Vol. 30, No. 12
CBA President's Message to Members
A Few Remarks to the Incoming Bar
by Laird T. Milburn
Editor’s Note: The following remarks were made at the swearing-in ceremony for new admittees of the bar on Monday afternoon, October 15, 2001, at the Boettcher Concert Hall, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, in Denver.
First, I want to extend my personal congratulations, to those of you who will soon take the oath of admission to practice law in the state of Colorado. You have demonstrated that years of hard work, perseverance, and dedication (with support of parents, spouses, and friends) can result in something very good: recognition as an attorney and counselor at law. You should feel justifiably proud of that accomplishment, and on behalf of the Colorado Bar Association I welcome you to the profession.
Second, I would like to share with you my concern, as I traveled here today, that whatever my comments to you, they must ultimately amount to little. The only thing I can do of lasting value, in the few moments I have this afternoon, is to impart a small sense of that which has motivated me in almost thirty years of the practice of law.
Temptations in the practice of law are many. We often come into possession of other people’s money and property. We are confronted with lonely people, sometimes people in despair, who either are vulnerable or need affection. We are pressured by our workloads. We experience demands by our clients. Each temptation requires a decision. Do we mingle client funds? Do we become intimate with a client? Do we take positions in litigation or in negotiations that we know isn’t right or which we later find to be repugnant. Lawyers enjoy a special status as a priestly class. We are entrusted with the welfare of others.
In an ancient tribe, a shaman or priest was entrusted with a member’s soul. Our priestly duties do not go quite that far. But we do hear confessions, as well as entreaties. As surely as any ancient medicine man or woman, we undertake the responsibility for others’ well-being. Ninety-nine percent of all cases are determined not by courts and juries, but by lawyers in their offices, in their work, and in negotiations. Therefore, our every-day functions, and how they are conducted, are as important to the justice system and the welfare of society as is the resolution of cases by trial.
If I accomplish nothing more in these brief remarks, it is my fervent wish to pass on the absolute faith that a good living can be made by a lawyer while maintaining the highest standards of conduct. There are thousands of us who do just fine without violating professional ethics or humanitarian standards. You will do the same. In terms of the growth of my practice, if time has taught me anything, it is that clients want to feel competently represented by a serious mind and ethical person. They will not come back to you because they feel you made every effort to cheat. More will come back to you if they respect the wisdom of your advice than if they feel you practice on the edge of propriety.
It is my hope that you and I leave our children a system of laws to be cherished, and my admonition to you that the system will only endure on a foundation of integrity.
I leave you with the words of Mark Twain: ". . . [A]lways do right; this will gratify some people and astonish the rest."
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