Category Archives: Knowledge, Skills, Ethics

Cooley stresses legal knowledge, practice skills, and professional ethics, an approach that is the latest trend in legal education and new to most law schools, but has been in place at Cooley since its founding in 1972.
Knowledge: Master the substantive knowledge required for passage of the bar examination and admission to the bar.
Skills: Master the basic fundamentals required for the competent practice of law and representation of clients.
Ethics: Understand and embrace the legal, moral, ethical, and professional responsibilities of lawyers.

Professionalism, Honor Code Highlight WMU-Cooley Lansing Orientation

Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Amy Ronayne Krause and Alecia Ruswinckel of the State Bar of Michigan spoke to incoming law students about ethics of law during orientation at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School’s Lansing campus on Friday, April 28.

New students pose for a picture with Judge Amy Ronayne Krause (center) after taking WMU-Cooley Law School’s honor code oath, which Krause administered during the law school’s Lansing campus orientation on April 28.

During the orientation, Krause administered the law school’s honor code oath, which all entering students, faculty and staff take as a commitment to the law school’s ethical standards.

The honor code states that “ethics are as important as academic performance and the mastery of practical legal skills.” It emphasizes ethics as an integral part of the law school experience, and “encourages the development of the ethical values that law students and lawyers as professionals must possess.”

Ruswinckel, professional standards assistant counsel for the State Bar of Michigan, led a discussion with law students about professionalism and the value of ethics in the legal field.

In addition to her service as a judge on the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Michigan, Krause is an adjunct professor at WMU-Cooley Law School. Before serving  on the Michigan Court of Appeals, she served as a judge for the Michigan 54A Judicial District Court for almost eight years. From 2013 to 2015, Krause served on the Michigan Court of Claims. She began her legal career in private practice, and then served for eight years as an assistant prosecuting attorney, followed by six years in the Criminal Division of the Michigan Office of Attorney General.

Ruswinckel joined the State Bar of Michigan in December 2014. She provides education, information, support and guidance in the area of ethics to attorneys throughout Michigan. Prior to joining the bar, she was an associate attorney with Anderson, Stull & Associates, focusing her practice on general civil matters including business, real estate, probate and family law.

Judge Amy Ronayne Krause, Fourth District Court of Appeals in Michigan, administers the WMU-Cooley Law School honor code to entering students at the law school’s Lansing campus orientation on April 28.

Alecia Ruswinckel (right), professional standards assistant counsel for the State Bar of Michigan, speaks with WMU-Cooley Law School incoming students during the law school’s orientation program.

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New Law Students Take Honor Code Oath During Auburn Hills Orientation Program

Incoming students at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills campus participated in the law school’s Professionalism in Action (PIA) Orientation program April 28 and took the law school’s honor code oath. During the program, State Bar of Michigan (SBM) President-Elect Donald Rockwell spoke to students about the importance of being an ethical lawyer, and Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Mark Switalski administered the honor code oath.

Incoming WMU-Cooley Law School students take the WMU-Cooley Honor Code Oath on April 28.

During his remarks, Rockwell said, “The best lawyers I know are the ones with the highest ethics. You cannot be a good lawyer without being an ethical lawyer.”

As part of the Professionalism in Action event, law students had the opportunity to meet with judges and attorneys from the community and ask question about professional and ethical situations attorneys may face during their careers.

Before administering the law school’s honor code oath, Switalski spoke about the do’s and don’ts of a lawyer, but from the perspective of a judicial clerk.

The WMU-Cooley honor code is the commitment all entering students take, along with the law school’s faculty and staff during each orientation. At each campus, a judge administers the oath and new students are introduced to WMU’s honor code, which states, “ethics are as important as academic performance and the mastery of practical legal skills.

16th Circuit Court Judge Mark Switalski administers the WMU-Cooley Honor Code Oath during the law school’s orientation program on April 28.

