Virtual admission ceremony emphasizes storied themes

In unprecedented times, the state’s newest lawyers made history by being admitted to the Indiana Bar Tuesday morning in the first-ever virtual Indiana Supreme Court Admission Ceremony.

Chief Justice Rush welcomed the admittees to the May 2020 Indiana Admission Ceremony, telling them that going virtual was an adventure for everyone. She also pointed out that while the circumstances were unusual, they still had much to celebrate.

“Today is a day to reflect on your many years of dedicated study, sacrifice, hard work, punctuated at times with anxiety and anguish,” she told the new admittees. “Today is a day to bask in your monumental accomplishment. Today is a day to look forward to what lies ahead.”

The admittees participated in the ceremony through Zoom while family, friends and others could view the event on a livestream. After Rush’s welcoming remarks, the new lawyers each, individually, turned on their cameras, unmuted their microphones and introduced themselves to the Indiana judiciary.

Many offered a greeting and said their name. However, a few took the opportunity add some extra recognition. Marcia Przeslawski introduced herself then said, “I just want to say congrats, we did it and shout out to my parents and family watching.” Ryan Schwier also thanked his family, saying, “Sending love to my wife Sandra and son Emelio.”

Ryne Koucouthakis and James Alt displayed their alma mater pride by using pictures of Indiana University Bloomington and the University of Toledo College of Law, respectively, as their backgrounds when they appeared on camera.

Traditionally, the May admission ceremony is held in the Rooftop Ballroom in downtown Indianapolis. This year, the COVID-19 emergency forced the event online. New attorneys, families, friends and the members of the judiciary and judges took part while still sequestered in their homes.

Justice Steven David counseled the participants that the coronavirus and the heartbreak it has brought will only be one part of their life stories.

“Please understand that this pandemic is temporary. What is permanent is your faith, your resolve, your work ethic and this license to practice law you have worked so hard to obtain,” David said. “Cherish it. It doesn’t make you better than anyone else, but it does enable you to make a difference for everyone else.”

Southern Indiana District Court Judge James P. Hanlon also reminded the new lawyers that the courts and the bar have withstood terrible times in the past such as the Civil War and the Great Depression. Pointing out how innovative the legal profession has been in finding new ways to serve clients and the public, he called upon the admittees to “step up and lead and help make a path to the future.”

“As we continue moving forward, you all will be part of the solution, providing leadership, innovation and public service as members of this bar always have and always will,” Hanlon said. “Remember, your admission to the bar is not the conclusion of a journey, but it is only a first step forward. So I ask you to leave here today with a renewed sense of purpose, rising to meet our challenges and see the opportunities before you.”

Court of Appeals Judge Edward Najam, whose daughter Jackie Carrell was among the admittees, administered the Indiana oath. Hanlon administered the oath for the Southern Indiana District Court and Magistrate Judge John Martin administered the oath for the Northern Indiana District Court.

When they recited the oaths, the new attorneys again turned on their cameras but did not unmute their microphones. The livestream of the ceremony filled with tiny pictures of each person raising their right hands and saying their professional vows.

“Can you all hear the crowd roaring because I hear a roar,” Rush asked the participants after they took the Indiana oath.

Indiana Court of Appeals Judge John Baker, who will be retiring July 31 after more than 30 years on the bench, passed along the advice he received from his father. Lawyers, Baker told the new attorneys, should give the practice of law their best effort, enjoy the work, and do their job with a sense of service.

“So as I wrap up my career, I suggest to you, as my father did to me, that you work hard, that you have fun and you do so with a loving spirit,” Baker said. “If you do so, I think you’ll have a career upon which you can look back with a sense of accomplishment as I do today.”

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