A Message from CBA President Loren Brown: Renew Your Spark

One of the great things about being CBA president is getting the opportunity to be involved in many great events throughout the year. Looking back at 2015, one of the most impactful events I took part in was the swearing-in ceremony for those who passed the July bar exam. Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nancy Rice was kind enough to extend an invitation to me to provide brief remarks during the ceremony.

This struck me as a great opportunity to pass along a few lessons that I have learned thus far as an attorney. I reminded the new attorneys that they have a unique opportunity to shape the future of the profession. With large numbers of retirements on the horizon and law school enrollment on the decline, they will have the opportunity to shape the profession much more quickly than the generations before them. I also emphasized that, in addition to entering a profession, they are joining a community—which they will quickly realize is a small community. We as lawyers are leaders in our community; we should take the opportunity to work with each other to better the community and the profession.

The swearing-in ceremony was held at the Boettcher Concert Hall, and there were very few open seats remaining by the time the event started. Standing in the room, I could feel the energy and excitement, and I was reminded what an extraordinarily special event it is.

The ceremony is special in that the new attorneys are asked to stand and take the oath of admission—becoming attorneys before our very eyes. It is also special because all licensed attorneys in the room are invited to stand and take the oath with the new attorneys.

I have been to several swearing-in ceremonies over the years. When I first took the oath, I was overwhelmed with the experience. While trying to keep up with the oath (I did not think to read it off the card), I reflected on the journey, surviving law school and the bar exam, and landing my first job. Later, when I attended as a licensed attorney, it was a special experience to be there among my colleagues, new and old, as we all took the oath together.

Until this year, however, it was an experience where I never saw the forest for the trees. I was always in the audience, looking at the stage. During the administration of the oath, I would lock my gaze upon the chief justice, listen closely to the oath, and repeat those special words.

This time my perspective was different, physically and mentally. I was lucky enough to be on the stage with the judges and other bar leaders. When invited, the court of appeals judges, district court judges, and bar leaders rose quickly to take the oath—not just because Chief Justice Rice asked us to rise, but because there was a real sense of wanting to join in the oath. That was confirmed when each person on stage quickly and proudly thrust their right hands into the air to begin the oath.

As I stood and raised my hand, I was on stage behind the Chief Justice and, as a result, I could not see her face for the delivery of the oath. I found myself scanning the auditorium, watching the faces of those taking the oath and those who came to support them.

As the new attorneys carefully followed the oath, there were many wide smiles, but also many very serious faces, all locked in and focused on the significance of the words being spoken. Across each face was a deep pride.

That same pride could be seen on the faces of friends and family members as they watched their loved ones taking the next step of their journey. Everyone speaking in unison, the oath filled the concert hall:

I DO SOLEMNLY SWEAR by the Everliving God (OR AFFIRM) that:

I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Colorado; I will maintain the respect due to Courts and judicial officers; I will employ only such means as are consistent with truth and honor; I will treat all persons whom I encounter through my practice of law with fairness, courtesy, respect and honesty; I will use my knowledge of the law for the betterment of society and the improvement of the legal system; I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed; I will at all times faithfully and diligently adhere to the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct.

What came next was the most profound moment of the event for me—the completion of the oath. For the first time, I was not focusing on what was happening on stage. Instead, I could see the auditorium in front of me. Uniformly, throughout the auditorium, there was an expression of pure joy, with friends and family cheering, embracing, and taking pictures. I will never forget the sight and sounds of the cheers ringing out to fill the hall, the expression of pride and pure joy at the accomplishment, and the excitement at what lay ahead.

From this fresh vantage point, I was reminded of why we do the job and how I’d felt when entering into the profession and the legal community. I had felt passion, pride, excitement, and also a healthy dose of anticipation. Over the years, I have not lost any of those things, but I would be lying if I said there were not times when those feelings had been dampened by long hours, unexpected outcomes, and the stress that comes with someone putting his or her life in my hands.

Seeing the joy and excitement following the swearing-in re-stirred the passion within me. It allowed me to harken back to the day I was sworn in. It reminded me why I chose to follow this path and gave me real hope for the future of our profession.

I invite you to attend future swearing-in ceremonies—to stand with other attorneys, new and old, and raise your hand again and take the oath. When it is over, I encourage you to look around the room and take it all in. Let it relight your spark and allow your enthusiasm to shine through. The more opportunities we take to do this, the closer we will become as a profession and a community.

Previously published in The Colorado Lawyer.