It’s off to the races — or at least billable hours — for the 1,459 new attorneys sworn in by the Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday.
In Chicago at the Arie Crown Theater, more than 1,000 lawyers took the oath during two ceremonies.
Before the second ceremony, soon-to-be licensed attorneys could be heard discussing the lunches with clients they had already scheduled for after the ceremony.
“As lawyers we take oaths seriously. We take promises seriously. We are a committed people,” said Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis who presided over the motion alongside Illinois Supreme Court Justice P. Scott Neville Jr. during the afternoon ceremony.
Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne M. Burke presided over the ceremony in the morning.
“To prepare yourself to take this kind of oath … I’m going to ask you to think about what brought you here in the first place,” Theis said. “Why did you go to law school? What did you think it was going to be about? What kind of lawyer did you think you wanted to be?”
In the crowd sat 31-year-old Shenna Johnson from Virginia.
“It’s always been a dream to be a lawyer,” she said beaming. “It’s a dream realized.”
She is now a corporate associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates and is looking forward to a long career as well as her pro bono work dealing with asylum cases.
Indiana native, Olivia Ghiselli, 31, said that after taking classes during her master’s program at University of Chicago about the intersection of politics with gender and religion she was inspired to go to law school.
Ghiselli has already taken up a job at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
After the candidates for admission to the Illinois bar rose from their seats and took the oath, Theis had one more piece of wisdom to share with the newly licensed attorneys.
“It’s really easy to lose sight of where the justice is … keep looking for justice,” she urged them.
After the ceremony, Bianca Valdez, 28, posed with her father and brother as she held her license.
The Chicago native and UIC John Marshall Law School graduate now works as in-house counsel at Wabtec Corp. in the diversity division.
“I wanted to be a better advocate for justice and for people that don’t have a voice,” Valdez said.
The journey to the moment of finally holding her license was a long one, Valdez said, but having her father and brother’s support helped. It meant a lot to have them both at the ceremony, she said.
In the state’s capital, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita B. Garman spoke to the group of soon-to-be new attorneys about being treated differently by law school professors and other legal professionals as one of the few women in her graduating law school class.
When she graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1968, Garman said the law school had few women and even fewer minorities.
“I had even been asked by more than one of my law school professors and others when I was in law school: Why was I there? Was I there to catch a husband? Didn’t I know that I was depriving a man of a seat that he would need to support a family? Certainly, I wasn’t serious about it and I would never practice law,” Garman said in a speech before administering the oath.
“I have to admit, in 1968, it never occurred to me that I would be a judge. I couldn’t even find a job that wanted to hire a woman. It certainly never occurred to me that I would ever sit here as a member of the Illinois Supreme Court.”
Garman administered the oath to a group of 37 new lawyers, some of whom are the first licensed attorneys in their families, like Jenna Hubaishy.
The 24-year-old graduate from the University of Illinois College of Law has joined Livingston Barger Brandt & Schroeder LLP in Champaign where she will primarily practice corporate and commercial law and civil litigation.
“I’m excited and I’m relieved,” she said.
Rachel Thompson, 26, is also the first attorney in her family.
Thompson, a family law attorney at Frankel, Rubin, Klein, Dubin, Siegel & Payne P.C. in St. Louis, was sworn in at the Springfield ceremony Thursday, though she is already licensed to practice in Missouri.
When she took the oath to practice in Missouri last September, Thompson said only her parents and sister were able to attend.
This time, her extended family in Springfield was seated in the Michael J. Howlett State Office Building auditorium to support her.
“I’m happy I can share it with them,” said Thompson, a graduate of St. Louis University School of Law., 26, is also the first attorney in her family.
Sarah Mansur reported from Springfield.