Remembering a Marquette Lawyer (and Judge) on the Centennial of His Birth

Tom Curran A week and a half ago, the Law School held our annual Alumni Awards Reception and Conferral—always a highlight of our year. For it enables us to celebrate Marquette Law School’s spirit and ideals by recognizing four exemplars of the genus (or perhaps it’s the species) of the Marquette lawyer.

I had occasion that day to talk with a longtime colleague about past such alumni awards receptions and conferrals, including the one in 2007, where we honored Martin J. Greenberg, L’71, with the Charles W. Mentkowski Award for the Sports Law Alumnus of the Year; (now-Judge) Katie Maloney Perhach, L’00, with the Howard B. Eisenberg Service Award; the Hon. Patricia J. Gorence, L’77, as the Alumnus/a of the Year; and the Hon. Thomas J. Curran, L’48, with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Then, last week, my colleague noted to me that today would have been the 100th birthday of the last of these individuals (the other three, happily, still being active alumni). I relate a brief story about Judge Curran here.

I recall my commendation of him on that occasion in 2007. I said in part this:

You may think that it is his service for almost a quarter-century as United States District Judge here in Milwaukee that recommends [Tom Curran] for this award. And this is relevant, for it is a lifetime achievement award. I am inclined to think, though, that Tom Curran would be receiving this award even if he had never become Judge Curran, for his accomplishments from 1948 to 1983 would have sufficed.

Tom Curran joined his brothers’ law firm in Mauston, Wisconsin, in 1948, and for a brief moment—a year or so—the firm was Curran, Curran & Curran. That did not last, not I am sure because of any difficulty on the part of Irish brothers in getting along with one another, but because one of his brothers left in 1950 to become a circuit judge in Juneau County, where he served for the next 30 years. The firm flourished nonetheless, and today it is one of the largest firms in the state outside of a major metropolitan area (with apologies to the many Currans and others here today from Mauston for my characterization).

Of course, the fact that there are several Currans at the firm still (Judge Curran’s children) does contribute to the numbers somewhat, but you cannot maintain a firm of this size—or even stay in business for so long—without developing a reputation for quality and trustworthiness, and the Curran firm surely has that reputation. And much of that reputation developed during Tom Curran’s 35 years of practice in Mauston.

His own stature as a lawyer meant that Tom Curran was elected by his statewide peers to the presidency of the State Bar of Wisconsin, a signal honor.

I said more, but let me move the story along. I also recall a portion of Judge Curran’s remarks in then accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award:

Given the very special place Marquette already had in the lives of the Currans, it was no surprise, when I was discharged from the Navy in July 1946, that I would come up and enroll at Marquette. And I found myself, four days later, sitting in a classroom, as we then had the three-semester-a-year program, given that probably 95 percent of us were veterans. I would guess that we ranged in rank from a private to a brigadier general—a former brigadier general. The only problem was that the general had trouble remembering the “former” part of it—or at least he did, for maybe two or three weeks, until he ended up in Professor Ghiardi’s class.

Finally, I recall but, alas, cannot directly quote the moment in his acceptance remarks—not scripted, I should think—where Judge Curran turned around from the podium and looked back at Rev. Robert A. Wild, S.J., then the president of Marquette University, and me.

Judge Curran noted the coincidence of two guys from the South Side of Chicago leading a beloved Wisconsin institution, and his remarks were most generous. This was characteristic of Judge Curran, in my experience: he made that moment not about himself but about others—and about Marquette.

I have never forgotten it or him. It is pleasant to remember a generous and gracious Marquette lawyer and judge both on his 100th birthday and on other occasions.

Continue ReadingRemembering a Marquette Lawyer (and Judge) on the Centennial of His Birth

Collecting Posts on the Office of Student Affairs and Announcing the 2024 Commencement Speaker

My hope for the Law School early this semester in launching a series of weekly blog posts, one each on ten consecutive Mondays (save only spring break), was to provide some glimpses into our Office of Student Affairs—in important senses, the school’s “main office,” I explained. I may have wryly (which is not to say inaccurately) expressed a more personal hope of passing off some of the costs onto colleagues in that office, who as experts would write most of the entries. My success in the latter respect ensured success in the former.

