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Blomquist: All I Really Need to Know About Being a Lawyer, I Learned in Kindergarten

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blomquist-kerryOkay, that is a bit sweeping, I admit, and before I rain on our academic colleagues’ summer parade and disenfranchise an entire generation of young lawyers out there who are trudging along with massive law school loan debt, let me revise: a lot of what I need to know about being a lawyer, I learned in kindergarten. For example (and please work with the metaphors like I know you can): play nice in the sandbox, do unto others, share the good stuff, help people when they need it, be respectful of your elders and don’t promise marriage to anyone just because they buy you an orange creamsicle.1 And of course, the biggie: rules are important. Rules let us know what is expected of us. Rules keep us in order.

Much of our profession is based on the concept of rules, specifically the Rule of Law, and I need not remind this audience that while the “Rule of Law” constrains all individuals’ behavior for the greater good of society, it arguably constrains the behavior of the “rule makers” even more. No branch of government is above the law, and no public official may act arbitrarily or unilaterally outside the law. No written law is enforceable if it is determined to be inconsistent with the human principles of fairness and justice. I would love to put links to the Code of Hammurabi and the Magna Carta in right here, but space precludes me from doing so (you’re welcome). In the end, Aristotle said it best a couple of thousand years ago when he said “The rule of law is better than that of any individual.”

How cool is that?

Of course the big elephant in the room right now is the fact that Marion County seems to be taking a bit of a reputation hit after a series of arrests involving several key public officials. This is decidedly not cool for many reasons, and there are many places to go for facts, opinions and rantings on this issue. My choice is to be guardedly optimistic that while we as a profession continue to watch and process this chain of events, we will remember the following:

1. That as we live and breathe and opine and blog, we remember the principle of the presumption of innocence, a maxim that, while adopted by our civil society, dates back to Roman times. It is worth repeating: “the burden of proof lies with the one who declares, not the one who denies.”

2. That our local government is comprised of hundreds if not thousands of dedicated public servants including but not limited to civil service workers, prosecutors, public defenders and judges who work every single day doing the hard work, and doing it well. Just a few days ago I participated in an IndyBar CLE about Marion County’s implementation of the JTAC Odyssey Case Management System. It served as a vivid reminder of the many state and local public servants who have put in extraordinary hours and energy to make this system work here in central Indiana and indeed all over the state. Those are the headlines you don’t see; those are the sound bites you don’t hear.

3. That we, as attorneys and judges, are the guardians of this system of justice, and as such, we have a great deal of control over how it is perceived. If we need a reminder of our obligation to our profession, our clients and our civil society, we need only remember the lesson from kindergarten: follow the rules, and this one in particular. The following rule not only bears repeating, it needs to sit in a frame on each of our desks. It should be memorized early on and not just recited once in our professional lives.

Rule 22. The Oath of Attorneys:

“I do solemnly swear or affirm that: I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Indiana; I will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers; I will not counsel or maintain any action, proceeding, or defense which shall appear to me to be unjust, but this obligation shall not prevent me from defending a person charged with crime in any case; I will employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me, such means only as are consistent with truth, and never seek to mislead the court or jury by any artifice or false statement of fact or law; I will maintain the confidence and preserve inviolate the secrets of my client at every peril to myself; I will abstain from offensive personality and advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which I am charged; I will not encourage either the commencement or the continuance of any action or proceeding from any motive of passion or interest; I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless, the oppressed or those who cannot afford adequate legal assistance; so help me God.” 2

__________

1 I’m not sure that one “took.”

2 Apologies to this audience for not editing this, but I wouldn’t dare.

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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