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O’Connor greets incoming law students


August 20, 2007

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor made a surprise visit to the law school named in her honor Aug. 13 to welcome the incoming first-year law students.

Patricia White, dean of ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, introduced O’Connor as “the first woman to have a law school named after her.”

“It’s so exciting to be in your shoes,” O’Connor told the students, who were attending an orientation session. “I remember so well when I entered.”

O’Connor says her first year of law school was “like a light bulb going off in my head.”

“I began to learn how much of what we do in life is governed by law and legal principles – school, work, in every way,” she says. “I had no idea. I didn’t understand how those principles were developed.”

O’Connor says that fewer of those gathered would argue cases in courtrooms than had those in her class.

“Litigation has grown much too expensive,” O’Connor says. “By and large, the population can’t afford to go to court. You’ll have to learn negotiation skills and settlement skills.”

O’Connor says she loved law school, and urged the students to enjoy their profession.

“I hope you aren’t expecting to get rich,” O’Connor told the students. “Most of you won’t. But you will be enriched in what you do. You will learn how to be a leader. You will learn how to focus on problems and how to solve them. That’s a great thing. Work hard, have a good time, and I’ll see you from time to time.”

Students said the visit was exciting.

“I was totally amazed,” says Erin Richardson, 23, of Fargo, N.D. “I couldn’t close my mouth. It was wonderful that she could take the time to welcome us.”

Richardson says O’Connor has been an inspiration.

“I’ve recently come to appreciate how much she has accomplished in the field as a woman, and to appreciate how much I owe her,” Richardson says. “As she was walking out, she said, ‘There’s a lot more women than when I started.’ That was something she liked. It was certainly a memorable way to start law school.”

Bryce Burnham, 25, of Mesa, says he hopes it was the first of many meetings with O’Connor.

“It was a pleasant surprise, and certainly an honor,” Burnham says. “I knew the school was named after her, but to have her show up made it very real. Other students had told me she spoke with them during the course of their education. I look forward to hearing from her in the future.”

Arden Anderson, 25, of Tempe, says it made the college’s name even more meaningful.

“It shows she’s not just a figurehead,” Anderson says. “They’re not just using her name. It’s something she really cares about.”

Judy Nichols
judy.nichols@asu.edu