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Hanna Urges Lawyers to Reflect

July 16, 2010

Professor Cheryl Hanna recently gave the keynote address at the Vermont Justice Association's 2010 annual meeting. In a speech titled "Doing Ourselves Justice: (Re) Committing to a Life of the Law," she urged lawyers to be "reflective practitioners": To tell the story of why they became lawyers, to remain committed to their values, to learn gratitude, and to take heed of two of her legal heroes - the civil rights pioneer Charles Hamilton Houston and Erin Woolley '10, who received her JD degree posthumously in May. Hamilton and Woolley lived, and died, "fighting for justice, and grateful to be travelling the path of the law."

"Lawyers are the guardians of democracy," Hanna told her audience. "One-third of our constitutional democracy is solely entrusted to our care. We stop human suffering at the hands of injustice. That is hard work, and often thankless work, but is the work we are compelled by our own stories to do. There are few professions in the world that are nobler, or more necessary to the promotion of human dignity, than this one."

Hanna cited Houston's famous quote - "I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees." Then she concluded: "So I encourage you to tell your stories, to know who you are, and to bear to witness to human suffering at the hands of injustice that we, as lawyers, are compelled to end. And most importantly, I implore you, proudly stand up, so that when you die, because you inevitably will die, that you will gratefully and graciously be standing on your feet."

Hanna's paper has been accepted for publication in the Vermont Law Review.

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