Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A message to new grads about joining the legal profession from the ABA president

Here's an inspiring message from ABA president Stephen Zach (courtesy of the ABA Journal) to all new grads:

Being a lawyer [is] a special commitment. It is about much more than practicing law. It is defending the rule of law and advocating for fairness and access to justice.

That same commitment led John Adams, our first lawyer-president, to fight for an independent American nation. It spurred a small group of attorneys—133 years ago in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.—to create the ABA to defend liberty and pursue justice as the national voice of the profession. And it guided the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and other lawyers to march in the streets and litigate in the courtrooms to remind this country that “all men are created equal.”

These values are the foundation for the latest generation of lawyers in facing major issues of our day, including cuts to legal aid, decreases in access to the courts by the middle class and small business, and the increase in the diversity of American society. In talking to students nationwide these past few months, it’s clear that today’s young lawyers are up to the task, and that they share the passion and obligation of prior generations to use their new skills in service to society.

We need these young lawyers to right today’s wrongs. We also have to do right by them. Currently, many young lawyers are feeling great uncertainty regarding their future, and a lot of pressure about the debts they took on to pursue their education. There will always be a role and a need for good, new lawyers.

So to the graduates of the 200 ABA-accredited law schools, congratulations and welcome to an amazing path for your life’s work. To those in practice, reach out to the next generation. Share with them how you built success, and encourage them to expand their horizons by becoming active in local, state and national bar associations. Encourage them also to donate time to legal causes they care about, especially helping the poor in our society. This kind of public service has always been part of private sector legal work. It sharpens skills, builds a network and helps land a job. But most important is that it will help shape how this generation of lawyers, like the ones before them, will be remembered.


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