State Bar of Michigan President-Elect Donald Rockwell speaks with incoming students at WMU-Cooley’s Auburn Hills campus during the law school’s Professionalism in Action Orientation Program.

During WMU-Cooley’s Professionalism in Action Orientation Program, judges and attorneys offered students advice on various professional and ethical dilemmas faced by attorneys in practice. Pictured are (front row, left-right) Assistant Dean Lisa Halushka; State Bar of Michigan President-Elect Donald Rockwell, Nill Rockwell PC; Associate Dean Joan Vestrand; (back row, left-right) Antoinette Raheem, Law and Mediation Office of Antoinette Raheem PC; Jeffery May, Kerr Russell & Weber, PLC; Hon. Mark Switalski, 16th Judicial Circuit Court; Hon. David A. Perkins, 36th District Court; and Hon. Edward Ewell, 3rd Judicial Circuit Court.

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Judge Administers Honor Code During Grand Rapids Campus Orientation

Judge Christina Elmore of the 61st Judicial District Court in Michigan spoke to incoming students April 27, and presented the honor code during Western Michigan University Cooley Law School’s orientation program at the Grand Rapids campus. All entering students, faculty and staff take the honor code oath at orientation as a commitment to the law school’s ethical standards.

Judge Christina Elmore administers the WMU-Cooley Law School honor code to entering students at the law school’s Grand Rapids campus orientation.

Prior to administering the oath, Elmore described professionalism and integrity as the cornerstones of the legal profession. She spoke of the value of self-policing and reporting duties, and how that obligation starts in law school.

She referenced lawyer jokes, which often have a negative punch line about the legal profession, and described how the jokes differed from her experiences.

“There is high importance of honor and integrity in our profession,” Elmore said. “When lawyers say something, I can believe what they are telling me, and I can trust what they are saying because they have integrity.”

She also touched on the importance of community service, encouraging the students to join the Grand Rapids Bar Association.

Elmore was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to the Grand Rapids District Court bench in February 2016. She is a former judge advocate general for the U.S. Air Force, and has taught military law as an adjunct professor at WMU-Cooley. Her background also includes service as a former Kent County assistant prosecuting attorney and an assistant attorney general.

Judge Christina Elmore speaks to incoming students during WMU-Cooley Law School’s honor code portion of the Grand Rapids campus orientation on April 27.

New WMU-Cooley Law School students’ mentors pictured (left-right) Christopher Podoll, Kris Johnson, Melissa McKinney, Kristyna Nunzio, Holly Robrahn, Mary Anne Simmering, Bronte Reisinger, Emilee Umfleet and Lee Melde. The individuals were paired with new WMU-Cooley students as part of a new orientation mentoring program organized by the West Michigan Student Bar Association Mentorship Committee.

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Tanya Gibbs: Business and Law Background Connects WMU-Cooley Graduate to Her Tribe’s Culture and Heritage

Tanya Gibbs knew she wanted to be an attorney since the 11th grade when her high school math teacher suggested she go to a national student conference in Washington, D.C.  For 10 days she learned about the laws that govern our nation, toured the city, and even met the Supreme Court justices and several high-end defense attorneys. “I just thought it was the coolest thing, and I wanted to be a part of that,” said Gibbs.

From that point forward, she prepared herself for a legal career.

“Knowing that I wanted to be a lawyer, I decided that I would go to a liberal arts school and concentrate in political theory and philosophy, which really helped,” said Gibbs. “I fine-tuned my analytical skills and engaged in a number of entrepreneurial activities.  I even ran my own business for a few years, which was very successful. It was that experience that helped me realize that business law was where I wanted to go and where I would focus my legal education. When I graduated from MSU, I knew that I wanted to go right to law school, and I knew that I wanted to be in Grand Rapids. I also knew WMU-Cooley was in Grand Rapids. I heard good things about the school, and I applied. I’m the type of person that, once I make my mind up about something, that’s just where I go and what I do.

Once Gibbs started law school at WMU-Cooley, she knew she had made the right decision.

