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Abrams: Law School Orientation—Oh, To Be Young Again!

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jeff abrams ibaI had the honor of attending law school orientation on Saturday, August 16 at the Robert H. McKinney School of Law. I sat on the dais with the Honorable Jose Salinas of Marion Superior Court, the Honorable Jane E. Magnus-Stinson of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana and McKinney School of Law Dean Andrew Klein. I listened to Dean Klein speak proudly of the couple hundred first-year law students sitting eagerly in the school atrium in anticipation of the first day of school. All of them were nicely dressed and excited to be part of the classes of 2016 and 2017. They were there with their parents, family and friends to begin their journey toward earning their doctor of jurisprudence degrees and standing tall with all of us as attorneys.

Judge Salinas told them to be proud of what they have achieved, but that it is just the beginning of an incredible journey that lies ahead. He noted that he looked forward to having them appear before him at some point in time in the near future—hesitating before he specified “as attorneys”—and that he looked forward to their impressive statements on behalf of their clients. He admonished them that some of them would be right and some of them would be wrong.

Judge Magnus-Stinson reminded students of the five C’s of professionalism:

1. Commitment — We are committed to practicing law in a manner that maintains and fosters public confidence in our profession, faithfully serves our clients and fulfills our responsibilities to the legal system.

2. Character — We will strictly adhere to the spirit as well as the letter of the Rules of Professional Conduct and will at all times be guided by a fundamental sense of honor, integrity and fair play.

3. Competence — We will conduct ourselves to assure the just, economical and efficient resolution of every matter entrusted to us consistent with thoroughness and professional preparation.

4. Courtesy — We will at all times act with dignity, civility, decency and courtesy in all professional activities and will refrain from rude, disruptive, disrespectful, obstructive and abusive behavior.

5. Community Involvement — We recognize that the practice is a learned profession to be conducted with dignity, integrity and honor dedicated to the service of clients and the public good.

She also warned them that their studies and challenges would not be similar to “Paper Chase.” While many of them had stars in their eyes and were clearly not recalling the classic television show, I am sure their parents understood the excitement and challenges that they face.
 

iba-orientation.jpgIndyBar volunteers share information with 1Ls at the Robert H. McKinney School of Law Orientation on Saturday, August 16.

The students were incredibly attentive to both judges’ comments as I saw very few of them looking down to read and/or respond to an email or text that they might have just received. After I finished listening to two energetic, intellectual and passionate statements from both judges, it was my turn to stand before them as the President of the Indianapolis Bar Association and figure out how I could impart some words of wisdom.

I told them the best way for them to find a job besides studying hard and learning the law was to become an active member of the Indianapolis Bar Association. I described many of the outstanding achievements that our members obtain through service to our community, including Ask a Lawyer, helping eighth graders understand the election process in the United States and our delivery of Constitutions to all new United States citizens during naturalization ceremonies.

I described our creative and energetic attorneys forming the Indy Attorneys Network Section to help lawyers network with and meet other lawyers. This section, to our knowledge, was the first of its kind in any bar association in the country. I conveyed to them the stories of young lawyers meeting their future employers through IndyBar-sponsored monthly luncheons or social events. And, knowing that the students had been there since 9:30 a.m., just after noon I imparted to them the most memorable quote of the day:

Hanging with the Indianapolis Bar Association is the only place to be.
The cost to join is really economical – I guarantee you won’t disagree.
When you come to events, people are friendly and won’t give you the third degree.
And most importantly, you get to meet brilliant, successful and good looking attorneys— just like me.

What more could they ask for in their first day of introduction to the practice of law?•

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  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

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