Thank you, Chief Justice Rogers.
It is my pleasure and privilege to welcome you, your family members and friends to celebrate this most important achievement. You have worked hard for this day, and on behalf of the Connecticut Supreme Court, I want to congratulate you. I’m sure there were a few days when you wondered whether you’d ever make it through law school—but you did and here you are. We are all very proud of you.
Now, it is time to start writing the next chapter of your life—an exciting, though daunting, process. Some of you may have jobs lined up; others may still be looking for employment. In either event, there are many opportunities ahead of you, and your first job is to recognize those opportunities and to maximize them.
In some ways, you face a very different world than my contemporaries or I faced when we started practicing. For starters, in my day, office equipment included typewriters and carbon paper, and if you wanted to file something at court, you physically delivered it to the clerk's office by 5 p.m.
We never could have imagined the tools and resources that you have at your disposal, or how the courts themselves would evolve to accommodate technology. Ironically, those same tools and resources have made the practice of law more competitive than ever before, particularly as more people decide to represent themselves rather than hire an attorney. to a certain extent, the 21st century attorney needs to market himself far more effectively than an attorney needed to in the past.
Along those lines, I’d like to take a few minutes to discuss the four classic P’s of marketing: product, place, price and promotion—and to consider their special application to the practice of law.
The first P stands for product, and this may be the most important. Your product is what you put into the exchange between yourself and your client. It is your competence, your diligence, your talent and your zeal to represent your client to the best of your ability. It is your respect and deep regard for the rule of law. It is your belief in the code of professional conduct and your commitment to “seek improvement of the law, access to the legal system, the administration of justice and the quality of service rendered by the legal profession.”
In essence, your product is your integrity and reputation. It is akin to "good will," and you should take care to develop and protect it because once it is lost it will be extremely difficult to regain. As you commence your practice, please remember that antagonism is not the same thing as effective advocacy. Your standing will not flourish if you are perceived to be overly aggressive or antagonistic. Believe me when I say, you can be zealous in your representation of a client yet courteous and professional at the same time.
In short, if your product is to thrive in a tight and competitive market, you should always keep in mind that effective advocacy does not stem from posturing and tone, but from reasoning and a solid understanding of the substance of the issue at stake.
Let’s move on to place. In marketing, this is the manner in which you distribute your product to clients. In a very basic sense, it is where you set up your practice in order to make yourself and your services easily and readily available to your clients.
I have my own slightly different definition of place, however, which I draw directly from the first sentence of the rules of professional conduct. It reads, “a lawyer, as a member of the legal profession, is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.”
In other words, the term place, when applied to the legal profession, does not simply refer to the physical concept of where you offer your services, but also to the theoretical concept of where you, as an attorney, fit into the legal system.
Attorneys, along with courts and clients, play a critical role in our system of justice. The law is an honorable profession, and one good attorney can make a huge difference, not just for his clients, but for how lawyers are perceived by the public and the courts.
Your place in the legal system is vital—attorneys shoulder great responsibilities and have the capacity to do tremendous good. In short, if you conduct yourself with honor, and treat your clients and colleagues with dignity and respect, you will succeed in delivering your product to your client base and in enhancing the quality of justice.
The next principle is price, or what the client is willing to invest into the exchange for services. Simply put, if your clients believe that you are the person who will best represent their interests, they will pay a fair price for your services.
Having said that, I would submit that sometimes you need to volunteer those excellent legal skills when the client is indigent. As Chief Justice Rogers mentioned a few moments ago, pro bono service can be the source of limitless professional and personal satisfaction. Just think of the difference you can make—because of your work, a family may keep their home, a veteran may get his or her benefits, or an abused woman and her children may be safe. In some ways, the outcome may be far more fulfilling than if you had received fair compensation. And, as an added bonus, I can think of no better way to network with your new colleagues or to benefit from those who have more experience.
The Connecticut Judicial Branch website contains an exhaustive list of pro bono opportunities throughout this state. When you volunteer for any of the opportunities listed in the pro bono catalog, you receive training in an area of the law that interests you, you meet others in the field, and you have the opportunity to handle a case from beginning to end. All of this valuable experience is gained while helping someone in need. I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity.
Finally, we turn to promotion, or how you communicate to others the benefits of your product. Of course, there are the obvious ways to achieve this goal, but I would urge you to aspire to something greater than the absolute minimal standard. When you promote your product, keep in mind what your product is—namely, your competence, your commitment, your honesty, and how you treat other people. How you promote your product is a reflection of the product itself. The practice of law can't be captured by a catchy slogan or photograph. It is conveyed by how you conduct yourself with your client, with your colleagues and before the court. By conducting yourself in a courteous and professional manner, and by doing your homework, not only will you establish your reputation in the legal community, but you will also help to foster an atmosphere of civility and serve as a role model for your peers. Word of your integrity, standing and skills will spread. And you can take this to the bank: your marketing strategy in this economy will succeed only if you incorporate the values that make the practice of law a noble profession.
So, on this day of great opportunity and achievement, and on behalf of my colleagues on the Connecticut Supreme Court, I welcome you to the legal profession and wish you much success in your career. Congratulations.