“Even sitting in my first Property class, which might sound boring, I found learning about property law, even in the 1800s, was really interesting, and that business law was definitely the right career choice. During my time at WMU-Cooley, I was able to not only learn the theory behind the law, but really learn the things that I needed to know about the practice of law, and how to be a lawyer.”

But it was WMU-Cooley’s real-world, hands-on approach that she found so crucial in law school — particularly as to how it related to her heritage as a Native American.

“My law school  internship with my tribe (Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians) during my second year was amazing,” exclaimed Gibbs. “I was able to work with them on business and economic development issues and actually applied the things I had just started learning about in law school. I found it to be important work. I was able to help answer questions my tribe had about creating and operating businesses and go to bat for them on a number of legal issues they were facing. I continued to learn more  those more about business in my third year — things like legal structures, operational issues, compliance issues and real estate development — all areas I was able to take back to my tribe and make a difference, even before I graduated and while I studied for the bar. It was very, very helpful. I think that’s one of the great things about WMU-Cooley is that you learn the things that you really need to know. Even in my practice just about a month ago, I was referring back to my notes from my business planning class my 3L year, so definitely real life, practical information.”

WMU-Cooley graduate Tanya Gibbs

Gibbs works for a small boutique nationwide firm that specializes in non-gaming economic development – which includes every type of business that an Indian tribe might own and operate outside of a casino.The firm is majority native-owned and works with Indian tribes and their wholly owned businesses.

“Each Indian tribe is a sovereign nation, which means they have the ability to make their own laws and self governed,” explained Gibbs. “I do everything from help the tribal government draft and enact a limited liability company code  to helping them engage their own business by creating a separate legal entity, wholly-owned by the tribe. This can be anything from owning a fuel station, to real estate development, to e-commerce and consumer financial services-type business. It encompasses all kinds of things.  I’ve been able to do very large, hundreds of millions of dollars, merger and acquisition, as well as regulatory compliance and contract reviews.”

Gibbs finds her career intensely interesting and rewarding.

“In my work, there are lots of fun waters to navigate,” smiled Gibbs. “As a sovereign nation, the tribes aren’t subject to state laws, and they are only subject to federal laws in certain situations. It’s an interesting regulatory and legal landscape when you have three different jurisdictions, or three different regulatory bodies that are interested in the same activity that may or may not be occurring on Indian land.

WMU-Cooley graduate Tanya Gibbs

Gibbs reflected on her own ancestry and Tribal culture.

“I’m a descendant of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, on my dad’s side of the family, and have always known about my culture. Growing up, my father’s family never was very traditional or involved in their tribal culture. I think it might have had to do with the politics associated with being native in the ’80s. State and federal governments were taking Indian children from Indian homes, which resulted in Indian Child Welfare Act and the Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act. Lots of my older family back then didn’t want to associate with the tribe, including my dad.

“Yet, there was a local attorney who moved his family to my hometown when I was in the third grade. They became my pseudo-Indian family. I was able to join his family in lots of cultural and traditional events and activities, and they taught me a lot of about our native culture and what it means to be part of a tribe. So when I had the opportunity to go back to my tribe to do an internship during law school, I was really excited because I had never really spent much time on my reservation and on Indian land. It was very cool to learn about the government, our different traditions. About how we work and to learn about our values. It’s just been really wonderful!

“That experience solidified my desire to do business law, but more importantly that I wanted to do it for Indian tribes. I feel very fortunate to be able to walk out of law school and be able to do exactly what I planned to do all along. My practice is especially wonderful because, although we work primarily with tribes in Michigan and Wisconsin, our firm, as a national firm, works with tribes all over the country. Each tribe is different and has a different culture and different traditions. Getting to know all different types of people is so cool for me, and it’s a feeling of being connected. A lot of my clients, we don’t just give a handshake, we hug. We’re all family and you get to know people and get close to folks.

