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Prepared Remarks by Justice Peter T. Zarella
Bar Admission Ceremony
October 30, 2006

Thank you, Justice Borden. It is a pleasure to speak to you today on this important occasion.

To those of you who are moments away from being admitted to a profession that is rich in its heritage of service and leadership, we congratulate you for your hard work and success, and we encourage you to further aspire to achieve leadership roles that extend beyond the confines of your professional work. We live in a society today in which leadership and personal commitment are sorely needed and too often neglected - perhaps because of the constant pressures that pervade our day-to-day lives. But you have an opportunity as the newest members of the bar to change the direction and the public perception of our profession.
 

Biography of Justice Peter T. Zarella

Judges' Corner

During the earliest days of our country, many of our founding fathers were lawyers. In fact, almost half of those who signed the declaration of independence were attorneys.

The profession of law has historically been a noble and respected calling. Throughout our country’s history, it is difficult to find a significant success or national accomplishment in which lawyers have not played a role.

Perhaps it was, in part, that legacy of respect that motivated you to dedicate years of study and hard work to prepare for this day, when you will stand with your colleagues and raise your right hand to take the oath that signifies your admission into a worthy and time-honored profession of leaders.

In years past, the example of leadership among lawyers has extended well beyond the law firm, and society has always expected more from members of the bar. You will likely find that a number of the civic leaders in your communities are lawyers. Members of our profession have traditionally been counted upon to give generously of their time in holding leadership roles in charitable efforts or in holding political office within our cities and towns, and in our state government as well.

The legal profession has helped to shape public policy for the betterment of communities and society as a whole, and lawyers have played an important role in this country’s system of upholding the rule of law that affects every aspect of society.

Members of the bar have a long tradition of participating as leaders of good and noble causes, and we should never let cynicism or disrespect surrounding the actions of a few to over-shadow the dignity and honor that characterize our calling.

As we examine our profession today, however, it seems that many lawyers are beginning, more and more, to withdraw from activities outside of work, and, as a result, they are not participating in as many aspects of public service and community involvement as in the past. Perhaps they are listening too much to the negative press and the lawyer jokes, and simply hiding out to avoid being noticed. Perhaps some lawyers are just too busy or too caught up in the juggling act of life in our fast-paced world to see beyond the immediate tasks at hand. Whatever the reasons, we lawyers must remind ourselves that the time-honored enjoyment of respect for our profession depends on our ability to strike a balance that includes carving out some time for service to our communities and to our profession, and for continuing to seek leadership roles in all aspects of our society. In the words of John Quincy Adams, “if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

It is evident from the personal achievements that have brought you here today, that you, our newest colleagues at the bar, possess the leadership skills to accomplish whatever you set out to do as you begin your professional careers. It is my hope that you will focus some of your energy and passion towards reviving the tradition of service beyond your commitment to your employment.

At the reception following this ceremony, you will have an opportunity to take a first step in that direction by speaking to the representatives of the bar associations who are making themselves available to you today. I can assure you that your involvement in these organizations will be rewarding and enjoyable, and will also provide a pathway to leadership and service that reaches beyond the boundaries of the legal profession.

Dr. Ellen Ostrow, the founder of Lawyers Life Coach, LLC, an organization established primarily as a resource for women lawyers, recently wrote an article (in volume 77 of Wisconsin Lawyer) entitled “20 Ways to Become a Leader”. The practical advice contained in this article is not gender specific, as it focuses upon challenges of a human nature. In her article, Ostrow offers the following advice:

“Become the sculptor of your own career and life –not the sculpture.

Leaders are authentic—the authors of their own lives. Take responsibility for your professional development. No one has a greater investment in your success and satisfaction than you.

….leadership is fundamentally about character. Knowing your character strengths enables you to find ways to select work environments and work assignments that allow you to express and develop them.

…leaders are vision directed. A leader creates a compelling vision, is committed to this vision, and inspires others to action by aligning [his or her] goals with this vision.

….to become a leader, you must first learn to lead yourself. Initiative is a fundamental leadership competence.

….take risks [and]… be 0ptimistic. Realistic optimists take control where they can and stop investing energy in things beyond their control.

….maintain integrity [and]… persevere.”

As Dr. Ostrow indicates, leaders must indeed be “vision directed”. Hopefully, each of you will formulate a vision of success and satisfaction for your unique path that includes, not only the achievements that come from hard work and dedication in your career, but also the rewarding satisfaction that comes from reaching outside the walls of your office to your community and to society. In doing so, you will not only attain personal satisfaction, but you will contribute towards reviving the leadership role for which lawyers have been respected throughout our country’s history.

On behalf of the entire court, I congratulate you and wish you the best of luck in all that you aspire to do.

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