On Thursday, Nov. 13, William & Mary’s Black Law Students Association and George Wythe Society of Citizen Lawyers welcomed Professor Tillman J. Breckenridge, Counsel at Reed Smith LLP and Director of the Law School’s Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic, for the second lecture in the William & Mary Black Law Students Association L. Douglas Wilder Speaker Series. Notable attendees included Dr. Vernon J. Hurte, Senior Associate Dean of Students and Director of William & Mary’s Center for Student Diversity, who introduced Breckenridge prior to his remarks.
Breckenridge’s lecture entitled, “Perseverance and Active Citizenship: Doing Your Part to Improve Lives,” addressed the importance of using one’s role as a lawyer to positively influence others. Breckenridge also noted, however, that this responsibility is something that should be assumed long before one begins law school.
“Whatever your role is,” Breckenridge said, “you can be inspiring.”
Recalling defining moments and influential figures from his own childhood and young adulthood, Breckenridge said active citizens who take the time to mentor young people and show compassion for others demonstrate invaluable leadership qualities and profoundly and positively affect larger society.
While Breckenridge encouraged students to mentor others after graduation, he also challenged students to become leaders now, by mentoring aspiring law students and neighbors from their communities working toward goals like a college degree.
In connection with molding the next generation of leaders, Breckenridge spoke about his personal responsibility to lead by example and address pressing challenges facing his own generation. Breckenridge noted that the question, “What’s my generation’s role?” keeps him motivated to work toward a better society and legal profession.
Breckenridge identified closing many of the diversity gaps in the legal profession as one issue that drives him to actively lead in his firm and in his capacity at the Law School. He cited his involvement in various leadership and mentoring programs as well as his own personal mentoring efforts as highly effective means to continue making progress in these areas.
Breckenridge also noted that these efforts are consistent with his personal motto, “Think big and make it happen.”
Prior to his lecture, Breckenridge joined Law School Dean Davison M. Douglas, Dean Hurte, and BLSA and George Wythe Society members for a luncheon, during which he discussed his career path and answered student questions about his appellate practice, the Law School’s Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic, the Supreme Court’s current docket, and his own active participation in his local community.
Undergraduate student and NAACP Co-Chair Alexis Foxworth ’15, who also attended the luncheon remarked, “As an undergraduate student, having the opportunity to sit amongst a legal scholar such as Professor Breckenridge and law students was humbling. The conversations that took place at the lunch helped to solidify my interest in William & Mary Law School as well as proved to me once again that a career in law is a powerful impetus for social change.”
Following the luncheon and prior to the start of Breckenridge’s lecture, BLSA President Matthew Kemelek J.D. ’16 and BLSA Committee Chair Xavier Jefferson J.D. ’15 presented Breckenridge with a proclamation from BLSA, recognizing Breckenridge’s commitment to community service and improving the legal community.
Following the lecture, BLSA Vice President India Richardson J.D. ’16 presented Breckenridge with a token of appreciation for his commitment to diversity in the legal community, his years of mentorship, and his service to his community and the Law School.
George Wythe Society President David Noll J.D. ’15 also recognized Breckenridge for his embodiment of the citizen-lawyer ideal.
After the award presentations, one attendee, James Young J.D. ’15 happily summarized his experiences at the luncheon and lecture events, “The lunch and lecture with Professor Breckenridge were enjoyable as well as informative. I appreciate the Black Law Students Association, the George Wythe Society, and William & Mary Law School for exposing us to such a pleasant wealth of knowledge as Professor Breckenridge. The L. Douglas Wilder Speaker Series continues to bring leadership, excellence, and success in the areas of law and policy to our school, and I eagerly look forward to seeing what’s next.”
The William & Mary Black Law Students Association L. Douglas Wilder Speaker Series features notable and respected individuals who have served in governmental, public policy, and legal capacities and who have made significant contributions to the Nation, the Commonwealth, and/or the local community. Selected speakers embody the ideals of public and community service Governor Wilder has represented throughout his distinguished career as a public servant.
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.