Thursday was a day of celebration for 286 attorneys newly admitted to the New York State Bar during a special session of the Appellate Division, Fourth Department.
“This ceremony is the culmination of years of dedication and hard work and it marks the beginning of your careers in a remarkable, ancient and honorable profession,” said Seymour W. James Jr., president of the New York State Bar Association, who told the candidates he was glad to share in their first moments of becoming attorneys.
The candidates took up several rows in the standing-room only crowd of the Hyatt Regency Rochester’s grand ballroom, which was packed with family, friends and supporters.
One of the candidates, Emma Elizabeth Maceko, led the Pledge of Allegiance.
James, a native of Brooklyn who has been with the Legal Aid Society in New York City since 1974, congratulated the candidates on their success of getting through law school, “the trauma of the bar exam and the long wait for the results.”
He said a lot has changed since he became an attorney, noting that women and people of color were a novelty in the legal profession. He also talked about how technology has changed the profession, such as with going to the library to do research that can now be done instantly online, or videoconferencing meetings with a client or another attorney from almost anywhere in the world.
James said all attorneys occupy a position of trust in the eyes of their clients and the community and that they can make a tremendous difference whether in private practice or devoting their careers to public service.
“The most valuable asset that you will have in your profession is your reputation for integrity,” he said. “Never let seeking to win a case cause you to impair your integrity.”
James also advised the candidates to be skilled even-tempered and reasonable professionals, telling them in-your-face histrionics do not persuade their adversaries or judges and that it always easier to ask for guidance in advance than to fix a mistake.
He told candidates to share their mistakes with colleagues and learn from each other, engage in sound business practices and get involved with a bar association.
“A life in law can be incredibly satisfying,” James said. “It is also important to maintain balance in your life outside of your practice. Spend time with your family and friends. Stop and smell the roses.”
James was introduced by Fourth Department Presiding Justice Henry J. Scudder, who said James devoted his entire legal career to ensuring the poor receive high quality representation.
“This is a day that the candidates for admission have been waiting for,” Judge Scudder said, addressing the audience. “I congratulate you on your hard work and determination.”
Scudder also recognized his colleagues: Associate Justices Gerald J. Whalen, Rose H. Sconiers, Edward D. Carni, Salvatore R. Martoche, Joseph D. Valentino, Stephen K. Lindley, Erin M. Peradotto, Eugene M. Fahey, Nancy E. Smith and John V. Centra.
Timothy Lyster, chair of the Young Lawyers Section of the Monroe County Bar Association, talked about the benefits of joining a bar association, such as the educational and networking opportunities.
Lyster, who is confidential law clerk to U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Paul R. Warren, said experiences through a bar association can turn into mentor relationships that could help new lawyers throughout their careers.
Lyster was admitted to the bar in a 2006 ceremony in the Second Department. He said he joined the MCBA because he initially wanted to meet fellow attorneys, but quickly learned the Young Lawyers Section was well respected by legal professionals in the area and valued by the bar association. He also met Carey Ann Denefrio, confidential law clerk to U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan W. Feldman, to whom he is now married.
“I hope you do take the time to enjoy what you’ve achieved,” Lyster told the candidates. “You’ve earned it. To me, the admission ceremony was much more important than graduating from law school.”
Candidates stood as a group to take the oath of office, administered by attorney Frances E. Cafarell, clerk of the court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, who also welcomed them at the beginning of the ceremony, along with Judge Scudder whom she introduced.
“One of the best parts of my job is doing this,” Cafarell said. “I hope that the candidates here will come to view the practice of law as I do; as an honorable profession and not just a job.”
The newly admitted attorneys were acknowledged with a standing ovation by the hundreds of people in the ballroom.
“I have a feeling, as I look out here, that it might be party time,” Judge Scudder smiled, concluding the ceremony, after which the new attorneys poured into the hall to pick up their certificates of admission amid congratulations and whoops of joy.
Newly admitted attorneys came from throughout the 22-county Fourth Department, which includes the Fifth, Seventh and Eighth judicial districts.
For a list of all the newly admitted attorneys, click here.
— Photos by Vasiliy Baziuk