Law School Celebrates Professor Jim Moliterno's Contributions| April 7, 2009
In the Law School's admissions brochure, Tazewell Taylor Professor of Law Jim Moliterno is quoted as saying that those who teach in our Legal Skills Program have a common goal: "to communicate to each student who comes here that they are an integral part of the Law School community right from the start. The program has become a symbol of - and a way of perpetuating - the sense of community here."
On March 30, the Law School community, so treasured by Moliterno, gathered in great numbers in the lobby to express its gratitude and best wishes to him, as he prepares to begin a new chapter in his professional life at Washington and Lee University as the Vincent Bradford Professor of Law.
In her remarks, interim Dean and Chancellor Professor of Law Lynda Butler said Moliterno came to Williamsburg more than 21 years ago and "raised a family and gave birth to the Legal Skills Program, " a program, she said, that has profoundly altered the way ethics, legal writing and legal research are taught around the world.
As a professor, she said, he was "dynamic, caring, and intellectually quick," which explained how he could, year after year, accomplish the feat of attracting 140 students - the maximum that could be seated - to his 8:30 a.m. evidence class.
As a colleague, she said, Moliterno was all that one could ask for: "congenial, insightful, calm, slow to anger, always willing to serve."
Chancellor Professor of Law Fredric Lederer said Moliterno is recognized today as "one of the great pioneers in legal education." Harkening back, however, to the time when the Legal Skills Program was first proposed, he said, its approach was so innovative that more than a few people at the Law School believed it was a "wild gamble, unlikely of success." To help launch the program, the faculty hired Moliterno. No one, said Lederer, "can possibly understand his contributions. In addition to bringing the whole concept of ethics as a core component, he put flesh on the bones of a program that was only a dream." The program was launched with only a handful of teaching assistants, Lederer recalled, and "the workload was incredible." Today, in addition to being the recipient of the ABA's first E. Smythe Gambrel Professionalism Award, Lederer said that the program is widely acknowledged among peers that he meets as setting the bar high for other programs in the field.
"What you have done can hardly be described," Lederer said, "... we are in your debt."
In her remarks, Clinical Professor of Law Patricia Roberts '92 described the remarkable impact that Moliterno has had on her life. She recounted to those gathered a series of "important phone calls" that they have had that count among milestones in her life: among them, the call, more than 10 years ago, inviting her to teach in the skills program as an adjunct professor, and the call in 2007 to share with her the news that she had been appointed to the faculty as a clinical professor. "Months of your mentoring and support," she said, "culminated in that exciting, never dreamed of, career change."
"You were my friend during some of the most significant moments of my adult life, " Roberts said, "... you inspired me to change career paths and you taught me by example every day how to be patient, thoughtful, kind, and everything else would follow. And now you are teaching me that one never stops learning or challenging themselves or moving on to start that next big innovation."
In expressing his thanks for the occasion, Moliterno joked that his remarks would be brief. It was not lost on him, he said, "that everybody was looking at the cake." He said he was moved by the large number of people who were thronging the lobby for the reception and expressed his gratitude "for the unbelievable opportunity that this school and the faculty 21 years ago gave to me ...None of that opportunity, none of that faith, none of that confidence that was expressed in me 21 years ago has ever, ever, ever been lost on me."
He said he counted himself lucky for his years with the Law School's students, colleagues and staff. He felt keenly that "this place has been somewhere where people care about each other."
Moliterno eloquently shared his wisdom about what he believes are the hallmark of Marshall-Wythe: "When this place is at its best, people care about each other, they take care of each other. The two most important people at this law school are not William and Mary, but you and the person standing next to you."
The Dean presented Moliterno with a brass lamp inscribed with the school's name and College seal to take to his new office. In addition, Professor Roberts presented him with a book containing more than 50 "messages of congratulations" contributed by junior partners who served in the program since its inception.