Young Lawyer Chair Messages
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December 2013-January 2014: The Lawyer’s Oath
True to form, I was going about my daily work when an email arrived from our friendly Bar staff reminding me that my column was due (by due, I mean well past due). Being the kind and forgiving professional staff they are, I was granted a brief extension. The extension jogged my memory regarding something I swore to more than 12 years ago — The Lawyer’s Oath. I was privileged to attend the most recent admissions ceremony for our newly admitted members. During the ceremony, I heard the Oath for the first time since my own swearing-in. The statements in the Oath should not be shelved for annual meetings and admission ceremonies; instead, we should review the statements as often as possible.
We are entering a new year and a new year calls for new resolutions. I resolve to read the Lawyer’s Oath daily before I begin my work. I challenge you to do the same, if not daily, weekly, monthly or at an acceptable interval to you and your conscience. For your convenience, I supply the nine paragraphs below with comments on how the Oath applies to some of today’s challenges.
1. I solemnly swear (or affirm) I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Louisiana . . . . (We are all well aware of the U.S. Constitution, but how many of us consider the Louisiana Constitution when we are advising clients?)
2. I will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers . . . . (Think of this paragraph the next time you receive a call or email from a colleague or client inquiring about a judge or jurisdiction.)
3. I will not counsel or maintain any suit or proceeding which shall appear to me to be unjust nor any defense except such as I believe to be honestly debatable under the law of the land . . . . (This one is self explanatory — I hope.)
4. I will employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me such means only as are consistent with truth and honor and will never seek to mislead the judge or jury by any artifice or false statement of fact or law . . . . (While this statement seems obvious, what about withholding matters that are true, but do not support your cause? Is that honorable?)
5. I will maintain the confidence and preserve inviolate the secrets of my client and will accept no compensation in connection with a client’s business except from the client or with the client’s knowledge and approval . . . . (I want to focus on the first clause that deals with client confidences. In today’s world, we are quick to respond to a social media post without considering this paragraph. When your “friend” sends you an obvious legal question over Facebook and you respond, have you violated that confidence? What about when you comment on an innocuous question?)
6. To opposing parties and their counsel, I pledge fairness, integrity, and civility, not only in court, but also in all written and oral communications . . . . (If we all upheld this paragraph, no negative comments regarding lawyers would be made.)
7. I will abstain from all offensive personality and advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness unless required by the justice of the cause with which I am charged . . . . (For all of us litigators, let’s remember this paragraph when we are questioning the witness during deposition.)
8. I will never reject from any consideration personal to myself the cause of the defenseless or oppressed or delay any person’s cause for lucre or malice. (How easy is it to ignore the unsolicited call from a stranger who you do not want to help, but probably could?)
9. So help me God.
I hope you accept my challenge and add the Oath to your resolutions. The first half of the “Bar year” is now over. While it was great, the second half will only be better if we strive to work and live by the Oath we all took.