by Stephen Haley, Groom & Cave, LLP
2013 SCCBA President
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of speaking at the New Admittee Swearing In Ceremony hosted by the Santa Clara County Bar Association (“SCCBA”). The new lawyers were sworn in by the Honorable Brian Walsh, Presiding Judge of the Santa Clara County Superior Court, and by the Honorable Edward Davila, of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
In addition to swearing in the admittees, Judge Walsh and Judge Davila each addressed the new attorneys, emphasizing the necessity of developing a sense of civility and professionalism in the manner in which they conduct their career, and encouraging them to become involved in our local legal community.
As most of us may recall from our own admission ceremonies, the new lawyers were excited (and relieved) to have passed the Bar Exam and to finally be admitted to the California State Bar; as well as somewhat uncertain as to what awaits them as they enter our profession and join our local legal community. It is undeniable that the legal profession that the new lawyers are entering in 2013 confronts significant challenges and an ever-shifting landscape for the practice of law.
Disruptive technologies are having an increasing impact in many different areas of modern life. The legal profession is not immune from the impact of these disruptive technologies. They are a driving force in accelerating the changing paradigm for the practice of law. The complexity and sophistication of these changes will continue to develop and will continue to make themselves felt throughout all of the professional careers of these new attorneys.
New attorneys can anticipate that traditional models for delivery of legal services to the public are being challenged. Non-lawyer on-line legal service resources are utilizing web-based technology to develop and market alternatives to the traditional law practice models. The complexity and sophistication of these on-line services will continue to develop. Cloud-based practice models for office operations, information storage, and communication with clients and with opposing counsel are becoming more commonplace. The combined impact of these forces is causing irreversible change in the nature of the practice of law and for the delivery of legal services to our clients.
As a profession, all of us, experienced and new attorneys alike, must embrace these changes, and re-imagine the manner in which we provide guidance and value to our clients. The new attorneys will play a vital and integral part in addressing and effecting these changes in the coming years.
The new attorneys were advised to actively pursue involvement in the legal community and in the broader local communities; and that doing so would expand and enrich their professional and personal lives.
Adam Davis, of the Davis & Young Law Firm, and Megan Ottoboni, of Greenfield Sullivan Draa & Harrington, LLP, are the current Co-Chairs of the SCCBA Barristers Committee. They both addressed the new attorneys. They stressed the benefits of membership in professional associations such as the SCCBA, which provides new attorneys with numerous opportunities to become active in and to contribute to our legal community; as well as the opportunity to develop a leadership role in the legal community. They encouraged the new attorneys to take the time to get involved in our local legal community in order to expand and enrich their professional lives.
The new attorneys were also encouraged to seek out and develop mentors to assist them in their growth as lawyers and as professionals. Unlike the emphasis on theory that is the focus of the law school and the bar exam experience, the reality of the every day practice of law is based on the traditions and practices that are only learned through experience. New attorneys need advice on substantive law issues and procedural skills; and on how to recognize and handle ethical questions. Those of us who are experienced practitioners need to be willing mentor our new colleagues.
Finally, with regard to their development as legal professionals, the new attorneys were reminded that two principles must be at the forefront of their consciousness: Ethics and Integrity.
One of the defining aspects of being an attorney is the traditional role that Ethics plays in all aspects of our profession. As attorneys, we are guided by the Rules of Professional Conduct. Adherence to these ethical guidelines sets us apart from other professions.
The SCCBA developed and adopted its Code of Professionalism in 1992 during Judge Walsh’s term as SCCBA president. Under the provisions of the Code, all attorneys bear a duty of professionalism, which includes “civility, professional integrity, personal dignity, candor, diligence, respect, courtesy, cooperation, and competence.” The Code has been adopted by the Santa Clara County Superior Court, and has formed the basic model for codes of professionalism adopted by other bar organizations throughout the country, including the State Bar of California. The new attorneys were urged to become familiar with the Code, and to adhere to its ideals and philosophy.
As members of the larger legal community, the new attorneys were also encouraged to act with Integrity in their dealings and interactions with their clients and all members of the legal community with courtesy and respect.
The experience of most attorneys is that, as time progresses in the course of their legal careers, they develop a deep and abiding appreciation for the significance of the role of ethics and integrity in our profession. It is clear that the ethical principles of our profession will be of even greater importance in the changing environment for the practice of law. The new attorneys were encouraged to embrace and be guided by the ethical standards of our profession.
We welcome the new attorneys that were sworn in at the SCCBA offices earlier this month as colleagues in our profession, and we look forward to them becoming contributing members in our local legal community.