Speeches

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor
Bar Admissions Ceremony Remarks
November 8, 2021

(The following was presented during a live virtual ceremony.)

Good morning, everyone.

I’m Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor.

On behalf of the Justices of the Supreme Court of Ohio, I welcome you to the November 2021 Ohio bar admissions ceremony.

This special occasion is being broadcast live from the Courtroom of the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus on the Ohio Channel. We also are streaming online.

I want to welcome my colleague, Justice Patrick Fischer, who will speak to us from the Courtroom as well.

And I would like to acknowledge our fellow Justices who are watching remotely…

Justices Sharon Kennedy, Pat DeWine, Michael Donnelly, Melody Stewart, and Jennifer Brunner.

By necessity, this is our FOURTH consecutive virtual bar admissions ceremony.

Two distinguished speakers in recorded remarks will congratulate you and give you advice as you step up as a member of the bar:

They are:

Dean Benjamin Barros of the University of Toledo College of Law.

And the president of the Ohio State Bar Association, David Lefton.

Appearing live via Zoom will be the Honorable Judge Mark Wiest of the Common Pleas Court of Wayne County. Judge Wiest is chair of the Board of Bar Examiners.

I also want to mention that this event reflects the diligent work of the Supreme Court’s Office of Bar Admissions.

The Office worked tirelessly to coordinate with the National Conference of Bar Examiners to provide a testing event of high quality and high security.

For those of you who have passed the bar exam, today is a great day.

It is a wonderful occasion, too, for your families and friends.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say that you have overcome extraordinary challenges brought on by the pandemic.

Most of you are from the law school classes of 2021.

That means almost half of your law school experience took place during the COVID pandemic.

During that time, you adjusted to remote class schedules.

You followed different protocols for the bar admissions process, including how you provided critical information to the Office of Bar Admissions.

The pandemic affected how you applied and interviewed for jobs, clerkships, and externships.

It also made studying for the bar exam more difficult.

That’s not all.

You also had to make arrangements to take a remote bar examination and learn the ins and outs of navigating the remote process.

When there were technical issues, you showed resiliency.

Have I forgotten any challenge?

Oh yes…many of you worked while in law school.

Many of you had parenting duties as well…some of you are single parents.

And still you passed the bar!

You passed the high bar of working through a pandemic that was unexpected in its fury and its staying power.

That makes this day – your day – much more special.

I know that my colleagues on the Supreme Court remember the same feeling of relief you experienced when you saw your name on the list of successful applicants.

Now, you are poised to use your success in a variety of ways.

Some will “practice law” in the traditional sense that is representing clients, individuals, and businesses. Others will use their law degree and admittance to the bar to teach, to work in house for non-profits, to work as a public servant, to become entrepreneurs, and the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

For those entering the professional life of an attorney you know that much will be expected –no – demanded of you.

Across America, and the world, attorneys play a critical role.

The legal profession is an essential cornerstone of our democratic institutions.

Without the legal profession, the rights and freedoms that define our culture and our democracy would not be possible.

I urge you always to remember the role of our profession in today’s world.

Your capacity to promote change will lift us up as a profession.

Hold on to the skills you learned in law school.

Yet, be inspired by the possibilities that change can bring.

When you see the need for change, be brave and start a conversation. That is the first step to all change.

From this day forward, you will strive to find solutions to problems, big and small.

Do so with dignity.

I talked about the struggles of the pandemic, and what you had to accomplish to get here.

Yet, in that time, you didn’t merely succeed.

You thrived.

I can prove that with numbers.

Of the 964 aspiring lawyers who sat for the most recent exam, 708 or 73.4% achieved a passing grade.

The news gets better.

Among the 824 first-time test takers, 82.3% received passing scores.

That’s impressive.

All I can say is you are members of a very accomplished class.

While law school is in your past, remember that learning isn’t.

You will be amazed at all the things you have to learn, even though you passed the bar, and with any luck, you’ll be learning for the rest of your life.

No matter how you use your law degree, remember to:

Strive to be professional.

Avoid arrogance – be humble.

Be kind.

Practice those attributes and you will help elevate our profession.

By choosing law as a career, you have chosen wisely.

Your countless hours of study are about to open a whole new world for you.

As your journey as a lawyer begins today, I will give you a bit more advice:

Don’t worry if you haven’t secured that dream job yet.

That’s OK.

Don’t be discouraged.

Use this time as a gift.

This could be an opportunity for you to provide public service and sharpen your skills at the same time.

For example, with evictions and foreclosures on the rise due to the pandemic, you could become a volunteer mediator.

Countless fellow Ohioans and fellow Americans are disadvantaged and need legal advice.

Think about how you can use your growing wisdom and expertise to help them.

Volunteer your services with the Access to Justice Foundation or Ohio Legal Help.

Pro bono service is an excellent way for you to help yourself as well as needy clients.

Pro bono work goes hand in hand with the privilege of practicing law – because it can change lives.