The ability to meet different people and different kinds of tribes, and to learn about different kinds of issues is, for me, simply fun.

WMU-Cooley graduate Tanya Gibbs

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Distinguished Student and Leadership Awards Presented at Convocation

WMU- Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills campus held its Honors Convocation recently, recognizing students for top course grades, Dean’s List and Honor Roll designations, and for leadership and skills competition achievements.

Peter Mancini and Dr. Ryan McKennon received the Distinguished Student Award for their academic success, participation and leadership in student organizations, professionalism and service to the community.

The recipients of the Leadership Achievement Award were Monica Carson, Deirdre Armstrong, and Brandon Ferguson. The award acknowledges students who have consistently, comprehensively and effectively provided leadership in a variety of capacities.

Peter Mancini receives the Distinguished Student Award.

Dr. Ryan McKennon receives the Distinguished Student Award.

Left-right: Leadership Achievement Award recipients Monica Carson, Deirdre Armstrong, Brandon Ferguson.

 

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From Pardons to Portraits: Gerald R. Ford Leadership Program Participants Wear Shoes of a Leader

Sixteen Michigan residents, including residents of Lansing, Grand Rapids, Portage, Baroda and Sidney, completed the Leadership in Times of Crisis program at the DeVos Learning Center in the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in March.  The program is a joint initiative of Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and The Western Michigan University Center for the Study of Ethics in Society.

"New York, New York, USA - November 3, 2012: A close up of the front page of the The New York Times newspaper dated August 9, 1974. The New York Times reporting President Richard Nixon resigns after the Watergate scandal, Vice President Gerald Ford taking office."

The unique leadership program is not only open to enrolled law students, but to the public. Participants in one class get to take on the role of advisor to President Ford (played by Professor Devin Schindler), including arguing for and against the pardon of Richard Nixon while seated around the cabinet table in the Ford Museum.

In another session led by Professor Paul Sorenson, participants negotiated a contentious issue using procedures learned earlier that morning, experiencing in the process of how President Ford’s renowned reputation as a deal maker was due to many years of arduous, patient work.

A fascinating exploration of the relationship between healthy cities and state funding policies was led by Kalamazoo County Commissioner Kevin Wordelman.

The last class session explores the war in  Vietnam and the fall of Saigon. Participants viewed artifacts during a tour of the Museum’s collection. Artifacts included the portrait of President Ford the American ambassador removed from the wall of the embassy while fleeing Saigon and service medals thrown over the White House fence by veterans angry with President Ford’s amnesty program for men who did not honor the draft.

Guest speaker Tiennga Cao recounted the harrowing story of how she and fellow Vietnamese refugees felt at that time, adrift at sea for over two weeks before being rescued by an American naval ship. At the time of her rescue she was so weak that she could not stand on her own. She was brought to Grand Rapids, President Ford’s home town, and, in her own words, has made it her mission ever since her rescue to help people in return for God saving her life.

Leaders Program guest speaker Tiennga Cao

Leaders Program guest speaker Tiennga Cao

The Museum’s Education Director, Barbara McGregor, led a tour of Museum pieces relevant to the fall of Saigon, including the actual staircase from atop the American Embassy where many Vietnamese people began the transition from their homeland into new lives in other countries.

The program received high marks from all participants. Reservations are being accepted for the Fall 2017 session starting in September.  The program consists of four sessions, one session per month on a Saturday mornings from 9:00 a.m. to noon. The fee is $150. Participants receive a Certification of Completion bearing the name and logo of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum & Library.  For more information contact Professor Victoria Vuletich by email or by phone at (616) 301-6800, ext. 6960.

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Aaron V. Burrell: Rising to your Calling

Attorney Aaron Burrell of the Dickinson Wright law firm presented the keynote during WMU-Cooley Law School’s “Integrity in Our Communities” speaker series. Following his March 15 presentation, the law school honored him with the Integrity Award. The award is presented to legal professionals who demonstrate the highest integrity in their profession. LISTEN to or read below his talk entitled “Rising to your Calling.”

