New attorneys take oath in U.S. District Court — and receive advice and offers of mentorship.
Eight men and women who passed The Florida Bar examination in February walked into the Bryan Simpson U.S. Courthouse about 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
When they walked out of the building an hour and a half later, they were the newest members of The Florida Bar.
The ceremony was not only procedural but also advisory with personal experience shared by attorneys who serve on the bench, the Bar and the classroom.
“You have accomplished a tremendous goal. The legal profession is truly a profession of great honor,” said U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard, who presided over the ceremony and administerd the Oath of Attorney.
“Lawyers are society’s professional problem solvers,” she added.
Jacksonville Bar Association President Tad Delegal welcomed the new attorneys to the profession, but cautioned that graduating from law school represents only a preview of the career.
“It’s like you’ve won first place in a pie-eating contest and the prize is more pie,” he said.
All of the new attorneys sworn in Thursday graduated from Florida Coastal School of Law. Dean of Academics Jennifer Reiber advised them that being an attorney opens many opportunities.
“There are so many things you can do with this license,” she said. “Today is your day to start your own path and create your own story.”
Delegal pointed out the attorneys have help at their disposal as they begin their practice.
“You have the resources of the Bar, the court and the mentoring committee. We who have been practicing law in this community are here to support you,” he said.
Duval County Judge Gary Flower is chair of the JBA Professionalism and Mentoring Committee. He was accompanied to the ceremony by a group of mentor attorneys who were matched with the new lawyers before they left the courtroom.
“There’s no shame in having a legal life coach,” he said.
Alexandria Hill, president of the JBA Young Lawyers Section and general counsel for Maple Street Biscuit Co., encouraged the attorneys to take advantage of the advice, experience and expertise that’s offered by their colleagues.
“Don’t be too shy or too proud to reach out for a mentor,” she said.
The importance of volunteer service also was on the agenda at the ceremony.
Jacksonville Area Legal Aid attorney Kathy Para, chair of the JBA Pro Bono Committee, said there’s a reason the Florida Bar has set an aspirational goal for each of its members to volunteer at least 20 hours each year to help people who need representation but are unable to pay for legal counsel.
“There are skills that only we can provide. Give away some of your expertise to people who can’t afford to pay you a nickel. All voices need to be heard,” Para said.
Howard advised the group that opportunities to serve are plentiful and pro bono service need not be formal.
“Help a next-door neighbor with a will or help a nonprofit with a legal matter,” she said.
Flower advised that the most important concepts to realize as a young attorney is “absolute rigorous adherence to honesty will secure your place in the profession” and “do the right thing for the right reason.”
“Always remember that no one case, client or opportunity is worth sacrificing your integrity or your name,” Howard said. “Never put yourself first. Serve and uphold the law and make sure justice is never subverted.”