Friday, October 23, 2015

Farewell, Professor.

Fifteen years ago I was a wide eyed law student at Warsaw University. In my third year, I've just signed up for the American Legal Center, a year long, night class for extra credit. Florida lawyers and instructors would come lecture, often a week or two at a time, to reveal a bit of this strange, new, unfamiliar legal world. It was something we craved from procedurals and crime shows, but that was real life. It seemed as if we were receiving some form of secret knowledge, although realistically we haven't really even scratched the surface, and we couldn't have with such a short program. There was something about these people, confident, engaging, with stories to tell- that resonated with my fascination with America at the time. Mike Seigel who became one of my professors at the University of Florida a few years later delivered the opening remarks. He was not talking about theories, he was speaking from experience. His tales of prosecuting organized crimes essentially blew our minds and we couldn't get enough - and a new world opened itself to us. While in the Polish law program we were used to codes and definitions- this was something that had a real life effect, that had happened, that involved real people and places - and required actual ability and skill. This was a lawyer who did what lawyers do and spoke about it. It vibrant as a film in technicolor. I think he had the most profound influence on me as later that year I went to DC to participate in the international finals of the Philip K Jessup Moot Court. It might sound like a cliche, but with something awaken in me, something pushing to... try, I enrolled in the LLM program at UF five years later. I hope he knew that. We spoke quite a few times. We reminisced. I went to him with my immigration issues, with my admission problems, just to talk. It helped to talk. I've taken about every class he offered, either as an LL. M or a JD student. He was a horrible grader, he could really make my GPA take a dive, yet I always came back for more. Because by the time he was done with you, good grades or bad, you've had a good understanding of the subject matter, you've gotten an education.

When I visited the law school  this week, I've learnt Mike Seigel succumbed to cancer. He was 55. It happened earlier in the year, I just didn't know. I stopped by the Secretaries' office to chat about who was still around, who left and who got a promotion and I was coming from a meeting with a Dean. I'm looking for jobs and I'm also trying to get the school interested in teaching disability law. I haven't really been in touch. I knew he was sick, but the last I checked he was doing better and he even went back to teaching. It was really hard to get over, maybe because of my father's recent health problems as well. He was a friend and he will be missed.

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