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Spring 2015 UVA Lawyer - Home
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By Inclination and Training

Paul G. Mahoney

Dean Paul Mahoney

Lawyers are heavily represented in public life. Partly this is because lawyers are trained to persuade, which is an essential skill in the policy arena. But it is also because lawyers are by inclination and training dedicated to public service. We take great pride in being the first law school explicitly founded on that principle.

The remarkably high representation of UVA Law graduates in national, state, and local elected and appointed office is also a reminder that effective public service depends critically on leadership ability. Our graduates have always become leaders within their organizations, both in the private and public sectors, at rates disproportionate to their numbers. Their ability to work with others—to listen, to understand, to build consensus, and to inspire—make them naturals in the public arena.

In this issue of the UVA Lawyer, we focus on graduates who hold or have held important posts in state and local government. As of 2012, there were 90,056 state and local government units, including 38,910 general-purpose governments such as cities and towns, in the United States. They collectively employed 14.7 million full-time workers, compared to 2.6 million at the federal level. While federal policies obviously have outsized impact, a majority of all government decisions and actions take place at a local level. In that sense, it really is true that all politics is local. We asked several graduates who have served in state and local government, including some who can contrast it with their federal government service, to give us their insights. I particularly enjoyed hearing their descriptions of interactions with constituents and related comments about the differences between campaigning and governing.

Law and lawyers played a central role in the civil rights movement, which celebrates an important anniversary this year. On August 6, 1965, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which contained provisions designed to make effective the right to vote as guaranteed by the 15th Amendment. We asked three faculty members whose teaching and scholarship touch on civil rights and in particular on voting rights, Risa Goluboff, Dan Ortiz, and George Rutherglen, to reflect on the Voting Rights Act and the recent Supreme Court decision in the Shelby County case finding a portion of the act unconstitutional.

These pages contain a wealth of interesting observations on issues that should be of interest to every citizen as well as every graduate of the Law School. I hope you enjoy reading them.