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Justice C. Ian McLachlanJustice C. Ian McLachlan
Remarks at the November 1, 2010
Swearing In of New Attorneys

It is a pleasure and privilege to extend to you and your families my congratulations, the congratulations of the other justices and the Judicial Branch on reaching this day.

 

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Biography of Justice McLachlan
Judge's Corner

Today you, your families and loved ones should feel great pride as you complete the formal aspect of your legal education. You are now an attorney at law. The title of "attorney" will become part of your identity. You will be respected because of this title. New, exciting and intellectually challenging experiences will be available to you. You will, I hope, have the opportunity to enjoy a satisfying life in the practice of law.

But the title of attorney and the practice of law to which you are being admitted come with responsibility (or "obligations"). Just as you gain respect from this title, you must respect the profession you are joining. The profession allows you great opportunities and privileges, but 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.

Part of that responsibility is the obligation to help others less fortunate. As Muhammad Ali once said, “Service to others is the payment you make for your space here on Earth.”

In the practice of law, service to people in need is the payment you make for the honor of being an attorney.

As you know, Connecticut’s Rules of Professional Conduct clearly recognize this responsibility. To quote Rule 6.1:

“A lawyer should render public interest legal service. A lawyer may discharge this responsibility by providing professional services at no fee or a reduced fee to persons of limited means or to public service or charitable groups or organizations, by service in activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession and by financial support for organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means.”

Note the words that are used in this section. In addressing the various ways to do pro bono work, it’s you may do this or you may do that. But in addressing the question of whether or not to do it, the word used is “should.” In other words, there is no ambiguity.

The National Pro Bono Celebration was held last October 24 through the 30th. It’s the second such celebration, sponsored by the American Bar Association, and follows the tremendous success of last year’s celebration.

Lawyers’ service to those in need is a superb reflection of how seriously you take your oath. Always remember that only a fraction of your time and talent may make the difference for someone experiencing a difficult time in his or her life.

Let us look for a moment to the entire oath of an attorney.

This oath was originally adopted in colonial Connecticut in 1708. The principles upon which it is based 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. 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.

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.

Among those early American patriots was John Adams who first made his name as a lawyer. He successfully defended British soldiers who were accused of murder in pre-revolutionary Boston.

In May 2011, the Law Day celebration will highlight the service of all those lawyers who have made a difference by public service, with Adams as a model. We, in Connecticut do not have to look beyond our state to find legal heroes.

Oliver Ellsworth, the 3rd Chief Justice of the United States, and signer of the Declaration of Independence was a Connecticut native. Roger Sherman, of Connecticut was one of only 3 peoples signing both the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Tapping Reeves, of Litchfield established the first American law school. You can still visit it in Litchfield if you wish.

Mary Hall refused to take NO for an answer and litigated her right to become the first woman lawyer admitted to the bar in 1882. She had to take her case to this court to gain admission.

In the 20th century, Connecticut had its own legal heroes as well.

A little county lawyer named Catherine Roraback litigated Griswold v. Connecticut in the Supreme Court of the United States and established the right of privacy as a constitutional right.

A young African-American girl growing-up in New Haven in the 1930's so impressed a wealthy resident that he promised to pay for her higher education if she studied to earn it. She did and he did: That woman, Constantine Baker, later Constance Baker Motley, became a lawyer with the NAACP legal defense fund. She argued 11 cases in the United States Supreme Court and won 10 of them. The Court saw the error of its ways in the 11th case and reversed itself only a few years later. She was nominated and served as the 1st African-American female district court judge in 1964. She continued as a district court judge until her death a few years ago here in Connecticut.

The men and women I spoke of were all heroes of their times and ours. Who will be the legal heroes of the 21st century in Connecticut? And what will be their cause? We are waiting for you to tell us.

The common denominator that links the lawyers I have mentioned -- each, as a lawyer, exemplifies the ideals and promise of our profession.

It is important to remember that you are not just 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.

I would urge you also 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.

Finally, 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.

Today and every day, remember 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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