Justice R. Fred Lewis, a very loyal alumnus, swore in students from the class of 2014 this evening — recent graduates who learned only yesterday that the passed the bar. They looked pretty happy about it.
The Justice told the graduates that they were starting a new life, “24/7 you’re going to be a lawyer.” He extolled the value of civility in personal and professional life. He reminded the graduates that they had achieved their law license with the help of many others, friends and family. That license he told them, permits many things, but “not to be an ass.”
There was more good advice: keep some perspective, don’t let anyone suck the joy out of your life, do good works, think of life balance.
Then he administered Florida’s highly aspirational oath:
I do solemnly swear:
“I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Florida;
“I will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers;
“I will not counsel or maintain any suit or proceedings which shall appear to me to be unjust, nor any defense except such as I believe to be honestly debatable under the law of the land;
“I will employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me such means only as are consistent with truth and honor, and will never seek to mislead the judge or jury by any artifice or false statement of fact or law;
“I will maintain the confidence and preserve inviolate the secrets of my clients, and will accept no compensation in connection with their business except from them or with their knowledge and approval;
“To opposing parties and their counsel, I pledge fairness, integrity, and civility, not only in court, but also in all written and oral communications;
“I will abstain from all offensive personality and advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which I am charged;
“I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed, or delay anyone’s cause for lucre or malice. So help me God.”
It was a very happy event, but I couldn’t help but think about the almost 18.8% of our Florida test-takers who didn’t pass the bar. Florida overall had an almost 30% failure rate, which is substantially higher than in recent years; FSU’s pass rate was about half a percent higher than ours this year, U.Florida had a 10% better rate. Other law schools in the state did worse, or much worse, than we did. Our results were not by that measure embarrassing, indeed the pass percentage was higher than last year, but I still wish it was better. The administration will crunch the numbers, but we’ve not in the past been able to spot many predictors other than being right near the bottom of the class, and that itself is very imperfect. Oh yes, and some small part of the 18.8% will be long-ago graduates who retired to Florida and decided to take the bar. The Florida Bar counts them as our graduates for this purpose.