November 16, 2009
Dear New SC Bar Admittees,
Welcome to the Profession! And congratulations, you are now officially an attorney.
And here are my “starting out” tips:
- When you are in your next meeting and someone notes that the particular issue sounds like it may have legal ramifications and then they say, “well, let’s ask the attorney:” that’s NOT the time to look around the room for the attorney. That’s YOU! (true story)
- When a distant family member calls to ask you for an opinion about something that doesn’t exactly appear to have a basis in law, beware. More than likely they are looking for free legal advice. (again, based on actual incidents – note plural)
- When someone asks you to do something that doesn’t “feel” right, take a moment to analyze what it is they’re asking. And if you still don’t “feel” good about it, DON’T DO IT.
- Attend Ethics CLEs and take good notes. Then apply your notes to your practice. There’s a reason that we’re required to have Ethics CLE credits in addition to our regular CLE credit.
- Read the Lawyer’s OATH. Now reread it. (see below for the Oath) Note that it is an oath, meaning that you have sworn/affirmed to uphold the charges within.
- Follow the principles outlined in the Lawyer’s Oath.
- In addition to the mentor you will receive via the Mentor Program, keep in touch with people you admire and seek them out for advice and company every now and then.
- Network, for many reasons: (1) to stay in touch with colleagues, (2) to meet potential clients, (3) for job opportunities, (4) to keep abreast of change in your community and within the legal profession, and (5) for your health.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The SC Bar has many resources available to attorneys including Practice Management Assistance, Ethics’ Advisory Opinions, and Lawyers Helping Lawyers to name a few. If you need help, get it before you receive a letter from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
- Participate in Pro Bono. There are many ways to participate through your firm’s program, county bar programs or via the SC Bar’s Pro Bono Program.
- Take your role seriously, but have a good time. You are an officer of the court. You are a leader, whether you think so or not. People will look to you for guidance, especially when times are tough. Maintain your professional demeanor, but keep your humanity.
- Remember, you’re not alone. There are thousands of attorneys still licensed to practice in this state. I’ve not yet met one who isn’t willing to give advice to or befriend a starting attorney. Even if you don’t “know” us, contact us. It could be the start of a lifelong friendship.
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that:
I am duly qualified, according to the Constitution of this State, to exercise the duties of the office to which I have been appointed, and that I will, to the best of my ability, discharge those duties and will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of this State and of the United States;
I will maintain the respect and courtesy due to courts of justice, judicial officers, and those who assist them;
To my clients, I pledge faithfulness, competence, diligence, good judgment and prompt communication;
To opposing parties and their counsel, I pledge fairness, integrity, and civility, not only in court, but also in all written and oral communications;
I will not pursue or maintain any suit or proceeding which appears to me to be unjust nor maintain any defenses except those I believe to be honestly debatable under the law of the land, but this obligation shall not prevent me from defending a person charged with a crime;
I will employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me only such means as are consistent with trust and honor and the principles of professionalism, and will never seek to mislead an opposing party, the judge or jury by a false statement of fact or law;
I will respect and preserve inviolate the confidences of my clients, and will accept no compensation in connection with a client’s business except from the client or with the client’s knowledge and approval;
I will maintain the dignity of the legal system and advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which I am charged;
I will assist the defenseless or oppressed by ensuring that justice is available to all citizens and will not delay any person’s cause for profit or malice;
[So help me God.]