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
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
…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
….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.