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Lucas: Judges say all young lawyers face challenges

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EidtPerspLucas-sigMy 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.•

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. 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!!!

  5. 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.

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