Thursday, November 4, 2010

November 4th Address to New Members of the Bar

I had the honor today to address the new lawyers being admitted to the Illinois Bar at their swearing in ceremony at McCormick Place, Chicago. Here are my remarks.

To commemorate your admission to the Bar today, you will receive a beautiful certificate, bearing the signatures of the Justices of the Illinois Supreme Court.  That certificate is not just a license to start billing clients.

It is the badge of admission to a noble profession, and with membership in this profession come some obligations.  In the United States, only two professions are commonly referred to as “callings”: ministers are “called” to a church, and lawyers are “called” to the Bar. That similarity is not mere coincidence, because both professions are service professions.

I believe that to be “called” to the Bar means that we are called to serve the public. Our democracy is a nation of laws, and lawyers are entrusted with enabling the public to negotiate their way through those laws. You took an oath today to protect and defend the constitution. Those are not just empty words.

As members of the profession, we are called to work to establish good laws and, when needed, to change the law for the better of society. We are called to represent those who can’t afford to hire a lawyer, to take on positions of public service and to work for the improvement of the profession through the organized Bar.

Listen for your call. Maybe your call will come from a homeowner who risks losing his home in foreclosure. Maybe your call will come from a battered woman who needs a lawyer to help her get an order of protection. Maybe your call will come from a young boy or girl who has been charged with a crime.  Maybe it will come from a charity that needs help to set up a not-for-profit corporation.  But the call will come, and it is your professional obligation to respond.

We members and leaders of the organized Bar are here to help you. We will be your mentors, your teachers, your friends. We will help you respond to the call.

As Winston Churchill said: We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

Listen for your call, give freely, and you will have made for yourself a good life.