Federal judge welcomes new class of students to S.J. Quinney College of Law

As law schools across the country welcome students this week, the 93 new arrivals that make-up the Class of 2019 at the S.J. Quinney College of Law received one of their first steps in legal training from a notable source: Judge Scott M. Matheson Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.


Scott Matheson |Photo by Dana Wilson

Matheson, who is also a former dean at the U’s law school, taught the Class of 2019 one of their first classes on the first day of law school, mixing advice with practical training during his lecture at orientation, “How to Read a Case.”

The experience of bringing in a federal judge to speak to students on their first day of class isn’t one available at many law schools across the country, said Reyes Aguilar, associate dean of admissions and financial aid at the S.J. Quinney College of Law.

“This is a unique opportunity for our students,” said Aguilar. “To gain knowledge from a federal judge on the first day of their new legal careers gives our students a memorable start to their upcoming three-year educational journey through law school,” he said.

Matheson’s training kicked off a week-long orientation for first-year law students, a group that hails from at least 18 different state and diverse countries including Bulgaria, Venezuela and Korea. Seventy-four percent of the class of 2019 hails from Utah and 44 percent are women, Aguilar said. Students range in age from 21 to 50, with an average age of 27.3 and come from variety of academic undergraduate and graduate disciplines.

Aguilar pointed out that the newest group of students are starting legal careers at one of the most interesting times in history. From a divisive presidential election, to violence and protests over police shootings across the country, a new generation of attorneys is entering the profession at a volatile time. He encouraged students to stay inspired about changes they’d like to see in the world to push through the adversity that challenging coursework in law school can sometimes bring.

“Each of you have already demonstrated to us that you have the academic skillset to complete the program, and the potential to contribute significantly to the law school,” Aguilar said.

Bob Adler, dean of the law school, also gave advice to students during Monday’s orientation.  Adler, an avid runner who last spring completed a 100-mile ultramarathon to raise money for scholarships and create awareness for the legal profession, used a running metaphor to encourage students to find their stride in law school.

“Law school is a marathon, it’s not a 5K. If you start too fast, you’re going to burn out. If you start too slow, you’re going to have to sprint at the end,” Adler advised students.

The Class of 2019 will continue its orientation week through Friday, introducing students to faculty and bringing in other guest speakers to give students a strong start to the academic year.  Also speaking is Judge Royal Hansen, an S.J. Quinney College of Law alumnus and longtime 3rd District Court judge in Salt Lake City, who will explain standards of professionalism and civility to students.

The week culminates in a Friday “Swearing-In Ceremony” at the law school’s moot courtroom, where Utah Supreme Court Justice Constandinos “Deno” Himonas will administer the oath and officially welcome students to the profession .