Lawyers Journal

Advice for new lawyers rings true for us all

"Every calling is great when greatly pursued."

- Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
During this month, more than 1,750 men and women will be admitted into the practice of law by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to address new admittees on behalf of the Massachusetts Bar Association. The following remarks are those I will present to the 2002 new admittees. My intent to focus on words relevant to new lawyers caused me to reflect on the road that I have traveled in my career, first as a teacher and now as a lawyer. It is my hope that as you read the following, you will reflect on your own journey throughout your professional careers:

To have achieved entrance into the practice of law is a great accomplishment. Congratulations. This ceremony is a recognition of the hard work you have performed over the course of the past three or four years as well as a recognition of the support and encouragement given to you by your families and friends, some of whom are seated around you today. This ceremony also is a celebration of your pursuit of the study of law.

To date, the journey for most of you has been through college, law school and the bar exam. Your accomplishments have been measured by a series of easily identifiable signposts along the way - LSATs, law school exams, law school competitions and the dreaded bar exam. These signposts signaled what you must accomplish and, now that you have passed them, they identify what you have accomplished. You may have felt a certain comfort in their predictability.

With your admittance to the practice of law, however, a new phase of your journey begins - one from which you derive a profound sense of personal and professional satisfaction. It also will be a journey in which there are fewer universally identifiable goals to achieve and fewer signposts to guide you.

At this time, perhaps more than any other in our professional lives, you will be unsure of what lies ahead. At this time, it is important to remember the signposts you have passed, remember the accomplishments you have achieved and trust that they have guided you in the right direction. Verify your direction from time to time, but do not second-guess the route you have taken. Your legal road may have twists and turns, and with fewer signposts you may begin to wonder whether you are taking the best route.

There is no best way to practice law and there is no best route for your journey.

The very term 'practice of law' suggests a profession that is ever-changing, ever-challenging and incapable of mastery. This profession is not perfect. But despite its shortcomings, I believe it is a noble profession and, perhaps more than any other, this profession constantly strives to do better and to find better ways to serve the public.

Remember, as you make your journey, that you can make a difference in the quality of justice; you can make a difference in the lives of people you serve; you can make a difference and give future generations something to aspire to.

To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, "the energy, the faith, the devotion which you bring to this endeavor will light the profession and all who serve it and are served by it, and the glow from that fire can truly light the world."

I congratulate you and wish you well as you embark on your careers, wherever they may take you. My wish for you is that you follow Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.'s counsel to 'greatly pursue' the law.

Thank you."

©2014 Massachusetts Bar Association