It was at Cooley that I first learned that the practice of law is more than just a job or a career.  When I decided to go to law school, I was uncertain of what kind of lawyer I wanted to be, the responsibilities of the lawyer, or what being a lawyer actually entailed.  I knew only a few things: that I wanted to seek an excellent legal education, that I wanted to provide for a future family, and that I wanted to make my family and my community proud.

When I arrived at Cooley 10 years ago, it became clear that what I was signing up for was not the chance for a good job, although that was part of it.  I realized almost immediately that becoming a lawyer is an all-encompassing transformation – the pursuit of a vocation that will intertwine itself into all aspects and areas of life.  It became quickly evident to me that the practice of law, in my estimation, is most appropriately considered a Calling – defined as a strong urge toward a particular way of life – as opposed to a career. It is almost as if becoming new person, one less interested in personal pursuits and more concerned with advancing the interests of others.

So the moment we are sworn in we assume the weight and responsibility exhaustively outlined in the lawyer’s oath; we begin a new journey, wherein our calling manifests itself in every aspect of our lives, including as a calling towards (1) the rule of law, (2) our clients, (3) our profession, and finally towards our community.

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So our first calling as lawyers is to the rule of law – which is why, not surprisingly, the first sentence of our oath mandates that we support the Constitution of the United States and the State of Michigan, and that we maintain respect to the courts of justice and judicial officers.

Our devotion to the rule of law must, therefore, take preeminent placement over and above every personal or individual interest.  I see our role as gatekeepers – ensuring both that the laws themselves are just – drafted to benefit the community upon which they govern and don’t arbitrarily identify a few selected beneficiaries; and that we also ensure that those laws are equally enforced, that no favorites are selected, and that every individual receives an equal chance in our courts.  Henry Ward Beecher said that a “law is valuable not because it is law, but because there is right in it.”  It is the lawyer’s job to ensure that every law ultimately has that “right in it.”

In everyday practice, this devotion manifests itself in a commitment to diligent research, ensuring fair and accurate interpretation of statutory and common law, and to ensuring that the parties and tribunal are appropriately apprised of the law.  In addition, I work to maintain candor with the Court – ensuring that I report honestly to the Court in all instances.

One of the most terrifying situations of my young career came at a moment when a client had failed to disclose all of the facts of a particular issue – and I in turn failed to report the full story to the Court.  If you were to describe the speed at which I worked to correct this situation as “lightning speed,” that would be an understatement.  Ultimately, the Court thoroughly appreciated my efforts to remedy the situation, and my client and I were able to achieve a good result through open and candid communication.

The rule of law is, quite honestly, paramount.  Jonathan Sacks declared that “true freedom requires the rule of law and justice, and a judicial system in which the rights of some are not secured by the denial of rights to others.” And Justice Sonia Sotomayor echoed that sentiment, observing that the rule of law is the “foundation for all of our basic rights.”

We as lawyers must constantly remind ourselves that we must rise first to our calling to protect the rule of law with every occasion, to build upon its footing with every statement of candor to the tribunal, to secure its foundations with every fair and impartial ruling, and to solidify its underpinnings by ensuring that all citizens who enter our courts experience genuine equality under the law.

Our second calling is our calling to our clients.  Since I began practicing, I have made it my goal to continually and routinely ensure that the interests of my clients enjoyed a paramount priority in my life.  Many lawyers I know are often exasperated by client demands and feel that meeting those demands can often become a hindrance – an inconvenience on personal obligations.  Although I have sometimes had to rearrange things in my personal life – I constantly remind myself that I signed up for this!  That becoming a lawyer wasn’t accepting a 9-5 position – that if I were to truly embrace the calling, I would ensure that I provided clients with excellent client service, and that I worked diligently to ensure that their needs were met.

