Utah Supreme Court Justice Paige Petersen administers oath to new law students at S.J. Quinney College of Law

As law schools across the country welcome students to a new academic year, 101 fresh arrivals that make-up the Class of 2021 at the S.J. Quinney College of Law participated in one of the first milestones in their legal training from a notable source: Justice Paige Petersen of the Utah Supreme Court.

The College of Law wrapped up its inaugural orientation week on Aug. 17 with a “Swearing-In Ceremony” at the law school’s moot courtroom, where Petersen —who was recently appointed to the Utah Supreme Court by Gov. Gary Herbert — administered the oath and officially welcomed students to the profession.

Justice Paige Petersen

Petersen, who was raised in Emery County, Utah and graduated from Carbon High School, the College of Eastern Utah, the University of Utah and Yale Law School, encouraged students to take their responsibility as attorneys in training seriously.

She spoke about the importance of integrity and civility and treating people with respect in what can be an adversarial profession. She also encouraged students to build relationships while in law school and to take care of themselves.

“It really is my pleasure to be with law students. As I get to know students of your generation, it gives me such hope for the future of law,” said Petersen. “I think you’ve made a great choice to go to law school and become a lawyer if that’s what you choose to do.”

“You’re stepping into a new chapter of your life and taking on new things can always be scary,” she added.  “You have a lot of influence over whether it will be a fantastic experience.”

The “Swearing-In Ceremony” has become a rite of passage at the College of Law. It was founded 16 years ago by Scott M. Matheson Jr., a former dean at the College of Law who now serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

Reyes Aguilar, associate dean of admissions and financial aid at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, said Petersen’s presence added a special note to a momentous ceremony for law students and their families.

“This is a unique opportunity for our students,” said Aguilar. “To be sworn in by a Utah Supreme Court justice at the start of their new legal careers gives our students a memorable start to their upcoming three-year educational journey through law school,” he said.

The Class of 2021 completed its orientation week prior to the ceremony. Throughout the week faculty and guest speakers — including alumnus and 3rd District Court Judge Richard D. McKelvie — gave students a strong start to the academic year. McKelvie explained standards of professionalism and civility to students.

Bob Adler, dean of the law school, suggested students take advantage of the many opportunities available at the law school. At the ceremony, he congratulated first-year students on making it through week one, and encouraged them not to lose sight of their goals as they progress through the program.

“You can do this. We have confidence in you. You can get through these next three years,” he said.



Total number of students: 101

Percentage of women: 41 percent

Percentage of people of color: 25 percent

Average age: 27.1 (ranging from 20 to 54)

Number of first generation college graduates: 15 percent

Percentage of Utah residents: 75 percent