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Justice C. Ian McLachlan
Remarks at the June 04, 2010 Swearing In of New Attorneys
 

 

 

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Biography of Justice McLachlan
Justice C. Ian McLachlan

On this memorable day it is a pleasure and privilege to have the opportunity to extend to you and your families my congratulations and the congratulations of the other justices and the Judicial Branch.

Today you should feel great pride, as should your families and those who helped you reach this day, the culmination of your scholastic achievement.  You are now an attorney at law.  The title of attorney and all it means will become part of your identity.  Because you carry this title, respect will be accorded to you.  New, exciting and intellectually challenging experiences will be available to you, and you will have the opportunity to enjoy what I hope will be a satisfying life in the practice of law.

But the title of attorney and the practice of law to which you have just been admitted come at a price.  While allowing you great opportunities and privileges, your new designation also places upon you awesome responsibilities.  People will seek you out to help them resolve some of the most difficult decisions of their lives.  They will entrust to you matters involving their homes, their fortunes, and their family relationships.  At times, you may be called upon to protect their constitutional freedoms and perhaps even their liberty.

When you -- as an officer of the court -- are so called upon, you have a firm duty to insure that the rights of your clients are protected and that justice is not only done, but seen to be done.  As lawyers, you must exemplify the highest standards of the legal profession - moral courage, principal devotion to the law and equal justice.  Your road must be the high road … and there are no shortcuts.

To that end, I recommend that you study the oath that you have just taken and commit it to memory. This oath was originally adopted in colonial Connecticut in 1708 and has its origin in English common law. The principles upon which it is based are time tested, and remain the essential principles of the legal profession.  These principles require a level of morality and ethics that must guide your behavior throughout your life as a lawyer.  In a nutshell, the essence of this remarkable oath is honesty, integrity, and fair dealing to all with whom you come in contact. It includes the duty of loyalty to your clients, the court and to yourself.  Above all, remember that the art of being a lawyer is not only that of working at a trade for an income, it is the practice of a noble profession that has had incomparable impact on our history.

It is worth recalling that, in the late eighteenth century, while doctors were still healing with leeches, lawyers were writing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

They also were already hard at work protecting the rights of their clients.  You may have heard of printer John Peter Zenger, who insulted the King of England in his New York newspaper in the 1740s.  He was promptly jailed together with the two lawyers who defended him.  Despite the unpopularity of this cause, a Philadelphia lawyer named Andrew Hamilton came forward and successfully defended Zenger against the charges of seditious libel.  This cause blazed the trail for the freedom of press, which was later incorporated into our first amendment.  

John Adams made his name as a lawyer when he successfully defended British soldiers who were accused of murder in pre-revolutionary Boston.  Not a popular cause.  Alexander Hamilton, a principal author of the Federalist papers and member of the first continental congress was a lawyer.  Thomas Jefferson, architect, musician, inventor, who is known as the drafter of the Declaration of Independence, and third President of the United States, was a lawyer.

History has other legal heavyweights.  Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer who held together a nation.  And Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, faced incredible obstacles in the courtroom when he argued the Texas voting rights cases, in addition to Brown v. Board of Education and over thirty capital felony cases.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a leader in the campaign in the 1970s to litigate for women's rights and opportunities.  Some of you may have read about Mary Hall, the first woman to be admitted to the bar in Hartford County in 1882.  She had to litigate her right to admission before the Connecticut Supreme Court.  Finally, our own Ellen Peters, an immigrant to this country from Germany, became a full professor at Yale Law School, is a nationally known legal scholar and was the first woman to serve as an associate justice and later chief justice of this Court.

These men and women were all heroes of their times and ours.  The common denominator that links them -- each as a lawyer exemplifies the ideals and promise of our profession.

There is another common denominator among the champions of our profession: they are courteous – to the bench, to their clients and to each other.  Be considerate of problems which other lawyers face, and when emotions run high – temper your advocacy with reason.

As a young lawyer, I had the opportunity to have several matters with David Goldstein who, at that time, was the dean of the Fairfield County Bar.  While in court for an argument one morning I saw him and was anxious to introduce him to the lawyer "on the other side."  I said to him "Mr. Goldstein; I would like to introduce you to my adversary."  He quickly pointed his finger at me and said, "Young man, this lawyer is your colleague and not your adversary."  An important lesson to remember.

It is important to remember that you are not only an attorney; you are also an advisor and counselor.  The fact that you know the law and where to find it and how to read it does not require that you put aside your common sense.  In other words, our primary objective is to solve problems, not create new ones.

Now, I realize that you may be sitting there thinking, “This is all important, but I need to find a job first!”

You are correct:  the economy and the effects of the recession paint a daunting picture.  It is harder to find a job, there is no doubt.  I would encourage you to take this time to consider rethinking your path in the legal profession and to be open to starting out on that path in a different area or position than you had originally planned.  Have faith that times of great challenge are also times of great opportunity, and remember that there is always a place for a competent and caring attorney.

So, while you look for a job, or as you begin a new one, I would also ask that you do pro bono work. Only a fraction of your time and talent may make the difference for someone experiencing a difficult time in his or her life.  Keep in mind too that you will learn from your service and it will give you a chance to become known and for people to observe you at your work.

It is important as well to become involved in professional activities, to join the local and state bar associations, and involve yourselves in the communities in which you live and work.  As new lawyers, you will have many opportunities to assist your fellow citizens in their educational, charitable, civic and political organizations.  Simply put, take advantage of these opportunities and make a difference.

I would ask that you remember these words from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said: "I think that, as life is action and passion, it is required of a man that he should share the passion and action of his time at peril of being judged not to have lived."

I urge you all to exemplify the spirit of those words and the ideals of those lawyers who have preceded you.  Thank you for the honor of addressing you today, and I wish you the best of luck for the future.

 

 

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