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“Reputation” turned out to be the common theme uttered Thursday by bar leaders, judges and lawyer-parents welcoming more than 1,400 new attorneys to the legal profession at the Arie Crown Theatre in Chicago. Thousands of loved ones poured into the main theater during the rainy afternoon, crowding into the steep upper balcony when the lower level filled to the brim. They were there to honor 1,405 new lawyers, who were among some 1,800 to be sworn in throughout Illinois’ five judicial districts. They join more than 73,000 lawyers already practicing in the state. And, while unknown to most in the 1st District Chicago crowd, their class had the distinction of being the last to be sworn in by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Michael A. Bilandic, who retires from the state high court in December. Newly elected Thomas Fitzgerald will take his place. Bilandic, a former Chicago mayor and respected jurist, has participated in the swearing in of thousands of Illinois lawyers over the past 10 years, beginning when he joined the court in 1991. Thursday’s event marked his 20th ceremony. In particularly good humor Thursday, Bilandic, 77, peppered what otherwise can be a bland proceeding with jokes and an anecdote about his first days as a lawyer. Bilandic recalled how he had just received his license and was proudly nailing it to the wall of his office when his boss came in and ordered him to take it down. Incredulous, but unwilling to risk unemployment, he complied. “I asked him, ‘Why did you make me do that?’ ” To which his boss explained that a new client would come to his office, and seeing nothing else on the wall be drawn to the license, which contains Bilandic’s year of admission — not exactly something that would fill the client with confidence. So, Bilandic’s advice to the class: “If you have to hang [your license] someplace, place it somewhere less conspicuous.” Asked after the ceremony whether he has enjoyed the ceremony over the years and will miss it, he said he would. “This is much better than disciplining lawyers,” he said. And in his characteristically evasive manner, he declined to say what he plans to do when he leaves the court other than to “take care of things I’ve neglected.” That, or, “become a leading man in Hollywood.” No one announced this as Bilandic’s last swearing in. He said that’s because it wasn’t about him. Indeed, Thursday was a new beginning for hundreds of fresh faces in the Illinois legal community. Welcoming them were leaders from local and state bar groups, each offering bits of advice, mostly having to do with civility and keeping priorities in order. Jesse H. Ruiz, president of the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois, reminded the candidates that in this day and age, where lawyers are forever jumping from one firm to another, not to be rude to anyone. That person may, Ruiz said, one day become a colleague or superior. Representing The Chicago Bar Association, Michael K. Demetrio shared the four “Cs” he hoped for the Fall 2000 class: credibility, competency, civility and care. To drive home his point, he quoted from senior U.S. District Judge Abraham Lincoln Marovitz, who frequently advises, “Never hurt your good name, disagree without being disagreeable, walk into court with self-respect and make sure you leave with it.” In a tradition of the Supreme Court, lawyer-parents and relatives of members of the new class were on hand to move to admit the class. Leading with a motion to admit was former state Senate President Philip J. Rock, whose daughter Colleen was a member of the class. “There is no heavier burden than a great potential,” he told the crowd. “Your potential is unquestionably great and therefore your burden is heavy.” Rock advised them to continue to learn and respond when the community needs them. Among those seconding the motion was Cook County Circuit Judge Thomas P. Durkin, who for the second time stood to welcome a daughter into the profession. He recalled his own admission 33 years ago, with a 98 percent male class. This class is about 50 percent female, 50 percent male. With that in mind he said he was particularly proud to welcome his daughter Andrea to join Melissa and him as part of the “fraternity and sorority of the Illinois bar.” After Bilandic delivered the oath of office, Justice Mary Ann McMorrow welcomed the class. Noticeably absent was the 1st District’s third justice, Charles E. Freeman, who a spokesman said wasn’t feeling well. Freeman was retained for another 10-year term by a nearly 80 percent margin last week, according to unofficial vote totals. Also Thursday, nearly 500 lawyers were to be sworn in throughout Illinois in more intimate ceremonies. In the 4th District of Illinois, 57 candidates were to be admitted by Justice Benjamin K. Miller. Chief Justice Moses W. Harrison II was to preside over a ceremony for 100 candidates in 5th District Collinsville, while Justice S. Louis Rathje was to swear in 174 candidates in 2nd District Elgin. Another 51 were to be admitted by Appellate Court Justice William Holdridge in 3rd District Peoria.

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