Terrorism, International Crime Transforming Legal Scene, Mueller Tells Law Graduates
International terrorism is transforming the legal environment and this year's Law School graduates will be dealing with its impact regardless of the specialty they enter in the profession, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert S. Mueller III told the Class of 2003 and their families. Forced off Holcombe Green Lawn and into Memorial Gymnasium by a steady downpour, the crowd gave Mueller, a 1973 graduate of the School of Law, warm applause when he called Virginia the "best law school in the country."
New digital technologies, cell phones, the Internet and the reaction to 9/11 are jolting law enforcement and the legal system into new territory, Mueller said. "We in the FBI face a world where terrorists, narcotics traffickers, and other international criminals traverse borders with impunity relying on the inability of nation-states to bridge their conflicting legal systems. This global reach of crime — particularly terrorism — is transforming the law enforcement in which we operate and it will change the legal environment in which you will operate."
The FBI now regards protecting the nation from more terrorist attacks like those against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as its first priority, he said. The Bureau is expanding its capacity to confront cyber crime and is modernizing toward being fully effective in the digital world while still doing its traditional job of policing domestic white-collar and violent crime. The scale and nature of the threat requires a high degree of coordination between all levels of police authority, and the Bureau can no longer succeed strictly independently.
He praised U.Va. Law as a place where it's understood that a true legal education is "an amalgam of the law, and of values, with the goal of preparing its students for service-service to the country, service to Virginia, service to the poor and service to others." When he came to the Law School after a tour of duty as a Marine in Vietnam he found himself respected, he said, while veterans at other schools were not.
He urged the graduates to take three pieces of advice from him. First, don't fear taking on new challenges. He has moved 17 times for new opportunities. "What I've learned is that no two prosecutors' offices, no two law firms, no two courthouses do things in the same way. Moving expands your horizons, teaches you new ways of doing things."
Second, he told the Class to remember that "integrity is the bedrock of one's reputation and one's career… You are only as good as your word. You can be smart, aggressive, articulate, persuasive. But if you are not scrupulously honest with fellow counsel, the court, the jury, and yourself, your reputation and your career will be worth naught… At no point in either the largest or smallest decision should you sacrifice your integrity."
Mueller also called on graduates to devote themselves to service, which he defined as "putting others before yourself."
"We must also not forget that we all have a national responsibility. Democracy is a form of government that thrives only by the interest and the actions of its citizens," he said. He cited Jefferson's appeal that "There is a debt of service due from every man to his country, proportioned to the bounties which nature and fortune have measured him," and said that is no less true today.
He suggested that graduates consider joining other U.Va. Law alumni at the FBI. "The rewards of public service are often difficult to measure, to quantify, to adequately describe," Mueller said. "But for an FBI agent, or for the prosecutor, fulfillment comes from bringing relief to the families of victims of terrorism or other killers." He told of the emotionally wrenching scene of visiting Lockerbie, Scotland, and seeing the personal belongings of those blown up in the air high above the little town. Bringing justice to those responsible for exploding Pan Am Flight 103 offers "rewards without measure and transcends the monetary rewards often available in our profession," he said.
The Law School awarded 342 Juris Doctor degrees and 32 Masters of Laws degrees following Mueller's remarks.
2003 Graduation Awards
Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.