BAR PRESIDENT EUGENE PETTIS addresses new lawyers at the Supreme Court in Tallahassee.
‘Always let your voice and your deeds be advocates for what is fair and what is just’
By Mark D. Killian
Being a lawyer is not always easy or without its challenges, but every lawyer should make a commitment to accepting nothing less than their personal best, Bar President Eugene Pettis told 55 brand new lawyers who took the oath of admission in October at the Supreme Court in Tallahassee.
“Always let this moment be a reminder of how important it is for lawyers to help other fellow citizens to understand and support our system of laws and to appreciate the importance of a truly independent court,” Pettis said.
“We must constantly affirm our commitment to the independent and impartial judiciary that is free from partisan politics and societal whims. A judiciary that acts on the basis of what is right and just, not what is popular.”
Pettis told the new graduates that in a profession that is becoming more competitive with each new member — in a society that in many arenas is losing its moral compass — it is essential that they act professionally and remember that what they do matters.
“Fame and fortune are no substitute for maintaining your integrity and dignity,” Pettis said. “Always let your voice and your deeds be advocates for what is fair and what is just.”
Pettis said while some of those taking the oath already had jobs lined up while others are still looking for work, they can’t allow current circumstances to define their futures.
“It is not where you start; it’s how you finish that counts,” he said.
Justice Barbara Pariente noted it was 40 years ago that she took her oath to become a member of The Florida Bar.
“My legal career was then an unwritten book with no thought of a judicial chapter,” Pariente said. “The story of your life as a lawyer is beginning today.”
Pariente said when she joined the Bar in 1973, there were only 12,000 Florida lawyers and she was one of only 600 women. Today, she said, the Bar is fast approaching 100,000 lawyers and women comprise almost 40 percent of its members.
“So while much has changed over 40 years, the core values of our profession have not,” Pariente said. “Practicing law . . . is a privilege granted to you just like it was to me 40 years ago. Professionalism and the adherence to the highest ethical standards were my polestar and should be your guiding theme, always taking the high road. Treat your clients and colleagues and the judges you appear before with dignity and respect.”
Pariente said the law is also a helping profession and lawyers are problem- solvers and advocates for their clients.
“We are not fixers or gladiators like Olivia Polk and her team in ‘Scandal,’” Pariente said to laughs, referencing the ABC TV lawyer drama starring Kerry Washington.
Pariente said the privilege of practicing law comes with great responsibility and she implored the new admittees to make pro bono a part of their careers “from the very beginning.”
Chief Justice Ricky Polston said lawyers give life to the rule of law in our society.
“The legal profession is an essential pillar in our democratic institutes and the bulwark for our liberties,” Polston said. “Without the legal profession, our way of life, our freedom, and rights we too often take for granted would not be possible.”