Speeches

Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger
Remarks for Admission of New Attorneys
Nov. 7, 2011

I’m delighted on behalf of the  seven justices to congratulate all the new admittees. Welcome to the practice. Each of us can remember our own admission into the Ohio Bar, long, long ago.

Today’s such  a grand day for you and your proud families and friends. Since they survived the excruciating ordeal of your law school classes, studies and exams with you, they should be celebrating just as much, if not more . Good for all of you!

Well,  now what? How has taking the oath of office changed you?

Your status has changed. You are a lawyer, an attorney-at-law. What you say and what you sign, guarantees trust, for you are now an officer of the court. You now belong in the land of the law. Having taken your oath of office and then registering to practice here in Ohio, you will be given keys to every single courthouse in this state as a licensed attorney.

No matter what, no one can take that hard-earned license to practice away from you. And as long as you stay in good standing and behave ethically as an attorney, that Esq. belongs after your name.

Believe me, I wish I could promise  that each one of you could leave today knowing that the legal job of your dreams awaits you—one that gives you the meaningful work, prestige, personal fulfillment and the compensation sufficient for a secure living and for the repayment of those student loans.

But, unfortunately, we know that this might not necessarily be so—at least, perhaps not right away.

These times aren’t bleak, but they are challenging. Lawyers, particularly new lawyers aren’t immune from the economic competition for clients and cases. It may seem that you bear a disproportionate share of the consequences of the downturn.

But don’t be discouraged if your first job doesn’t seem to involve legal matters or require legal skills. Although initially, you might not find the work you expect, be ready and open to non-traditional opportunities. Engage and take ownership of your career.

Since 2008 a northwest study has estimated that 15,000 jobs for lawyers and legal staff have disappeared from the large law firms.

But not everyone needs to work in a courtroom or large law firm. You may decide to teach, or to run for office, or to open a new business. Your legal training  allows you to have great flexibility. An advanced degree and professional training have immediate worth in and of themselves.

We’re in  the second decade of the 21st century and law practice is evolving, somewhat painfully. As the new leaders of the profession, you must rise to the challenge. The good news is that you are probably comfortable with technology that some current attorneys and judges would never have imagined 30 years ago.

And you’ll be the ones figuring out how to tame and regulate the wild and wooly  —  World Wide Web. We can only wonder and marvel about what changes the next years of your legal careers will bring.

Whatever you choose to do, you have the important distinction of being able to speak for and to stand up for others as their legal representative. As an attorney you have the tools to help those most in need.

All of you will now be able to take on pro bono work – by doing your best for others it is possible that the experience will allow you also to do well for yourselves. Many volunteer experiences can evolve into profitable opportunities that match the “psychic” income that comes with helping others.

In passing the bar exam you’ve shown us that you have academic ability — life will continue to test you on your practical ability. Being a successful lawyer requires daily work—we do call it the practice of law for a reason.

Seek out a mentor to help you learn about the common-sense side of the profession as practiced in your community.  In every Ohio county, there are senior lawyers who are adept at the local legal culture and who can counsel you as you begin your career in the locale of choice. We have a wonderful program that you will be hearing about today, and I hope you take advantage of it.

Let me emphasize most of all your ethical obligations—in essence treating all others with civility and respect. Sometimes we hear stories about how our profession should be run as just another business—but it’s much more than number crunching or widget-making.

Apart from understanding the law, attorneys will always need to be good with people—after all, the heart and soul of a practice will always be the clients. Their problems are paramount; their wishes and needs must be considered.

Popular entertainment  that stresses Rambo litigation and portrays life on the ethical edge may be TV drama or comedy, but it isn’t real life, as you know. In real life, no one can imagine what lies ahead.

No matter what fortune has in store, try to be a good human being.  Always put your loved ones first place. They’ll be there if clients aren’t knocking at the door, or if you lose your trial, or if you have had a horrific day with an adversary.

You owe it to your families to remember: law is what you do— it’s not the sum total of who you are.

You heard that you are invited to tour the Ohio Judicial Center after this ceremony. Do come see the home of the Supreme Court of Ohio.  As  of today, without question, you belong there. You are a member of the Ohio bar,  you are now an American Lawyer.

Best wishes for a bright career! Again, Congratulations and Welcome!