Robert M. Fitzgerald '75 was inducted as an honorary member of the Order of the Coif during William & Mary Law School's Awards Ceremony on May 15. In addition to Fitzgerald's induction, the event included the presentation of more than 30 awards and special recognitions to members of the Class of 2010.
Coif chapters may elect to honorary membership "those who as lawyers, judges and teachers have attained high distinction for their scholarly or professional accomplishments." The Law School's Coif chapter inducted its first members beginning with the Class of 1981; William & Mary alumni chosen as honorary inductees graduated in earlier classes. Membership in the Order of the Coif is the highest academic honor a law student can achieve. It is equivalent to membership in Phi Beta Kappa for undergraduates.
In his remarks, Dean Davison M. Douglas noted that Fitzgerald graduated from the College of William & Mary and served as a captain in the United States Marine Corps before returning to his alma mater for law school. He has been married for more than 40 years to college classmate Marion B. Fitzgerald '69. As a law student, the Dean told the audience, Fitzgerald "finished fourth in his class, capturing the book awards in Torts and Administrative Law, and was an Articles Editor on the William and Mary Law Review."
Fitzgerald thanked the Law School for the honor and said he was delighted that many members of his family could be on hand for the occasion. He congratulated the soon-to-be-graduates and reminded them of the value of their W&M law degrees. "After 35 years of the practice of law," he said, "I can tell you without hesitation that the legal education you have received at William & Mary Law School is second to none. ... I can assure each of you that you have received an outstanding foundation in the law and you are well prepared to successfully pursue any aspect of the practice of law that you choose."
Fitzgerald is a senior partner at Watt, Tieder, Hoffar & Fitzgerald, which was ranked as the top construction law firm in the U.S. in 2009. He is regarded as one of the nation's leading construction lawyers and has tried construction law cases throughout the world.