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Stetson law school holds its commencement

The graduates are told salaries are rising in their profession. But public respect is falling.

By SHARON TUBBS

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 7, 2000


GULFPORT -- Diana Taylor tossed confetti and glitter over her son's head Saturday after he and about 135 others graduated from the Stetson University College of Law.

It made a good picture, she said, as a swarm of other relatives and friends stood around, one of them aiming a video camera.

"They're all as crazy as I am," 30-year-old Matt Taylor said playfully in his black gown and cap.

The Taylors, from Manatee County, were among a mass of families who came from all over the state to Stetson's commencement ceremony. As a stream of speakers offered words of wisdom, spectators used paper fans to shield their faces from the morning sun.

The featured speaker, Martha Walters Barnett, president-elect of the American Bar Association, told students their profession is changing rapidly.

"There is no question that our profession is in transition," Barnett said.

The "prognosticators" have predicted more specialized and bigger law firms in coming years, she said. Technology will play a bigger role. And in time the starting salary for lawyers is expected to climb, she said. Students cheered.

But there are negatives, too, she said. "Our profession is increasingly under attack."

Although they stand to be criticized as lawyers, Barnett said, students must be proud. "The career of a lawyer," she said, "is the most rewarding professional career available to anyone today."

After the hourlong ceremony, graduates filed into a reception area. Some, such as Desiree C. Hill, now plan to interview for jobs. Hill, a 25-year-old from Daytona Beach, wants to work in labor and employment law.

Shannon Campbell of Parrish has a job waiting for her in Orlando in insurance defense. The years of study and preparing for commencement had been hectic, said a tired Campbell, 25.

But her mother was all smiles Saturday. "I'm proud, happy, excited," Kathryn Campbell said.

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