‘Your Reputation Is the Most Important Asset You Have,’ Hon. Shirley Padmore Mensah Tells Incoming Class

The Hon. Shirley Padmore Mensah, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of Missouri, welcomed incoming students at the “Welcome to the Profession & Matriculation Ceremony” on the first day of Orientation Week. 

The matriculation ceremony opened with remarks by Dean Kent Syverud, the Ethan A.H. Shepley Distinguished University Professor, who stressed the need for the entering class to practice professionalism throughout their law school career. 


Padmore Mensah, JD ’95, then built on Syverud’s comments by offering four valuable pieces of advice for the students about to embark on their law school journey. 

First, “Your law school experience will be what you make it. You decide. It’s your choice,” Padmore Mensah said. 

Second, “How you conduct yourself as a lawyer is key to the kind of lawyer you will become. Your reputation is the most important asset you have.” 

Third, “Don’t forget what brought you here to begin with. The reasons you came to law school should align with what you do in your professional life.” 

Finally, “Have fun. Enjoy the freedom you are going to have as law students.” 

Padmore Mensah, was formerly a partner at Husch Blackwell in Clayton, where she focused on commercial litigation in the financial services, construction, and biotechnology sectors. She holds an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania. 

A native of Liberia, Padmore Mensah spoke passionately about the day in 1980 that she woke up to find that the Liberian president had been shot and the military had taken over the government. That was when she realized the importance of the rule of law. 

“You have to keep the big picture in mind,” she said. She urged students to “be aware of the way the law impacts people and companies every day.”  Padmore Mensah added that being a judge has allowed her the freedom to do other things she is interested in while giving her opportunities to learn about areas she might not otherwise have known anything about. 

Padmore Mensah, who attended the law school in the Mudd Hall era, spoke fondly of her days at Washington University School of Law and the impact it has had on her life. “This place prepared me,” she said. 

Other Orientation Week activities included a panel discussion of health and wellness issues; a student organization fair and discussion of student involvement opportunities; a Career Services presentation; and sessions on legal research, professionalism, and diversity. 

Mini courses during the week were Introduction to Case Briefing and the Study of Law, Common Law and the American Legal System, Introduction to Civil Procedure, and Legal Research: Professionalism and Accountability. 

To emphasize that incoming law students are part of the larger St. Louis community, students also participated in community service projects at nonprofit agencies like Operation Food Search, the Animal Protective Association of Missouri, and the [RE]FRESH store, run by Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition. 

Meanwhile, international students enrolled in the LL.M. Program in United States Law or the LL.M. Program in Intellectual Property & Technology Law toured the St. Louis County Circuit Court and met with Judge Mark Seigel, as well as attended mini courses on Overview of the U.S. Court System, Introduction to the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court, Legal Analysis, and U.S. Common Law. They also learned about U.S. culture, professionalism, and etiquette throughout their two-week intensive Orientation. 

Matriculation Ceremony gallery [view]