One of the most renowned lawyers in our nation’s history, Abraham Lincoln, observed in his Notes for a Law Lecture, that the “leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence.  Leave nothing for tomorrow that which can be done today.”  I try to live each day under that mantra.

The lawyer must be responsive to client needs, attentive to client concerns, and must ensure that in everything he or she does, the lawyer is acting in the client’s best interest.

In my practice, I have seen the unfortunate warring that occurs between the lawyer’s personal concerns and the lawyer’s concerns for their clients – their individual interests, competing with the interests of the client.

Indeed, when I first received my business cards at Dickinson Wright, I did not have a full appreciation for what the term “attorney and counselor” meant on the card.  The “attorney” part I understood.  “Counselor” was then unknown to me.  But as time progressed, I began to see how important we are as “counselors” to clients.  And becoming that counselor often requires us to diminish our personal concerns so that we can increase the concerns of our client.

As a younger associate, I never really knew why we would settle a case or why we would proceed to a trial. I always assumed that the lawyers on both sides were doing what was best for their respective clients.  I later realized that on occasion principle would override reason, and, sometimes even worse, greed or personal interests may override virtue and true justice.  Where the parties should have settled a case, the case continued – not for any good reason – but for the purpose of either increasing fees or settling unreasonable vendettas.

Now that I am in the position to advise clients directly, I make a conscious, unequivocal effort to place the client’s concerns above my own – to advise them that settling a case is the most appropriate course of action, will most effectively advance their interests, and most expeditiously resolve the dispute, irrespective of any competing concern.  I also attempt to serve as their counselor, helping clients to understand that the anger and resentment that informed their decision-making early in the litigation must sometimes subside to achieve the best possible outcome for all involved.

That great lawyer Abraham Lincoln said that we as attorneys should “discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man.” He promised, and I know this to be true, that “There will still be business enough” with you serving in the role as peacemaker.

It is my goal to follow this position, and, in doing so, I hope to rise ever so slightly more toward our calling to our clients.

Our third calling is our calling to our profession.  It is often said that the practice of law is a “noble profession.”  But its nobility is only maintained through the daily efforts of those who work consistently to carry that mantle.

Our calling to our profession must begin with civility to one another.  In my limited years of practice, I have too often seen lawyers who, almost as a badge of honor, enjoy belittling and ridiculing opposing counsel.  I have seen lawyers who seemingly take pride in writing the most uncaring and spiteful communications to one another, as if to do so would garner some degree of strength or competitive advantage.

I have news for lawyers who believe that the more unkind and harsh you are the better you are performing – you are not.  In contrast, you are damaging yourself personally, your client’s position, and your profession as a whole.  These are the lawyers that make all the lawyer jokes true.  One of my favorite lawyer jokes, of course, is how many lawyer jokes are there?  The answer: only three.  The rest are true stories.

But by comparison, I admire those lawyers who go to great lengths to extend professional courtesy to one another: who will grant an extension when appropriate, who will offer the services of their office to another lawyer in need, who will embrace the bar’s call for collegiality.

These are the lawyers who will lead the bar, be examples to future generations of lawyers, and leave a strong legacy.  These lawyers aspire to our true “calling” to become peacemakers, mediators; calming the fires of disputes and not enraging them with our own malevolence.

Recently, I had an opportunity to represent a neurosurgeon in a matter.  The neurosurgeon was considering leaving his present practice for another practice.  He discussed the matter with his friend, another physician, who directed him to his brother in law – an attorney.  So the neurosurgeon called the attorney, showed him what was going on, and asked him a couple of questions.  The total interaction between the two individuals was approximately 10 minutes, the neurosurgeon thanked the lawyer for his time, they briefly discussed the brother-in-law’s family, and the neurosurgeon went on about his business, thought nothing of the conversation, and never acted on the substance of the discussion.

About a month later, the neurosurgeon received a bill from the attorney for nearly $600.  The neurosurgeon was puzzled, and inquired with the lawyer regarding why he received a bill. Keep in mind, the neurosurgeon never received an engagement letter, never received any correspondence from the lawyer, and never even knew what the lawyer’s hourly rate was.