Think about it this way:

Helping others will build your confidence in applying the law and advocating for clients.

As a member of the Ohio bar, you have obligations to your clients, your peers, and the public.

And remember, no profession disciplines its members as aggressively as the legal profession.

But place yourself way above that circumstance from the beginning – from today.

As an advocate for your client, remember that a trial won’t be the solution for every case.

It’s your responsibility to recognize all options to help the parties reach a solution.

Consider opportunities such as Alternative Dispute Resolution, of which mediation is one form.

Always remember that you are not alone. The state bar as well as your local bar association are great resources.

Get involved and you will see the doors that are opened.

Also, the Supreme Court has created a mentoring program to assist you as a new attorney.

The program pairs you with an experienced attorney mentor – someone you can rely on to help you navigate your first year out of law school.

Information regarding the program will be sent to you after the ceremony.

Please sign up.

If you find yourself in a situation where you suspect you’re facing an ethical challenge…Stop!

Consult your mentor.

Get advice from a lawyer who has been in the business much longer than you and follow the advice.

Know the rules of court for each jurisdiction in which you practice.

And one thing I always say at this event – never show up for court on time … be at least fifteen minutes early.

Now, you are about to take your oath.

As a new attorney, you will pledge fairness, integrity, and civility.

Be an example of that every day.

I urge you to build the very best reputation you possibly can.

To whom much is given, much is expected.

Whatever you do, maintain your integrity.

You’ve worked hard to get here.

Loved ones have cheered you on.

Your parents, grandparents, spouses, partners, significant others, children and friends, law professors, deans, and teachers – all of them are proud of you.

They have watched your remarkable diligence during these difficult months. Today, they applaud your success.

Be sure to thank all of them – and pay back their love by working to become the best attorney you can be.

Presiding over the bar admissions ceremony is one of my favorite roles as Chief Justice.

Therefore, on behalf of the entire Supreme Court of Ohio I say ….

Congratulations!

Well, done!

You have the power to lead your community wherever you go – whether it’s small towns or big cities.

Remember to start your journey with humility and respect – for your clients, opposing counsel, judges, and court staff and fellow employees.

In any situation, it’s pretty hard to be upset with someone who is showing respect for you.

Showing respect should diffuse most tense conversation. Then the listening can take place.

It is tradition to have a law school dean speak on behalf of all the deans of Ohio law schools.

I would like to introduce our first speaker – Dean Benjamin Barros of the University of Toledo College of Law.

Dean Barros …

(Video of Dean Barros’ comments)

Thank you, Dean Barros.

Our next speaker is the leader of the Ohio State Bar Association, President David Lefton.

(Video of David Lefton’s comments)

Thank you, President Lefton.

It is now my honor to introduce Judge Mark Wiest of the Common Pleas Court in Wayne County.

Judge Wiest is chair of the Board of Bar Examiners.

This will be the beginning of our virtual swearing-in.

Judge Wiest do you have a motion?

(Via live video, Judge Wiest submits the motion to admit.)

Thank you, Judge Wiest.

We have a motion before the Court. Are there any objections?

Hearing none, the motion carries.

I now have the distinct honor of administering the oath.

I would like for all applicants to stand and raise their right hands.

Applicants, once I administer the oath, in order to swear yes, you are to click on the “swear/affirm” button on the polling feature.

(Polling question on applicants’ screens asks if they “swear/affirm.” Applicants must reply.)

I, (state your name), hereby swear that I will support the Constitution and the laws of the United States and the Constitution and the laws of Ohio,

and I will abide by the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct.

In my capacity as an attorney and officer of the Court, I will conduct myself with dignity and civility and show respect toward judges, court staff, clients, fellow professionals, and all other persons.

I will honestly, faithfully, and competently discharge the duties of an attorney at law.

So, help me God.

Congratulations, attorneys!

Now, to speak on behalf of the Justices of the Supreme Court, it is my pleasure to welcome Justice Patrick Fischer.

(Justice Fischer’s live remarks)

Thank you, Justice Fischer.

Congratulations again to our new attorneys.

While we would have enjoyed handing out your certificates personally, we will rely on the U.S. mail to get them to you – with best wishes from the Court.

You do have one more step to complete.

You must register as an attorney with the Office of Attorney Services at the Supreme Court.

You will soon receive an email from the Office of Attorney Services with instructions.

You will see how to complete your registration and how to sign up for the mentoring program that I mentioned earlier.

Through the registration process you will receive your Attorney Registration Number. That’s the number that you will use on all court documents for the rest of your career.

Once again, on behalf of the Supreme Court of Ohio, I congratulate you for your achievement.

Thank you for taking part in our virtual bar admissions.

It is an honor to be with you on your special day.

This concludes today’s ceremony.

Thank you. Be safe.

And God bless.

Marshal, will you please adjourn Court?

(Marshal Bill Crawford closes Court: “Hear ye – Hear ye – Hear ye. This open session of the Honorable Supreme Court of Ohio, now stands adjourned.”)