Minneapolis (6-4-03): -- Neil W. Hamilton has been honored by his peers with the 2003 Professionalism Award. The Hennepin County Bar Association (HCBA) gives the award annually to a member of the bar who best exemplifies the pursuit of the practice of law as a profession, including a spirit of public service and promotion of the highest possible level of competence, integrity and ethical conduct. The Professionalism Award is granted in the belief that professionalism serves the best interests of clients, fosters respect and trust between lawyers and the public, promotes the efficient resolution of disputes, and improves the administration of justice.
It is not Hamilton’s 28 years of law school teaching that were most focused on by colleagues who nominated the professor for this award. While noting his rich contribution in the classroom, colleagues made clear that he is no ivory-towered and secluded academic buried in classroom notes and scholarly articles. In addition to his tireless commitment to legal education for both attorneys-in-training and attorneys-in-practice, Hamilton was highly praised for his "real world" contributions to the legal profession, ranging from designing mentoring programs, writing legislation, involvement in the business community and activity in both state and local bar associations.
For over 20 years Professor Hamilton served as Trustees Professor of Regulatory Policy at William Mitchell College of Law before joining the University of St. Thomas School of Law in 2001. He serves as professor and also helped design and direct the Mentor Program. In addition, during 2002, he served as Interim Associate Dean.
Among those writing in support of his nomination were two associate justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Justice Sam Hanson, remembering his contact with Hamilton while Hanson served as a trustee at William Mitchell, states that "His creativity and focus in the areas of legal ethics established him as the recognized spokesperson for the crucial values that underlie the profession." Practicing attorneys who never sat in Hamilton’s classrooms nor read his books have become familiar with him through the forty-plus columns on professionalism that have appeared monthly in Minnesota Lawyer.
Justice Helen Meyer remembers Hamilton as a "sincere and caring teacher" from her own law school days as she wrote to "lend enthusiastic support to the nomination." She notes that "He took seriously his charge to prepare us to be contributing, ethical members of the profession of law. . . . He encourages students to contribute to the profession at the highest levels through community and pro bono service, and to integrate personal ideals in the practice of law."
His bar association involvement includes service on, and chairing of, the HCBA Professionalism and Professional Conduct Committee. At the Minnesota State Bar Association, Hamilton served on the Public Utilities Section, the Administrative Law Section (and was editor of the Administrative Law News) and the Professionalism Committee, and he worked as the organizer of the Minnesota Ethics Professor Forum. The list of Hamilton’s service and the honors given him are extensive.
In nominating Professor Hamilton, Lisa Montpetit Brabbit notes that "His passion to nurture the highest ideals for the profession was infectious for many students, myself included. . . . [He] represents the embodiment of the personal and professional qualities that the Professionalism Award seeks to honor and celebrate." The HCBA Professionalism Committee agreed, and recognized Professor Hamilton at the 2003 HCBA annual meeting.
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