Instead of the lawyer gently addressing the neurosurgeon’s concerns and attempting to work with him about the alleged attorney client relationship, the lawyer, the individual charged with the responsibility of absolving disputes and acting in the best interests of his apparent client and the public, began a nearly year-long campaign of harassing the neurosurgeon to recover the alleged $600 he was owed.  He then proceeded to file a lawsuit to recover these alleged fees.

Thankfully, I was able to tap into their collective cooler heads and bring this matter to a resolution.  Though as I sat in the courtroom, the court was hearing arraignments on the court’s television screen.  The first arraignment was for a young woman who remained incarcerated for contempt, primarily as a result of the inability to pay fees.  Most people paid little concern to these proceedings, but as I looked at my client, the neurosurgeon, I could see that he was quite moved by this young woman’s story.

After we put the settlement on the record, I shook the other lawyer’s hand and began to walk out of the court.  But as we approached the door, the neurosurgeon asked me, “Aaron, how do I pay for that young woman’s fees?”  I was understandably puzzled by this question – this neurosurgeon had to undergo nearly a year of torment from a lawyer who constantly hassled him regarding a $600 fee that many lawyers would have quickly written off.  Yet, not only did he no longer harbor any further ill will toward the lawyer – the neurosurgeon sought to pay a complete stranger’s fees, totaling an amount over the settlement we agreed to, to assist her in being released from incarceration.

I thought to myself: “what a remarkable instance of generosity.”  But I also thought more deeply: “which of these two individuals, the attorney or the neurosurgeon, most aptly exemplified the calling of the profession – to advance the cause of justice, to be a beacon of reconciliation and forgiveness?  It certainly was not the lawyer here; it was the neurosurgeon.

Lawyers should remain cognizant of their obligations to the profession.  Our actions in all regards can have an incredible impact on not only ourselves, but also how we are perceived by the public.  It is that obligation that will build the public’s trust in our profession and endear the public to us as a body.  We should routinely remind ourselves that the way we conduct ourselves, the way we approach situations, the way we delicately navigate often thorny circumstances reflects both on us, as well as our profession.

Finally, lawyers have a calling to our community, state, and nation.  Community, in my opinion, begins with ourselves.  We have an obligation to be our best selves, to be confident in our capabilities, and to become the best individuals we can be.  Your success as a lawyer is irrevocably tied to your own efforts, your own dedication to achieving higher heights, and your own commitment to becoming the best lawyer you can be.

Lawyers must then fulfill their calling to their families, knowing that all of the success in the world as a lawyer means nothing if you are regularly failing those who are most close to you.

Lawyers must lastly fulfill their calling to the society as a whole.  We are, by our very offices, leaders.  Without our prompting, people will look to us for direction, guidance, and counsel. It is incumbent upon us to rise to that calling and be the true embodiment of what it means to be a lawyer.

Drawing back on Abraham Lincoln, he once noted that harboring individual drive and desires is okay, but it may be a good idea to have aspirations beyond that.  He said that “every man is said to have his own peculiar ambition.”  But as for him, “he had none other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.”  (emphasis added).

We must, in all our actions, remember that we are working toward the lofty calling and vocation inherent in the law.  Are we perfect?  By no means. And we should accept the human fault present in all of us.  But as lawyers we are held to a higher standard, and we should work diligently to reach that standard.

Every morning as I sit at my desk, I say an affirmation from the lawyer, St. Thomas More, wherein he asked every day to be “trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, [and] ever attentive to conscious.”

He then asks that people around him find “friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duty, counsel in adversity, [and] patience in pain.”

That is the hallmark of the calling.  Working one day at a time towards the goal; seeking every day to rise just a little bit higher to the calling of the practice of law.

Thank you very much again for your time and for this wonderful honor.  I certainly appreciate it.

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