My seat at the recent Indiana Supreme Court Bar Admission Ceremony provided a perfect vantage point to witness the mix of emotions young lawyers feel when they have the opportunity to present themselves for the first time to members of the state’s highest-ranking courts.
Some clearly had found their voices, and they announced their names “loud and proud” to the judges looking on; others were clearly on a mission to get through it and find their seats as quickly as possible. But almost every one of these young attorneys, who on this day would be taking their oath to practice in Indiana’s state and federal courts, visibly exhaled – letting out a huge sigh of relief – as they turned from the distinguished panel they faced and headed toward their seats.
Most of us can relate to the mix of pride, excitement and anxiety that lawyers who graduated and passed the bar exam in the spring of 2012 felt on this day. We’ve all experienced moments of transition in our careers when we left behind a safe place, stepping out of our comfort zone for new challenges. This is, after all, what these men and women have been working toward for the past three or four years.
But today’s law grads face a struggling economy and an uncertain job market. Reports tell us that hiring is down and fewer lawyers are leaving law school with job prospects than in days past. So how does a group anxious to begin their new careers balance the enthusiasm they feel to get started with the reality that finding the right opportunity may take time?
Retiring Court of Appeals Judge Carr Darden reminded those present that all generations of new lawyers face challenges. When he had his “coming out party as a lawyer,” he explained, it was civil rights. Southern District of Indiana Judge Sarah Evans Barker invited anyone in the group who feels he or she has it harder than those who’ve come before to talk with women of her generation.
“The practice of law is like a marathon,” Darden said. “The ultimate winner is not necessarily the one who gets off to the fastest start, but the one who is prepared to do it the right way.”
Barker echoed her colleague’s sentiment. “If you add a little to a little, and do this often, soon the little will become great.” That is how you build a law career, she said.
Several proverbs were cited by Darden to support the message the judges were sending.
“Work on your reputation until it is established, and when it is established, it will work for you,” he advised his audience of newly minted lawyers. He also cautioned, “work is good, provided you do not forget to live.”
Prior to making the formal motion for admission, Attorney General Greg Zoeller told the young lawyers that being a member of this profession will require them to do two things: serve the interest of clients first; and do so with passion and zeal. He pointed out that the final line of the oath they were about to take – “so help me God” – is a prayer, and he encouraged them never to be afraid to ask for that help.
A number of the judges and officials speaking at the ceremony drove home the point that what each of the young lawyers has obtained can never be taken away from them, except by their own misconduct or misdeeds. The advice is not new but it bears repeating: be fair, courteous and civil at all times.
Quoting radio personality Garrison Keillor, Barker reminded the group to “stay in touch.”
“That is what people want from their lawyers,” she said. She cautioned the new lawyers – many from a generation that relies on technology to communicate – not to get caught up in the conveniences of recorded messages and emails. Her final words on the topic: “You need real relationships with people. Make connections.”
A complete list of those who passed the February 2012 bar exam is on page 12. The Indiana Lawyer congratulates Indiana’s newest class of lawyers and wishes each a successful and fulfilling career.•