Dean’s Speaker Series – The Law and Life Lessons

On Tuesday, Feb. 7, UC Riverside alumnus and lawyer Peter J. Mort gave a presentation in HUB 269 entitled “The Means Justify the Ends” on the role of law and lawyers in solving problems in today’s society.


As part of the CHASS Dean’s Speaker Series, CHASS Dean Milagros Pena provided an opening statement on Mort’s life accomplishments, which featured military service, educational achievements and career highlights through his work serving as a lawyer for over four decades.

Before attending UCR, Mort served in the Vietnam War for three years. Speaking on behalf of his wartime experiences, Mort recounted being stationed 10 miles away from My-Lai in 1969, the site of one of the deadliest massacres committed by American forces. Upon his return to the United States, Mort admitted, “I couldn’t tell anyone that I was in the scene of wartime because of that massacre since people were inflamed with heated emotions over this tragedy.” However, in order to reconcile controversial incidents like that of the My-Lai massacre, Mort proceeded to explain how the court of law as an institution can alleviate tragedies like these and restore a sense of justice to concerned individuals like himself.


Mort knew he was destined for law and pursued higher education immediately after Vietnam. In 1974, he graduated from UCR with a Bachelor of Arts in political science with honors. During his college years, Mort served as an intern at the U.S. Senate and participated in the Watergate hearings. Afterward, he received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Connecticut in 1978.


After being admitted into the bar in both Connecticut and California, Mort started an independent law firm as a trial lawyer in Connecticut and maintained his status as a small-town trial lawyer for twenty three years.


Following Mort’s stories about Vietnam, education and law practices, some students in the audience asked questions about him, the career of a lawyer and how much things have changed over the course of his career. When asked, “How significant of a role has technology has played in the field of law?” Mort acknowledged how vital technology is to every aspect of law today and that one can no longer file with paper forms anymore. Regarding advice for law school, Mort suggested that one should attend an accredited institution by the American Bar Association if possible.


Third-year philosophy and psychology double major Jacky Zavala said, “Mort’s positive outlook as a trial lawyer has reinforced my notion of the law as a way to help the lives and being there for those who need representation.” Career Center Organizer Derrin Ford affirmed Zavala’s remarks and acknowledged that it was among the most uplifting workshops on law that UCR has hosted in recent memory.


Tuesday’s presentation was the second program that has been moderated by the career center. The last installment of the three-part CHASS Dean’s Speaker Series will feature Timothy Greenleaf from Fairmont Capital Inc., and focus on the power of networking. This segment will be hosted at HUB 268 from 10:15-11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 9.

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