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Pledge of Professionalism Provides Foundation for Law Students

By Stephanie Villinski, Deputy Director of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism

October 29, 2018

Students experience many emotions as they begin law school. Excitement, fear, and joy are just a few. Each year, the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism – 2Civility welcomes first-year law students to the legal profession with an orientation program introducing them to the core concepts of attorney professionalism.

Over the past few months, 2Civility has partnered with all nine Illinois law schools to facilitate these orientations. At each, Illinois Supreme Court and Appellate Court Justices deliver remarks reflecting on the importance of civility and professionalism in the law. Following their remarks, they administer a Pledge of Professionalism, by which students promise to uphold the highest standards and ideals of the legal profession. The pledge is unique to each school, but typically follows this general outline:

As I begin the study of law, I acknowledge that my role in the legal profession is a privilege that comes with responsibilities. Accordingly, I pledge to support my colleagues, respect the faculty and staff, and uphold the reputation of my school. I commit myself to service without prejudice, integrity without compromise, and to civility and professionalism in all my interactions. I will promote the principles of justice handed down by the generations of attorneys who have gone before me. This pledge I take freely and upon my honor.

This year, almost 2,000 Illinois law students took the pledge.

“Taking the professionalism oath meant that my journey to uphold the morals and beliefs of the Court commenced as I held my right hand up. It also meant that I would hold myself to a higher standard of responsibility to act in a manner that would represent the legal profession," said Niharika Reddy, University of Illinois College of Law.

In addition to the pledge, several law schools incorporate small group activities into the professionalism orientation. Students discuss hypothetical situations that challenge professionalism and a lawyer's code of conduct. Led by local attorneys, these breakout sessions expose students to real-world scenarios they may face in future practice.

The orientation program and pledge lay a solid foundation for professionalism in the next generation of lawyers. Law students take the pledge seriously and feel accountable for upholding the integrity of the legal profession.

“Taking the oath of professionalism as I started law school was an opportunity to express the values I will work to uphold throughout my three years at Southern Illinois University School of Law. Drafting the oath provided me the opportunity to confirm that other members of the Class of 2021 plan to put justice and integrity at the center of their study of the law, as well as in practice after graduation,” said Marisa Howell, Southern Illinois University School of Law.

“When taking the oath of professionalism, it symbolized for me the beginning of a new chapter of life. It was not only a pledge of professionalism, but it was a pledge of integrity, honesty, and accountability to both myself and others,” said Tricia Young, DePaul University College of Law.