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Charlie Hatton
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The Swearing of the Lawyers

Last week, my wife was sworn in as a lawyer. It was the culmination of four long years of painful nights during law school, fretting over the bar exam, a whole new level of fretting after the bar exam was over, and trying to cram life, work, sleep, the house and the dog into the precious few hours remaining each day.

Oh, and my wife probably had it pretty tough, too.

I kid, I kid. She just completed a monumental undertaking. I wouldn’t want to minimize the accomplishment with a joke here, because it truly is impressive. And I love her.

Also, she’s a lawyer now. From what she says, that allows her to present me with something called a ‘writ of kissus my assus’ pretty much any time she wants. And I’m trying to keep those motions to a minimum.

(It’s only been a week, and the court clerk’s fees are killing me already.)

Now, before you start crying, ‘There goes the neighborhood!‘ like, say, our neighbors did, I assure you that my missus hasn’t careened through law school to be some sort of ambulance-chasing, sleazy, underhanded shylock litigator. No, sir, your honor.

“By the time they’d finished, the whole room had that ‘new lawyer smell’.”

Rather, her speciality is in intellectual property. Which either deals with protecting patents and trademarks and such, or has something to do with townhouses that can quote Nietzsche and play a mean game of Boggle. The latter would be way cool. So it’s probably the former. I should probably pay closer attention.

The point is, she’s finally reached the end of her rope odyssey, and was sworn in at a charming ceremony in Faneuil Hall a few days ago. And I got to watch, along with family and friends of the other hundred and forty or so shiny new lawyers taking oaths that day. By the time they’d finished, the whole room had that ‘new lawyer smell’.

And the proceedings themselves were quite the show. A high-ranking official from the local judicial cabal took the podium and walked us through what would happen in the next couple of hours, sprinkling in a few legal profession zingers as she went. Even in a swearing-in ceremony, I guess somebody’s got to loosen up the crowd. I’m half surprised there wasn’t a cover charge and a two-drink minimum.

Next came a short parade of distinguished guest speakers, who regaled the crowd with tales of the joys and adventures that neophyte lawyers are sure to face.

(Personally, I’d have thought they’d give the ‘rah-rah‘ speeches at the beginning of the process, so these people would have something to look forward to while they’re running the law school / bar exam gauntlet. Evidently, the establishment chose instead to tell them why it’s all worth it after they’re done with the whole ordeal. Nice.

And who ever said lawyers didn’t have a sense of humor?)

Then, when everyone was ready to rrrrrrumble, they orchestrated a real live session of a Massachusetts court.

Which seemed to entail one of the guys who told us forty-three times to turn off our cell phones on the way in making a brief ‘Hear ye! Hear ye!‘ speech and walking some guy in a robe up to a chair onstage.

(Now, I’ve seen Judge Wapner and Judge Judy, not to mention six years’ worth of Night Court reruns. This dude didn’t even have his own gavel, much less cool theme music, so I don’t know what the hell kind of show they were running. But once this guy sat down, the whole joint was apparently ‘in session’.

Maybe they save the real court sessions for people who’ve been lawyers for more than three minutes. I dunno.)

There was some more chitchat, and then a formal motion was placed before Hizzoner to swear in the newbies. The motion carried, a quorum sez ‘aye!‘, and the deed was done, with no less than three separate oaths required for the legal voodoo to take hold. I thought there was ‘an’ oath, but at least around here, it’s a holy trinity of lawyering promises:

  • An oath to uphold state laws
  • An oath to uphold federal laws
  • The ‘Massachusetts Attorney’s Oath’

The first two are short, to the point, and I suspect fairly universal across the country — essentially ‘I swear to be good in this particular context, so help me baby Jeebus‘. The Massachusetts oath, though, is a bit more interesting.

Before we got to the actual in-swearination, our Judicial Mistress of Ceremonies told us that the Oath in its present form dates all the way back to the 1600s. It is, if I heard correctly, the oldest lawyerly oath of its kind in the Western Hemisphere today. And she mentioned that some of the language might seem a bit… ‘odd’.

Now, maybe I have an ‘odd’ impression of what ‘odd’ means. But I thought there might be passages like ‘thou shalt not defend she who is a witch‘ or threats of a public lashing in the stocks if you step out of line. Rules for the bloodletting of clients who can’t pay, maybe. Something.

Instead, it was reasonably standard-sounding stuff. Sure, it asks the lawyers to say they ‘will delay no man for lucre or malice‘ and to conduct themselves with ‘all good fidelity‘, but there was nothing juicy or witchy or overly Puritanical about it.

(Which is a pity. I was just about to have my wife fitted for a stockade. Who doesn’t enjoy a little 17th century judicial colonial roleplay? ‘Thirty sexy lashes for failing to procureth a gavel for the judge!’

These are the sorts of things I shouldn’t write out loud, aren’t they? Moving on, then.)

Finally, the oaths were over, the newly-minted legal eagles swooped over to sign the Attorney’s Roll, and took the main stage one by one to receive their official legal document. Or rather — they took the stage two by two, because each was allowed to bring a guest up with them. And whoever it was handing out the bar certificates — probably someone from the Office for the Distribution of Important-Looking Documents — handed said certificate to the guest, not the lawyer. It was then up to the guest to make the final handoff to the proud new lawperson.

Or, if they wished, to hold it over the new lawperson’s head, dancing around saying, ‘Can’t get it. Can’t get it. Just reach up. Can’t get it. Psyche!

I’ve got a good six inches’ height on her. But you’d be surprised how low to the ground you get when you’ve been kicked in the crotch by a lawyer. Even a barely-ten-minutes-old lawyer. They teach those people fast.

So in the end, we got some entertainment, she got her official documents, and I drove home with a lawyer in the car. At precisely the speed limit, and without crossing any solid lines or rolling through any stop signs.

See, now I have to keep my nose clean non-stop when she’s around. I was on thin enough ice before, but now she can just flash her lawyering badge and have some random cop hassle me, or get a judge to find me in contempt of something-or-other, or freeze my doohickeys, or garnish my other thingy. Just on suspicion.

Ouch. If this keeps up, I’ll be doing some ‘swearing in’ of my own. And I won’t need any papers or a fancy ceremony to let the oaths fly. Not even a gavel.

Permalink  |  3 Comments

3 Responses to “The Swearing of the Lawyers”

  1. #Debi says:

    Dude, you do not want her to freeze your doohickeys! I’d imagine that you have enough threat of that just living in Massachusetts…

  2. Lucero says:

    Cool part about this is that you can have her freeze someone else’s doohickeys on your behalf!

  3. Charlie says:

    Debi, I agree.

    I would much rather have my thingy garnished then my doohickeys frozen.

    Now, if I could just get my wife to garnish my doohickeys, I’d be in business. Woo!

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