The newest group of Texas attorneys took the Lawyer’s Oath Monday morning at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. Members of the Texas Supreme Court and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, deans from Texas law schools, and representatives from the State Bar of Texas and the Texas Board of Law Examiners welcomed hundreds of law school graduates to the Texas Bar.
Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and Texas Access to Justice Commission Executive Director Trish McAllister presented John VanBuskirk, a UNT Dallas College of Law student and Air Force and Army veteran with 780 pro bono hours, with the Access to Justice Law Student Pro Bono Award. Royal Furgeson Jr., the founding dean of UNT, accepted the Access to Justice Law School Commitment to Service Award for the law school.
State Bar of Texas President Tom Vick congratulated the new attorneys in the audience, applauding them for their sacrifice, perseverance, and scholarship in preparing for the Texas Bar Exam. “We must all be advocates for our legal system and our system of justice,” Vick said. “If we, as lawyers, do not stand up for what is right, we cannot expect those outside the legal community to do so. The members of the courts here and our fellow 100,000 lawyers are depending on you to carry the torch for justice as our new generation of lawyers.”
Baili Rhodes, president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association, encouraged the new lawyers to research practice tip resources TYLA offers its members, such as Ten Minute Mentor and Office in a Flash, and also advised them to prioritize self care, find ways to serve their communities beyond their office walls, and internalize the Lawyer’s Oath.
“Don’t do the easy thing, do the right thing,” she said. “Whether it’s being truthful to opposing counsel or acting with candor to the court, with our 100,000 lawyers in the state, you will continue to run into the same ones again and again and again, and I encourage you each to remember to take the high road. The oath you are taking today—take it to heart and remember it as you enter your practice.”
Philip Murray MacGregor Cooper, the high scorer of July’s Texas Bar Exam and a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, spoke on the importance of self-doubt as motivation, relating a reassurance-seeking text exchange with a friend who had already passed the exam. In that conversation, Cooper asked if the exam was as hard as he was making it out to be, to which his friend replied, “The test is definitely failable.” It was a reality check that gave Cooper the sense of urgency he needed to pass—something he said his fellow graduates could use as fuel in their careers. “I hope that a similar sense of urgency stays with us throughout our careers,” Cooper said. “I hope that the same impulses that drove us to frantically learn about how to sever a mineral estate or probate a will also compel us to explore and analyze all aspects of the problems that our future clients present us.”
Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht, who administered the Lawyer’s Oath, closed out the ceremony, telling the new lawyers that everything they do in their careers will contribute to a republic in which the rights, life, liberty, and property have displaced the lives on class, heredity, wealth, and mind. “You have a special responsibility not only to those you represent but to our profession and to this great experiment in democracy.”