Speeches

Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger
Remarks for Admission of New Attorneys
Nov. 17, 2008

Good Afternoon!

I’m delighted on behalf of the Supreme Court to welcome our new admittees to the practice of law.What a wonderful time of celebration! These days, no one takes for granted the ability to pass the state bar.  Your families and friends have borne the burdens with you.  We know how proud they are to share in your celebration and we are happy for all of them too. 

Do you feel any different now that you can say that you are a full-fledged Ohio lawyer?  Probably not just yet.  It will take some time for your new status to sink in:  as an officer of the court, an attorney-at-law, a member of a noble and valued profession of over 200 years, judges and other lawyers will now rely on your signature and take you at your word.

You’ve chosen a valiant profession, one that can help others in these particularly difficult economic times.  Soon, your first paying client will walk through the door, or your first real case will drop onto your laptop. These cases may involve real suffering: injured people seeking redress; families fighting foreclosure; parents trying to retain custody of their children;defendants facing criminal accusations.

In seeking your legal help, your clients will actually be entrusting you with their lives. So listen carefully to their stories and respond to their needs. Represent them ardently and champion their causes.

In aiding your clients, I hope you will also do well financially. But money alone should not be your primary focus.  We also expect you to do good.  When Legal Aid programs are cut to save a budget, members of the bar must step forward to fill the gap.  Because these pro bono needs are so great, many will have no access to justice unless you help.  Please do. 

For you are given obligations along with the benefits of the profession.  You’ll be expected to speak up when the legal or judicial system is unfairly criticized because of the lack of public understanding. Part of your job is to help people understand how the United States operates under a rule of law.

I could mention many attributes of a great lawyer. Today’s speakers have named some.  And you have already demonstrated two of them.  It took intellectual ability and tenacity to pass the bar exam. But more than the mastery of facts or law, one of the best measures of excellence is how a lawyer treats his or her clients.

Treat your clients with respect, compassion and humanity and you will have a long legal career. Have the courage to take complex and demanding cases, whose outcomes are unknowable. Be willing to take the cases of those unattractive or unlikeable and difficult clients, or those whose positions are not publicly favored. It takes special courage to handle cases that others won't touch. Try to understand your clients, remain loyal and respect their confidences as you advance their causes, but always behave ethically. This is what an American attorney is expected to do. This is what our profession demands.

Finally, always try to psychologically balance your professional and personal selves. Remember, your work is not who you are.  Don't bypass those people who are closest to you. They’ll  be there when clients are not lining up outside the door,  if you lose your jury trial, or if you just had a knock-down, drag-out adversarial day with another attorney.   Do not shut your dear ones out of your lives—they are the most important people in it. At the end of the day and in the final evening, we all know this.

We don’t have crystal balls among us here today to predict your futures. You may never recover a million dollar verdict or be elected to public office. You may never win a murder trial or become president of the Bar Association. On the other hand, you just may. No matter-- you will be a success if you contribute to the welfare of your clients, to the peace and prosperity of your community, to the common good of your city, your state, and that of the nation.

We all eagerly look forward to watching your successes.  Congratulations to you all.