Eighth South Circuit Judge Carlton D. Jones swore Miller in as his mother, Hope attorney Angilynn Taylor, looked on. Both before and after the swearing in, Miller, who graduated from UALR’s law school in May and passed the bar exam over the summer, talked legal shop with Judge Jones.
A strawberry and vanilla whipped cream cake was cut into and served after the ceremony. Judge Jones said he enjoyed swearing new people in to the legal profession. “It's very rewarding. I've done quite a few in the last eight years, and I'm just glad to see young folks still willing to jump in and get involved in it. There are a lot of lawyer jokes and bad lawyer jokes, but there's still a need and a necessity for smart, honest and driven lawyers in this society.”
Miller started early on his quest to become an attorney. He was eleven years old when he began to “read law” as it was called in the 19th century, after receiving access to legal education software: “I reached out to a CLE [Certified Legal Education] company, They had what was called The Objection series in 2009. And I guess they were just so staggered by my interest at a mere eleven. So they granted me about $1,000 worth of CLE material. And I immersed myself in that, and immersed myself in the rules of evidence, and I was talking about hearsay, and relevance rules at eleven.”
From Beryl Henry Elementary, Miller remembers two teachers who were most helpful, Suzanne Watkins and Susan Butler. He said they would talk with him about his interests and were both protective toward him. “They kind of protected me a lot from keeping my face shoved in the box of calculators. I mean that literally. So a shout out to them.”
Taylor remembers her son helping her with a difficult case a year or two later. He had been coming to court during a difficult guardianship case. “I could feel the cards stacking up more and more against me,” Taylor said. Her son was telling one of the lawyers on her team to object more. Granted a recess, Taylor and Miller were at home, talking about the case when Miller suggested how they could get a set of photos into evidence. “So he’s been very instrumental even way before he took more steps to pursue law.”
In his teen years, while going to Hope High, he worked summers at his mother’s firm but also kept up an interest in reading mystery novels and watching law-related television shows. “I’d try to glean what I could from watching Dateline or In Session,” Miller said.
After graduation at Hope High in 2016, Miller travelled to Clarksville for his undergraduate degree at University of the Ozarks. There he took courses in philosophy, logic, sociology and psychology to add up to a degree in General Studies and Criminal Justice. “For law school generally there's no general requirement as to what your major has to be. So I said, ‘Okay, you know, what, this is what I'll do, I'll recreationally hold myself to things I love … and satisfy the requirements at school, because I know the overall aim is law school.’”
Among his mentors when he attended Ozarks were the school’s philosophy professor Bill Eakin and a wrestling coach, Leroy Gardner, whose office Miller would visit. He’d be asked there, “Are you here to wrestle?” to which Miller’s answer was, “Yeah, philosophically.” In the college’s gym, Miller would often run into District Judge Len Bradley who proposed a deal in exchange for their talks. “He said ‘All right, Mr. Miller, if you’re going to be in here talking the law with me, go back to the cafeteria and bring in some moose tracks ice cream. And so I would do that,” Miller recounted.
After that, Miller went to UALR’s Bowen School of Law, because during the pandemic years being closer to home made more sense. He took many courses under Nicholas Kahn Fogel. “He was my criminal procedure professor, my torts professor, sales professor and applied skills professor. He was beyond instrumental. I can’t thank him enough, so I try my best to stay in touch.”
During the summer of 2022 he worked in the Pulaski County Public Defender's Office. “That gave me a huge avenue. I'm sure they're the busiest office in the state. And so that provided me with an opportunity to see things firsthand, and to glean some experience as well,” Miller said.
He graduated from UALR this past May as the youngest male to from its Bowen School class of 2023. When he passed the bar, just in July, he was also the youngest male from there to pass that all-important exam. Asked to describe the preparation for it, Miller said, “Oh, it is brutal. It’s extreme. It’s a game of attrition. I was one of the guys who has more or less an obsessive mentality about it.” But waiting for the results was “the most agonizing juncture for me,” Miller said.
As for non-school influences on him, Miller said he is very much a son of southwest Arkansas, rooting on the Hogs on Saturdays, and bass fishing when he can, deer hunting in the winter. Like a president who was also from these parts, Miller plays saxophone. One of his favorite writers is Sam Peroni who taught at the Bowen School himself and wrote what Miller said was an influential book for him, the Arkansas Trial Notebook.
Being sworn in, Miller said, was “immense and a surreal experience,” even after preparing for that moment for 16 years. He will practicing in Southwest Arkansas.
Judge Carlton Jones shakes Vadol Miller's hand after the swearing in was completed.
Vadol Miller with his mother Angilynn Taylor, also an attorney.