Here is the collection, together with the authors:

  1. Some Glimpses into the Law School Office of Student Affairs (Jan. 29, 2024) by Joseph D. Kearney
  2. What We Hear (Feb. 5, 2024) by Anna Fodor
  3. Law School Alphabet Soup (Feb. 12, 2024) by Anna Fodor
  4. By the Students, For the Students (Feb. 19, 2024) by Sarah DiStefano
  5. The Students Behind the Marquette Law Mentorship Program (Feb. 26, 2024) by Joseph D. Kearney
  6. We All Work in Student Affairs (Mar. 4, 2024) by Anna Fodor
  7. Tips from a Law School Registrar (Mar. 18, 2024) by Nicole Toerpe Mason
  8. The Office of Student Affairs Presents Financial Wellness Week (Mar. 25, 2024) by Sarah DiStefano and Anna Fodor
  9. Behind the Pomp and Circumstance (April 1, 2024) by Sarah DiStefano
  10. One Final Glimpse into the Law School Office of Student Affairs (April 8, 2024) by Anna Fodor

This series will speak for itself—for some time, I would hope, as, like so much at the Law School, it is a mix of the new and the timeless. Besides providing the foregoing “table of contents,” and without doubting that Assistant Dean Anna Fodor was correct in post no. 10 to “conclude . . . with our annual welcoming of a new class,” my additional contribution here is to announce the Law School’s May 2024 graduation speaker.

The Hon. Albert Diaz, the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, will address our graduates, their families and friends, and the faculty, in our ceremony in the elegant Milwaukee Theatre (so much nicer a name for the elegant 1909 building than its new name, the Miller High Life Theatre). I am very grateful for Chief Judge Diaz’s upcoming visit to our community.

Perhaps initially persuaded by his colleague, the Hon. James A. Wynn, Jr., L’79, Judge Diaz has rather adopted us at Marquette University Law School. Whether he thought it an innocent enough matter to lead the panel presiding over the Jenkins Honors Moot Court Finals in 2015, Judge Diaz found himself back here, soon enough, delivering the Hallows Lecture in 2016. It has been a while since (blame the pandemic), but our current students may recognize him from walking past the framed cover of the Marquette Lawyer, which hangs on the wall of the second-floor corridor, overlooking the Zilber Forum, not far from (yes) the Office of Student Affairs. In all events, our graduates will benefit from Chief Judge Diaz’s remarks on the occasion of their sendoff from Marquette Law School.

Or should I say their welcome into the legal profession? To return to a theme from the series just concluded, it can be so hard to distinguish between endings and beginnings.

Continue ReadingCollecting Posts on the Office of Student Affairs and Announcing the 2024 Commencement Speaker

The Students Behind the Marquette Law Mentorship Program

This is the fifth in a continuing series of weekly blog posts this semester about the work of Marquette Law School’s Office of Student Affairs. The opening post, like this one by Dean Joseph Kearney, can be found here; subsequent posts can be found here, here, and here.

Students at fall 2024 MLM event
MLM’s Fall 2024 Kick-Off Event. Photo courtesy of MLM Co-chair Isaiahs Luna.

Mentorship is a word that is heard a lot in the legal profession. Whatever else might be required for successful mentorship, it takes work to create an environment in which real relationships can form and appropriate counsel is offered and received.

Without doubting that there is much mentorship at the Law School, the Office of Student Affairs has assumed a particular portfolio in this sphere, with a good deal of the work being done by the student co-chairs of the Marquette Law Mentorship (MLM) Program. Under the leadership of Assistant Dean Anna Fodor, the office started the program in 2017, on the premise that if we should have a well-organized program, supported by the Office of Student Affairs and led each year by a pair of dedicated, skilled, and community-oriented upper-level students, the program would have a pretty good shot at succeeding.

So who better than this year’s MLM co-chairs, third-year students Isaiahs Luna and Courtney Tarnow, to describe the program and some of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into it? Here’s an interview of sorts, lightly edited, with Isaiahs and Courtney. Permit me as dean to extend my deep and sincere thanks to them—and to all of our past MLM co-chairs—for the time and work they have put into building, growing, and sustaining this important program at Marquette Law School.

In your words, what is the Marquette Law Mentorship Program?

Isaiahs: The Marquette Law Mentorship Program is a community-focused mission to foster professional and personal relationships within the Law School. The program allows upperclassmen and women to provide unique guidance that is personal to the first-year law student. The pairings are based on interests in the law, hometowns, and extracurricular activities, just to name a few factors.

Courtney: The Marquette Law Mentorship Program is an initiative designed to connect first-year law students with their upper-level peers to provide guidance, support, and camaraderie during their law school journey. Mentors offer insights, advice, and encouragement to their mentees, helping them adjust to the demands of law school and integrate into the greater law school community.

Overall, MLM aims to foster a sense of community and collaboration among law students, while also providing valuable peer support to allow first-year students to thrive both academically and personally during their time at Marquette.

Can you please describe your role as a co-chair of MLM?

Courtney: As an MLM co-chair, my role involves overseeing and coordinating various aspects of the mentorship program to ensure that the program is a success. Throughout the summer and fall semester, I worked closely with both my co-chair, Isaiahs, and Dean Fodor to advertise the program, train mentors, pair mentors and mentees, and schedule our Kick-Off Event.

Isaiahs: As co-chair of the Mentorship Program, there is a collaborative effort between you, your co-chair, and Dean Fodor. With Dean Fodor, we scheduled the Kick-Off Event and provided training for mentors. This was to ensure that mentors could provide the best guidance for first-year law students. We advised the mentors of the various resources that Marquette Law has available to students, and we had the potential mentors examine hypothetical situations a mentor might come across.

