rulings and allegiances, noted that she is "a graduate of the two universities that are taking the field today," a reference to the UM-Duke game at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Acknowledging the conflict within her, Williams first put a UM hat on her head and later removed her jacket to display a Duke T-shirt. By the end of her speech, though, the judge seemed to have made up her mind.

"I'm a proud alum of the U," she said. "Go Canes."

Donna E. Shalala, the UM president, was also in a jovial mood as she introduced the guests to her mother, Edna Shalala, a retired lawyer who is 100 years old. President Shalala told of the day when, as a cabinet secretary in the Clinton administration, she received a call from her boss saying that he was going to Cleveland to visit a senior citizens' center and wondered whether Edna Shalala – who was still practicing law there in her '80s – could introduce him at the event. So the younger Shalala called her mother, who was less than overwhelmed.

"Geez, you know, it's tax season – I'm busy," she said.

"Come on, mother, it's the president of the United States."

"Well, how much time is it going to take?" her mother asked. She finally relented.

When Clinton showed up at the senior citizens' center, Edna Shalala said to him, "You know, Mr. President, this is a billable hour."

Most of the laughs at the breakfast – which was sponsored by TotalBank – were prompted by the Hon. Stanford Blake, JD '73, the master of ceremonies. Then it was on to the traditional presentation of awards, a task handled by Dean White, Law Alumni Association President Elizabeth B. Honkonen, JD '98, and Devang Desai, JD '03, the president-elect.

The award recipients included Marjorie Baron, JD '92, who served as assistant general counsel to the chief judge for the 11th Judicial Circuit and whose talents include the production of videos about notable alumni. Baron, who was given the Thomas Davison III Memorial Service Award, had to leave for China on Friday and was not present to receive the award.

Baron has written and produced the Alumnus of Distinction videos for several years, including those honoring Jeannette F. Hausler, JD '53, and Neil R. Sonnett, JD '67. Her most recent video was shown on Thursday at the dinner honoring Robert H. Traurig, JD '50. "She is always there to assist, a talented attorney, mediator and writer in her own right," Honkonen said.

Philip Bloom, a former trial judge and an adjunct professor at Miami Law, received the Henry "Lat" Latimer Leadership and Professionalism Award. Bloom, Honkonen said, is "a pillar of our community and generous supporter of the University of Miami School of Law." Bloom used the occasion to apologize retrospectively to his litigation-skills students for making them go to his classes at 7 a.m., saying it was the only way he could get to the courthouse downtown by 9:15.

The President's Spirit of Achievement Award was given to David Magilligan, JD '07, and Jane Muir, JD '09, for their efforts on the Young Alumni Committee, which was established in 2008 and which focuses on alumni who graduated from the law school in the past decade. "Jane and David, along with their Young Alumni Committee, have been instrumental these past two years in getting YAC to a strong start," Honkonen said, mentioning in particular their creation of regional networks and networking events.

Magilligan, who was president of the Student Bar Association for two years, practices in the areas of civil and criminal litigation. Muir, a partner at Gersten and Muir, P.A., is a trial attorney who focuses on civil litigation and personal injury.

The M. Minnette Massey Moot Court Award was given to Jaret L. Davis, JD '99. Davis graduated magna cum laude from Miami Law, where he was a member of the executive editorial board of the University of Miami Law Review. He also served as a member of the Moot Court Board and was the Catsman Fellow for the School of Law's Center for Ethics and Public Service. He was the first African-American Chief of the Iron Arrow Honor Society, the leading such society at the University of Miami. He is now a managing shareholder at Greenberg Traurig.

Jerry M. Markowitz, JD '74, the most recent past president of the Law Alumni Association and the chair of Thursday's Alumnus of Distinction dinner, was given the Past Presidents Award. "We are very grateful to Jerry for his leadership during the past academic year," Honkonen said of Markowitz, who continues to serve on the association's Executive Committee.

The Homecoming weekend culminated with the football game, at which some 40,000 people watched the Miami Hurricanes hammer the Duke Blue Devils by a score of 49-14.

"It was great to see UM step it up today and get a win, and even better to see all my fellow alums here for Homecoming," said Rob Weaver, JD '11. "It's great to be back at the U, cheering the Canes on to victory."

To view photos from the Homecoming Breakfast click here.

To watch video from the Homecoming Breakfast click here.

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Watch video from the Homecoming Breakfast.