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Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor Key Speaker At Intro Week

August marks an end and a beginning for hundreds of law students across the country: the end of internships, externships, and summer break; and the beginning of a legal career. UC Law kicked off the new academic year by welcoming 105 new students to the law school. The week is traditionally filled with seminars, meet and greets, and, of course, intro to law classes. This year, however, was marked with a special presentation by Ohio’s Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor.

“Your role as a professional started today when you stepped over the threshold of this building,” said Chief Justice O’Connor to the 1L class as part of the welcome events. “What you do now and over the next three years—both inside and outside the classroom—will shape your career.”

Chief Justice O’Connor, the 148th justice in Ohio, the 10th Chief Justice in Ohio history and the first woman to lead the Ohio judicial branch, shared many words of counsel, based on her years of experience in public service and as a private lawyer, magistrate, common pleas court judge, prosecutor, and now, Supreme Court Justice.

She spoke at length about professionalism and ethics. “The Supreme Court is where legal careers begin and can be where it ends; [when careers end] it isn’t a pretty sight.”  She stressed the importance of honesty—to the bar council, on applications, at school, in everything. Her bottom line: your character and fitness matters.

Chief Justice O’Connor remarked how different the first day of the 1L experience is today compared to when she started law school years ago. “I remember receiving my locker number, schedule and a good luck from the administration. You were on your own!”

Now, students have more support to help them navigate the process. She advised them to take advantage of every opportunity to meet and interact with the judiciary. “There has been a shift in involvement with the judiciary. Today, the Supreme Court, the local bar—all have much more involvement with law students. This has been a good development.”

She also spoke about the learning process and motivation. Keeping an open mind is important, she commented, stating that having an open mind is the mark of a truly educated person. “Don’t learn law just for the sake of class or because that subject will be on the bar exam. Remember, what you’re learning is a tool, a foundation, for everything else you will do.”

Most importantly, she said, “Prove every day on every case that you abide by the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct,” she noted, because “nothing beats the good you can do as a lawyer.”

Five Points to Remember

1.      Know the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct by heart. They give perspective and are words to live by.

2.      If you suspect you might be involved in a questionable situation, discuss it with a more experienced person. Ask about it.

3.      Remember, nothing is worth violating the rules that govern the practice of law.

4.      Find a mentor who has skills you lack and learn from her/him.

5.      Be civil, courteous, knowledgeable, and prepared. Observe lawyers in action and pay attention to how they interact with each other.

Check out Scenes from her talk and Intro to Law week here

Scenes from the IL Barbecue

Take a look at Intro Week Classes: