FIU to graduate 152 new lawyers

Steve Spence

MIAMI – The largest class of lawyers to graduate from Florida International University will receive their diplomas on Friday. Among them will be a man who had to be pushed to go to college — not by his parents, but by his son.

Although Steve Spence had found success as an investment advisor, Spence had one regret: not having gone to college. So when his son earned his bachelor’s degree, the younger Spence turned to his father and gave him the same advice so many parents have given to their children: follow your dream. Dad did just that. And after graduating from Hodges University in 2006, an energetic Spence aimed even higher. Then again, a role reversal: The son accompanied the father to visit law schools.

He settled on FIU’s College of Law—a 147 mile drive from his home near Fort Myers. More than 100,000 miles and three sets of tires later, Spence, 54, will graduate this week intent on starting a new life. 

“This is an accomplishment beyond my wildest dreams,” Spence said. “This should be proof to anyone that if you want something bad enough and you have strong support at home, you can do anything. If I did it, anyone can.” 

Spence will be among the 152 new lawyers FIU’s College of Law will graduate on Friday, May 28 at 10 a.m. at the U.S. Century Bank Arena on the Modesto A. Maidique Campus, 11200 SW 8th Street. The college’s sixth graduating class is its largest since it was founded in 2002. 

“Our graduates are diverse, passionate, motivated and eager to serve,” said FIU College of Law Dean Alex Acosta, who himself has a history of public service. “I am proud of the high caliber of student we are attracting and the dedicated lawyers we are graduating.”

Friday’s ceremony will feature keynote speaker Florida Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga.  Labarga, a Cuban native, began his legal career in 1979 as an assistant public defender with the Public Defender’s Office in West Palm Beach, assigned to the appellate, misdemeanor and felony trial divisions. In 1982, he joined the State Attorney’s Office in West Palm Beach, where he tried cases ranging from theft to homicide.

On January 1, 2009, he was appointed by Crist to the Florida Supreme Court, where he presently sits as the 84th Justice to take office at the Florida Supreme Court since statehood was granted in 1845.

The commencement ceremony also will celebrate the College of Law’s accomplishments in the past year.

In January 2009, the college was admitted to membership in the Association of American Law Schools and, in September of 2009, the National Jurist ranked the College of Law in the top 10 of best values for law school education in the United States.

“FIU has helped make my dream come true,” Spence said. “I’m thankful for the professors who believed in me. Even though I was not your typical law student, everyone at FIU Law made me feel like I belonged.”

The newly minted lawyer hopes to focus on immigration law once he passes the bar — among a few other things.

“I want to be one of those country lawyers that does a little bit of everything to help people,” said Spence.

Media Contact:  Jean-Paul Renaud  at 305-348-2716.