Patrick Gooch watched his iPad as the email containing the PDF slowly — too slowly — opened.
The first sentence read, “Congratulations.” And excitement ensued.
His girlfriend thought something was wrong from the commotion, but Gooch, a Hamburg, Erie County, resident, had just learned he passed the New York State Bar examination. On this day, after taking the oath of office, Gooch still is excited.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” Gooch said. “I feel a weight off my shoulders, but another weight on my shoulders at the same time — a lot of responsibility.”
Gooch and 276 others were admitted Thursday to the state bar as part of a ceremony in the Appellate Division, Fourth Department.
The Hon. Henry J. Scudder, presiding justice of the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, Diane M. Cecero, president of the Monroe County Bar Association and general counsel at Monroe Community College, and David M. Schraver, president of the New York State Bar Association and partner at Nixon Peabody LLP, spoke at the ceremony.
“You enter the profession at an interesting time of change and challenge,” Schraver told the newcomers. “And I wish you personal happiness as well as success.”
Responsibility was a prevalent theme for Schraver, who told the new attorneys of the core values of the bar that come in three categories: Access to justice, independence of the legal profession and of the courts and rule of law.
The first is one reason lawyers are urged to provide pro bono legal services to benefit the poor and to contribute financially to organizations that provide legal services to the poor, he said.
Lawyers also are responsible for knowing and observing the rules of professional conduct, and neglecting those rules compromises the independence of the profession and the public interest it serves, he said.
The country’s legal system is the envy of the world, but Schraver noted the need to increase diversity in the legal profession and the justice system to more fully reflect and represent the nation’s increasingly diverse society.
“We cannot have an us-and-them legal system if we expect all citizens to respect the rule of law,” Schraver said.
Cecero, who not only is active in the county and state bar but also the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys and Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York, spoke on the benefits of active participation in these legal organizations. The Monroe County Bar Association offers educational, leadership, social and volunteer opportunities for not only new attorneys but all attorneys, she said.
“Through my many years as a bar member, I’ve been mentored and I’ve been a mentor,” Cecero said. “I’ve developed lifelong friends and become a better lawyer.”
Promising careers lie ahead for some, but not before each basks in what has accomplished through the long years of schooling and study.
Deb Wechselblatt of Rochester said it took a while for the reality to sink in, but the feeling is great.
“It’s been this incredibly long process so it feels really nice to finally be able to say, ‘Yes, I’m an attorney,’” she said.
— Photos by Vasiliy Baziuk