MACON – The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Professionalism has named Mercer University's Walter F. George School of Law as a recipient of this year's E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award. The Gambrel Award honors excellence and innovation in professionalism programs.
Mercer Law School was one of two recipients this year, and was selected based on a component of its first-year required professionalism course, taught and developed by Professor Patrick Longan, William Augustus Bootle Chair in Professionalism and Ethics. That component, "Inside the Legal Profession," is modeled loosely on the Bravo television channel's "Inside the Actor's Studio" program. It consists of a series of interviews with lawyers and judges in front of the entire first-year class. Each lasts about 45 minutes, and then the students have time for questions. The purposes of these interviews are to expose the students to different careers in the law and to put before them exemplars of people who live, practice and thrive while they act in accordance with professionalism. Many of the interviews are available on YouTube.
Mercer previously received the Gambrell Award in 1996 for its Woodruff Curriculum, based on the "depth and excellence" of its commitment to professionalism education. This year's award will be presented during the ABA Annual Meeting in Boston on Aug. 8.
"I am very proud that Mercer Law School's leadership in innovative legal education has once again been recognized by this important group. For a law school to receive this prestigious award once is a high honor. To receive it twice is even better. Once again being a recipient of the Gambrell Award reflects Mercer Law's longstanding and continuing commitment to thoughtful preparation of our students for the realities of law practice," said Daisy Hurst Floyd, dean and University Professor of Law and Ethical Formation. "I am grateful to the ABA Standing Committee, to Professor Longan for his leadership, and to the many members of the law school community who contribute every day to our educational excellence."
A letter announcing this year's award read, "The judges were impressed by the program design's emphasis on transcending standard practitioner testimonials with a deep and thoughtful examination of lawyer professionalism, what it means, and how it manifests itself in the day-to-day lives of working lawyers and judges. The intimate, one-on-one interview format lends itself to a compelling and lasting learning experience, and reflects on Mercer's commitment to each of its students' development as a professional. The Committee considers the program exemplary and worthy of national recognition as a Gambrell Award recipient for 2014."
"We are grateful to the Standing Committee for this recognition, and all of us at the law school are grateful to the many lawyers and judges who have so graciously agreed to be a part of this program and to be role models for our students," said Professor Longan.
Student comments attest to the effectiveness of these interviews.
"Being able to listen to established attorneys discuss their experiences and their practices has helped me understand that despite the many different types of legal careers available, the concept of professionalism is truly universal. The interviews helped me see that being an attorney is truly a vocation and requires commitment to your current and future clients, to your values, to the society that supports you and to the profession in general," said first-year student Elizabeth Lambert.
The Gambrell Professionalism Awards were established in 1991, and are named for the former ABA and American Bar Foundation president from 1955 to 1956. Gambrell founded the Legal Aid Society in Atlanta, where he practiced law from 1922 until his death in 1986. Since 1991, the ABA has selected one to three entities in the United States each year as a recipient of the Gambrell Award. More information on the Gambrell Awards is available here.
About Mercer Law School
Founded in 1873, the Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law is one of the oldest law schools in the United States and the first one in the state of Georgia accredited by the American Bar Association. Mercer Law School's educational philosophy is based on a broadly shared commitment to prepare students for the high-quality, general practice of law in a day-to-day learning environment that is both strongly supportive and consistently professional. Its innovative Woodruff Curriculum – which focuses on ethics and practical skills amid small class sizes – earned the Gambrell Professionalism Award from the ABA for its "depth of excellence." With an enrollment of about 450 students, Mercer Law School is nationally recognized for its exceptional programs in legal writing, moot court, public service, and ethics and professionalism. For more information about Mercer Law School, visit www.law.mercer.edu or call (478) 301-5000.