Speeches

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor
Bar Admissions Ceremony
May 7, 2018

(Remarks prepared for delivery on Monday, May 7, 2018, at the Ohio Theater.)

Good afternoon. I’m Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. Welcome to the bar admissions ceremony. We are pleased that you could join us here in the historic Ohio Theater.

It is one of the most pleasant duties of Chief Justice and justices to participate in a court session that admits you to the bar.

You entered this building as applicants and will depart as attorneys at law.

Not only is this day important to you, it’s important to those who love and care about you.

Parents, grandparents, spouses, partners, significant others, children and friends are here with you today ... either in this room or in your hearts.

As U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said ... ”Your success in life is not just about you.  It is about your parents, your family, and what they have sacrificed to bring you to this point.  If you are going to look forward, to figure out where you are going, it is good to know where you have been and look back as well.”

This is a wonderful day for celebration. All of us on the Court have been just where you are … waiting to receive your certificate. A few of us have been in the role of parent celebrating our sons, daughters, nieces and nephews in their success on the bar exam. So please believe me when I say to you that we know how you’re feeling and that you have the heartfelt congratulations of the members of the Supreme Court.

Why is this important to you on this day?  It is important because no profession or occupation has contributed more than the legal profession to the establishment and preservation of order in our society.

It is lawyers who protect the rights of the powerful and powerless. It is lawyers who represent people in unpopular causes.  No profession donates more time and resources to civic and professional activities. And no profession disciplines its members as aggressively.

I want to offer a few tips as you make your way into our shared profession.
First, relax. You can do that now, especially if you were up all night waiting for the 7 a.m. posting of the bar exam results.

Yet, some of you may be anxious because that dream job hasn’t materialized yet. That day may yet come, but in the meantime, use the knowledge, critical thinking skills, and adaptability of a lawyer to excel in your current position. There are numerous fields to work in to make use of your law degree. Expand your viewpoint and seek them out.

Next, review the disciplinary rules. Know them not just as an exercise in academics, but in their practical application.

Third, associate with a member of the profession who is willing to act as a mentor. The Ohio Supreme Court has put in place a mentoring system – sign up and take advantage of it. Observe lawyers in action who are civil, courteous, and prepared. Emulate them.

Fourth, ensure you treat clients, judges, and fellow attorneys with courtesy, civility, and respect.

Be honest and straightforward with your clients. If they have a case ... work for them in an efficient, ethical, and intelligent way. If they don’t have a case ... be honest and advise them as such. Return their calls. Explain your fees and costs up front and put it in writing.

Never show up for court on time ... be at least fifteen minutes early. Know not only the Ohio Rules of Court but also the local rules of court ... that shows intelligence and respect for the court.

When appealing to a higher court, always remember that briefs are to be just that – brief.

More likely than not your appeal will depend on what is said and done in the trial court.  Establish a record below, hat is your ammunition for appeal. If the record is sparse or nonexistent, do not expect to pull a rabbit out of a hat. A successful appeal depends on establishing a record on the trial level.

If you are arguing that the court below got it wrong … do it respectfully. A scathing indictment will win you no points on appeal … or with the lower court the next time you appear there.

Act in a civil manner at all times with opposing counsel. Cooperate in discovery. The more that each side knows about the case, the quicker a resolution can be devised.

Above all, do not become arrogant because you have a law degree. You will soon know the limits of your current knowledge.

Take what you do as an attorney very seriously. You are in a position of trust and one that focuses on duty to the client and to the court. The stakes are high, and the expectations are great.

Having said that, don’t take yourself too seriously. Keep a sense of humor.

And don’t forget to build in time for your family, your community, your spiritual growth and yourself. You’ll be a better lawyer but more important, you’ll be a better human being.

If you keep these guiding principles in mind, the only other thing you will need is the love and support of your family and friends, and maybe some pets too.

It is part of the tradition of this session to have a law school dean speak on behalf of all of the deans. Therefore, our first speaker is the University of Akron Law School Dean Christopher Peters.

Dean Peters ...

Thank you Dean Peters. Next we have Ohio State Bar Association President Randall Comer.

Randall ...

Thank you Randall. Next up is Robert Morrow, who serves as vice chair of the Board of Bar Examiners. He will make the motion to admit the successful applicants.

Bob ...

Thank you Bob. We have a motion before the Court. Are there any objections? Hearing none, the motion carries. Now, I have the distinct honor of administering the oath.

To speak on behalf of the Justices, please welcome our newest justice to the bench, Justice Mary DeGenaro.

Thank you Justice DeGenaro. Now we have come to the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the presentation of certificates.

But before we begin, please keep in mind a few ground rules:

For the attorneys on the main floor, please rise, one row at a time when indicated by the ushers.
Follow the usher’s hand signal to approach the stage. After you have your certificate, please return to your seat using the center stage stairs.

Thank you for coming. That concludes this afternoon’s bar admissions ceremony. But before we close this special session of Court, I want to thank signer Lewis Wright for ensuring everyone could share in the proceedings.

I also have a few housekeeping reminders:

Please walk down the street toward the river and visit the Thomas J Moyer Ohio Judicial Center. The OSBA will host a reception in the Grand Concourse of our building.  OSBA staff members will be outside the theater to direct you.

The Supreme Court, the Moyer Judicial Center is open until 5. Please see your program for directions.

In addition, new lawyers can register with the Office of Attorney Services at the south end of the Grand Concourse after the ceremony.

Information about registering is contained in the white envelope you received.

Please also consider registering for the Lawyer to Lawyer Mentoring Program.

The Supreme Court, to help with the transition from law school to the practice of law, will pair you with a veteran attorney who will serve as your mentor. Following the ceremony, mentoring representatives will be available to answer your questions about the program and explain how to register.

Just look for their table at the south end of the Grand Concourse.

You can sign up online for the mentoring program beginning tomorrow, but you first have to register for active status with the Supreme Court.

Thank you and God bless.