Of course, the most fun aspect of our role as co-chairs is to make the pairings. Courtney and I reserved a seminar room and, working from the forms that the students submitted, paired all the students who had signed up to participate in the program. It was a long process (around 12 hours), but we wanted to make sure everyone’s pairing was as perfect as it could be.

Community-building organizations must be energizing for you to enjoy the process and make them a success. Despite the long hours, we left that day even more excited for the program to get underway.

When matching mentors with mentees, what qualities or interests did you prioritize?

Isaiahs: Before anything else, I always checked if the mentor/mentee requested a certain characteristic or quality about their potential mentor/mentee in their form (for example, a 1L might request that their mentor be a person of color with a similar background). Next, I wanted to make sure out-of-staters were paired together (say, California mentors with California mentees) so they could begin to find a new community in Wisconsin right away. Then, I focused on the type of law the student was interested in. This was followed by taking into consideration any student organizations the first-year student wanted to be a part of.

Courtney: There were several qualities and interests that we prioritized while matching mentors and mentees to ensure there would be successful and meaningful connections. As Isaiahs mentioned, to start, we looked at the specific mentor and mentee requests. For example, some students requested not to be paired with someone specific because they already knew them well, or some students requested that their mentor be from out of state because they were also from out of state. After we paired up everyone who had made specific requests, we typically looked at interests such as area of law, student organizations, and other non-academic interests.

What was the hardest part about the matching process?

Courtney: The hardest part of the matching process was trying to balance and to work with the various information we had, to ensure everyone had the best match possible. In some instances, based on how much a student had provided, we had very little information to work with. That made it somewhat difficult to ensure that we were making a good pairing.

Isaiahs: I completely agree. The hardest part about the matching process really was the lack of diversity in some answers. To provide an example, there were many people who listed transactional law as the type of law they wanted to practice, but they did not provide any other information about their interests or background. So when all the transactional-law-interested mentees were paired up, we had a tough time pairing up transactional-law-interested mentors who had not provided additional information, beyond their interest in that practice. For students interested in participating in the future, we especially encourage them to share some further information about what makes them unique—from a random hobby to their major in college.

What do you hope mentees get out of MLM?

Isaiahs: At a minimum, a connection—whether professional or social. I think a connection is important to start law school. I continue to keep in contact with my mentor, who’s now graduated, and she continues to guide me throughout law school. More importantly, she has become a friend for life.

Courtney: The one thing I hope that every mentee gets out of their participation with MLM is a stronger sense of belonging and connection within the law school community. One of my favorite things about Marquette is that we have such a strong, collaborative community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and I hope that through MLM, mentees are able to feel like they truly belong here, right from the start.

What do you hope mentors get out of MLM?

Courtney: I hope that mentors will, first and foremost, experience personal satisfaction from their participation in MLM. Additionally, I think being a mentor is a great way to develop leadership and communication skills, expand your personal network, and contribute to enhancing the law school community.

How do you think the law school community, as a whole, benefits from the program?

Isaiahs: A sense of community. Given how interconnected the Milwaukee legal market is, it is important we establish a positive community from the first chance we have—and that starts at law school.

Courtney: The law school community as a whole benefits from MLM in a few significant ways. First, MLM cultivates a culture of support and collaboration within the Law School by facilitating relationships between students. Second, MLM promotes networking and relationship building. Mentors and mentees can develop meaningful connections beyond the mentorship relationship and allow for a network among current and future legal professionals. Third, MLM helps promote professional development for both mentors and mentees.

What has been your favorite part of serving as an MLM co-chair?

 Courtney: My favorite part about serving as an MLM co-chair has been the successful matches. There is nothing that makes me happier than seeing mentors and mentees together at school, getting dinner together, going to bar review, etc.

Isaiahs: I have to agree with Courtney. It’s the successful matches. When people come up to me and say, “Hey, I really loved my [mentor/mentee],” it brings me so much joy.

Any parting thoughts as you prepare to graduate?

Isaiahs: I cannot thank Dean Fodor enough for her belief in me. I look back to my 1L year, and I look back with joy and awe at all the opportunities I have come across. And, truly, it starts with Dean Fodor. Her unwavering support throughout my time here will never be forgotten. I would not be where I am without her (I almost transferred back to California), and I only wish to give back to the Marquette Law community as much I received. I am grateful.

Courtney: As I prepare to graduate, I’ve reflected a lot on my time at Marquette, both for undergrad and law school. Marquette has provided me with so many amazing experiences, and I can’t thank Dean Fodor enough for giving me the opportunity to participate in MLM, as a mentee, mentor, and now as co-chair. This process was so challenging but also so rewarding, and I am grateful to have been a part of it.

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