I was sworn in as a licensed attorney on May 9, 1991. In one of life’s great moments, my father, also a lawyer, gave a speech at the swearing in ceremony. His words are below. I am amazed at how much of his advice I have followed and how spot on he was about how my life would turn out if I listened.
“Ted, I want to tell you that as you enter the legal profession and begin your professional career, be certain to set your priorities correctly. The most important things in your life should be God, your family, your country and community and your clients in that order.
If during your life you place the highest value on these things, life’s good things will probably follow. If you don’t attain wealth it won’t matter because money will not have a high ranking in your order of priorities. If you do acquire wealth, you will not be consumed by it because other things in your life will have greater value.
Son, take care of yourself.
The law will cause stress in your life. Deal with the stress naturally. Join a health club. Do a lot of golfing. But don’t turn to alcohol or drugs. Place your focus on what is important in life and you will be able to deal with day-to-day problems without resorting to artificial substances.
Son, be truthful.
If your client does not have a valid case, tell him. Don’t distort facts to gain financial advantage. Encourage your clients to tell the truth and have the courage to do what is right. Know when to say “I don’t know”. Seek the help of others when you don’t have the answers.
Son, be honest.
Pay your taxes. Keep good records. Be able to prove accountability at any time. Be a trustworthy steward of your client’s funds. Don’t commingle client’s money with yours. Pay your bills. Don’t use your law license to intimidate creditors and avoid just debts.
Son, respect others.
Don’t be insulting or sarcastic. Respect the rights of minorities and be sensitive to the feelings or others.
Son, give back to the community.
Engage in public service. Do free legal work for the needy. Contribute time and money to your church and other community organizations. Don’t be selfish. Give back some of what you have received.
Son, treat your clients as you expect to be treated.
Do the best possible job you can. Do your job promptly. Pay attention to deadlines. Be prepared. Don’t seek needless continuances. Return phone calls. Keep abreast of changes in your field of the law. Change a reasonable fee and complete each task in a prompt and timely fashion.
And finally, son, be sure to listen to the advice of others.