May 2019 Bar Bulletin
Three times each year (twice in the fall, once in the spring), I have the distinct privilege of following in Ponce de Leon’s quest and discovering the bar’s fountain of youth. While I regret to report the effects are not physical (just ask my barber who needs less and less time to complete his task each month), I am delighted to report that the psychological rejuvenation is unmistaken.
Where is this fountain you may wonder? Right under KCBA members’ noses in the King County Superior Court presiding judge’s courtroom each time we host a swearing-in ceremony for new admittees to the bar.
The planning for the ceremony begins weeks earlier when we confirm the presiding judge’s availability to welcome between 75 to 150 new attorneys along with their families and friends. We host both young and seasoned lawyers at our ceremonies: some who are in their 20s starting out in their careers, others who have come to the law as a second career, and still others who have recently relocated to Washington.
Our goal is to confirm a date within two weeks of the bar exam results being published since most who have passed the bar are anxious to be sworn in as soon as possible. Once the court’s availability is confirmed, we recruit a distinguished member of the bar who is working in some prominent public service role to serve as our event’s keynote speaker. In recent years, we’ve heard from King County Executive Dow Constantine, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, state Sen. Jamie Pedersen and then-U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan.
We begin with the bailiff’s well-known order to “All Rise!” as a solemn procession of judges enters the courtroom to witness the ceremony. Frequently we’ll see a dozen judges attend, seated in their robes behind the bench, reinforcing for our new admittees the seriousness of the oath they are about to take.
After additional remarks of encouragement from the KCBA president and Young Lawyer Division chair, the presiding judge invites special presenters to come forward. These are licensed lawyers who are granted the privilege by the court of introducing immediate family members or mentees to the court. I often find myself quite moved to watch as a grandfather introduces with beaming pride his granddaughter as a next-generation, new member of the profession, or a spouse with tremendous love introducing his or her partner to the room. You can’t help but feel touched by their admiration for the newly minted lawyer’s accomplishment of passing the bar exam.
Then the bar president and YLD chair begin reading of the roll of admittees. Each applicant for admission rises as his or her name is called, with a sense of excitement undeniably present in the moment. The bar president then makes the formal motion to the judge: “May it please the Court, I move these individuals be admitted to the Washington State Bar Association.”
The presiding judge then instructs the assembled applicants to stand and raise their right hands as he or she administers the Oath of Attorney as prescribed in APR 5(g), including important pledges to “never seek to mislead the judge or jury by any artifice or false statement,” to “maintain the confidence and preserve inviolate the secrets of my client,” and the admonition to “abstain from all offensive personalities, and advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness.” The seriousness with which each new admittee takes the oath is awesome to witness as they reflect on the profound meaning of each carefully crafted phrase.
After a robust standing ovation by the assembled judges, dignitaries and audience, the presiding judge offers a few final words of inspiration before adjourning the ceremony as all rise as a final sign of respect to the court as we recognize the momentous event that has just occurred. The solemnity quickly gives way to euphoria as photos are taken with the judge to memorialize this important event in every new attorney’s career.
Each ceremony renews my faith that as seasoned lawyers and judges retire from the profession, we have a perpetual procession of new attorneys joining every year to continue the proud traditions of advocacy and commitment to the rule of law. The honor of witnessing these ceremonies never fails to recharge my belief in the amazing potential that the legal profession has to contribute to our society and protect each other’s rights.
While like de Leon I may never find an elixir to prevent my physical aging, I know I have the next best thing for renewing my well-being when I get to be a part of this important event each time it takes place.
Learn more about KCBA swearing-in ceremonies at www.kcba.org/newadmittee.
Andrew Prazuch is KCBA’s executive director. He can be reached by email (email@example.com) or phone (206-267-7061).