Elon University / Today in Elon / Charge Elon’s New Law Students: Use Your “POWER”
Prioritize people and the network. Open yourself to trying new things. There are many ways to give back. Embrace the journey. Reputation management is important.
Gerald L. Walden Jr. G’14 believes that the best lawyers are those who establish these habits and values early in their legal studies – and that means now is the time for new law school students. ‘Elon University to commit to healthier habits of mind. and using their “POWER”
The president-elect of the Greensboro Bar Association delivered a convocation address Aug. 5, 2022 to Elon Law’s class of 2024, the second-largest and one of the most diverse in the program’s history.
Walden is Assistant Vice President/General Counsel and Chief Diversity Officer for The Fresh Market, Inc., a specialty grocery retailer headquartered in North Carolina. His remarks were based on his two decades of professional experience handling most of the major litigation the company faces and all of its labor and employment law matters.
“You are about to embark on one of the most rigorous and hopefully one of the most rewarding experiences of your life,” he said. “Become a lawyer.”
Walden noted that some students come to law school with a clear idea of the type of law they want to practice. That’s perfectly fine, he said. Don’t ignore opportunities that arise, even in areas of practice you’ve never considered before.
“Whenever I’m asked what makes a great intern or a new lawyer, it’s just someone who wants to learn,” Walden said. “Certainly, being an intelligent person and a strong writer and researcher is a given. Beyond that, I want someone who is willing to work in an area of law they had no prior knowledge of or thought they liked and who tackles it as if they were born for it. TO DO.
Then find ways to give back. Walden said there are many community lawyers who can help solve problems with the knowledge they have.
“Law students and lawyers are uniquely positioned to help resolve legal issues faced by individuals, groups and organizations to promote the public good,” he said. “It may be easier for some than for others depending on the type of law you practice…but as a lawyer, even a law student, there are always opportunities to volunteer your time and talents .
Finally, Walden said, never forget that a lawyer’s reputation is critically important to their success.
“A brand and your reputation are important in many professions, especially those where you’re trying to attract and retain customers,” he said. “Lawyers are already the butt of many jokes and certain negative stereotypes, so why fuel this by acting more unprofessionally, disrespectfully, without honor or integrity?”
And protect your online reputation and the way you present yourself to others. “Lock your social media accounts as soon as possible,” Walden said. “Delete questionable images that could put you in a bad light. Google yourself and see what happens. If you see something questionable that you are unhappy with, do something to change it.
Walden joined The Fresh Market in 2004 after two court clerkships at the North Carolina Court of Appeals. He graduated summa cum laude in 1996 from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He received his Juris Doctor with honors in 2001 from North Carolina Central University School of Law and an MBA in 2014 from Elon University.
Walden serves on the NC A&T Board of Visitors, NCCU Law Board of Visitors, Elon Law School Advisory Board, Greensboro Bar Association Board of Directors, National Employment Law Board of Directors Council and the Member Engagement Advisory Council of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce.
In recent years, he has served as president of the Guilford County Association of Black Lawyers, a member of the board of governors of the North Carolina Bar Association, and chairman of NCBA’s Minorities in the Profession Committee.
The ceremony at the Alumni Gymnasium on Elon’s main campus in Alamance County included a presentation by each member of the class who signed a copy of the Elon Law Honor Code before walking across a stage to hug the hand of Acting Elon University Provost Raghu Tadepalli and Acting Elon Law. Dean Alan Woodlief.
The convocation featured remarks from Tadepalli and Faisal Sulman L’22, president of the Student Bar Association who, coincidentally, completed his residency practicing Elon Law under Walden’s supervision at the Fresh Market.
Both welcomed the class of 2024 to Elon Law: Tadepalli on behalf of Elon faculty and administration, and Sulman on behalf of Elon Law’s student body.
Tadepalli described how Elon Law’s professors enjoy teaching students inside and outside the classroom and how they are known for their accessibility and responsiveness to students. He told the class to seize the opportunity to work with “this community of exceptional thinkers”.
“Active scholarship is the engine that keeps professors intellectually curious and stimulated, and research influences and enhances the ideas they share with you in the classroom,” Tadepalli said. “I hope you will ask your faculty questions about their scientific interests and how they are advancing their disciplines.”
Sulman encouraged his new classmates to use law school resources as they embark on a program that will challenge them in a way that is different from their undergraduate studies.
“Each of you sitting across from me has access to a phenomenal support system of experienced faculty, staff and students willing to go above and beyond to help you. None of you are alone in this process,” Sulman said. “Law school is going to be tough. However, it’s called law school for a reason. You’re here to learn. You’re not going to get everything from the start. and it doesn’t matter.
“Take a deep breath, reset and try again. And if you still can’t get it, ask faculty, staff, and students for help.
At the end of the ceremony, Woodlief shared the symbolism of the tassel that everyone received after signing the honor code poster. Their upbringing in Elon — the Hebrew word for “oak tree” — will transform them over the next 2.5 years, Woodlief explained.
After graduation, another gift will symbolize this growth. Until then, he said, focusing on the principles of the honor code will help students develop an important attribute for any lawyer.
“By embracing the values of honesty, integrity, responsibility and respect, you demonstrate your desire to serve the public good while upholding the high standards of a noble profession,” Woodlief said. “A lawyer’s reputation is his most valuable asset.
“While it’s nice to get good grades, your reputation will depend less on your grades and more on what others observe about you – your value ethic, your diligent preparation for class, your commitment to honesty and ethical behavior, as well as the civility and respect you demonstrate. others in the classroom and outside. These same things will also shape your reputation as a practicing lawyer after law school.
About Elon Law
Elon University School of Law in Greensboro, North Carolina is the leading school for engaged and experiential learning in law. With an emphasis on learning-by-doing and among the top quartile of U.S. law schools for low levels of student debt at graduation, it integrates traditional classroom instruction with residencies in full-time practice linked to coursework in a logically sequenced program of transformational career preparation. Elon Law’s groundbreaking approach is accomplished in 2.5 years, which provides distinctive value by lowering tuition costs and allowing graduates to quickly enter their legal careers.