Interprofessional Center

for Counseling & Legal Services

Jerry Lane Guest Speaker for the Fall 2010 Swearing In Ceremony


Jerry Lane, Executive Director of Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance, certifies our Fall 2010 Legal Services Clinic students at our Swearing In Ceremony held on August 27, 2010.

The following is an excerpt from the inspirational message that Lane shared with our fall clinic students, members of the UST School of Law community and guests:

"It’s a privilege for me to participate in this ceremony. It’s been exciting for me as a member of the Board of Governors to see how committed to public service St. Thomas and its students are. I’ve been pleased to hire a number of graduates, and have been very happy with those choices. It’s one reason I have such enthusiasm for loan repayment assistance.

What we do is needed, and it’s hard. To do it for 40 years I have needed to have not just my intellect, but my heart and soul, engaged. And there’s a price to be paid for that. The Tin Woodman in the Wizard of Oz was right. You'll know you have a caring heart when it breaks. And it will. But it can be fun too. One of my challenges a few years ago was to convince state legislators who passed an unconstitutional welfare residency requirement ( the Senate vote was 66-1) that we really did them a favor taking it to court and getting it thrown out, and that they should keep funding us. Now that's a fun challenge!

But this work is not a noble sacrifice. I'm privileged to be able to do work that is so congruent with my spiritual values. As time has passed I’ve gotten more open about the spiritual grounding of my work.

Don’t be afraid to do the same thing. Too much talk about values is being done by people with values very different from ours. Don't concede the field to them. Understand and share the way your work is grounded in Christianity, or Judaism, or Islam, or whatever spiritual value system you embrace. But at the same time, I counsel staff to beware the danger of getting a moral superiority complex. Some of my clients have been people I wouldn't bring home to mother. I’ve tried to avoid getting a swelled head about what I was doing for the clients. My wife has reminded me that I should not think so much about saving the clients; she said if I’m lucky the clients will save me! And she’s right, when I think about the example they have set for me repeatedly over the years, of dignity and courage and generosity in the face of adversity the likes of which I have never faced.

Some years ago a legal publication did a survey of judges about the lawyers who appeared before them. They identified three groups of lawyers: the most civil, the best prepared, and who won the most cases. Of all the lawyers in this town, only 7 appeared on all three lists. Two of them were good friends of mine, both legal aid alumni, practicing in a 4-lawyer firm. They are role models.

But maybe more than anything else, I've learned that it’s not enough to produce a good work product; at least equally important is how you do it. I believe that to do it long and well, you must do it with love and kindness: to your clients, to your coworkers, even to adverse parties and lawyers. Remember that you accomplish nothing alone. When I'm hiring, I try to find out how an applicant treats support staff. That tells me a lot about what kind of a person they are.

The power of loving kindness is immense. The philosopher and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said it well: "Some day, after mastering the winds, the tides and gravity, we will harness for God the energies of love. Then, for the second time in the history of the world, mankind will have discovered fire."

In my faith tradition a Greek name for the Holy Spirit is the Paraclete. The term in various contexts is translated as Advocate, Counselor and Comforter. Those words belong together in describing who we are and what we do. Because what we do isn’t just about fighting; it’s also about healing. That’s a value I hope to pass on to your generation."

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