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Legally Speaking


Issue: August, 2006
Author: Warren A. Lauer

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From the President . . .

My inaugural column in the Wyoming Lawyer was entitled "Leadership." Leadership can take many forms including simply becoming interested, becoming involved and being willing to serve.

My service with the Bar organization began in 1998 when I was elected as a Commissioner from the Second Judicial District. That election was atypical. The usual custom was for the local bar to conscript a lawyer into service. "Bar Commissioner" was not something that lawyers seemed to seek out. However, in 1998, the Second Judicial District had three candidates, myself included, who were vying to become elected. There was definite interest in becoming involved. I believe that type of expressed interest is beneficial to the Bar organization for the betterment of its members and their clients. That was my point of beginning with the Wyoming State Bar leadership and becoming involved.

Eight years later, I set pen to my last column for the Wyoming Lawyer. My year as the President of the Wyoming State Bar has been one of the most satisfying experiences I have ever had - particularly having a heightened awareness of the importance of the legal profession in Wyoming; the governance of the Bar; and the many friendships and acquaintances I made during my tenure.

Not long ago, I mentioned to my grandson, Marshall, that I was proud to be a Wyoming lawyer. As only a 17-year-old could do, he challenged me to describe what it means to be an attorney. I was also told that I had to "provide the answer in 25 words or less," (he learned that one from his school teachers). I must admit that I was stumped for a while. Finally, I told him that it is a privilege for me to be part of a very old and noble profession of lawyers who serve people in connection with their legal affairs. I told him that lawyers are officers of our Wyoming courts and that our actions are defined by a strict code of ethics.

Our conversation made me recall the day that I was admitted to the practice of law. I remember quite clearly that the ceremony took place in September of 1981 in Cheyenne in the Supreme Court chambers and that Robert R. Rose, Jr. was the Chief Justice. On that day, I raised my hand and gave the following oath:

I, Warren A. Lauer, do solemnly swear that I will support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution and Laws of the State of Wyoming, and that I will faithfully and honestly and to the best of my ability discharge the duties of an Attorney and Counselor at Law, so help me God.

It was a very serious moment for me, my wife, our children and my parents. I think that all of us should periodically reflect on that solemn promise we made when we became lawyers. As Marshall and I talked further, I was reminded of some information I received recently from the Florida State Bar. The Florida State Bar is a unified Bar with more than 78,000 members. Within the Florida Bar there is a joint project of the Florida Supreme Court and the Florida Bar called "The Center for Professionalism." I want to share with you the Project's creed of professionalism, which really describes how lawyers should conduct their professional and personal lives. It is inspirational:

Creed of Professionalism

I revere the law, the judicial system, and the legal profession and will at all times in my professional and private lives uphold the dignity and esteem of each.

• I will further my profession’s devotion to public service and to the public good.

• I will strictly adhere to the spirit as well as the letter of my profession’s code of ethics, to the extent that the law permits and will at all times be guided by a fundamental sense of honor, integrity, and fair play.

• I will not knowingly misstate, distort, or improperly exaggerate any fact or opinion and will not improperly permit my silence or inaction to mislead anyone.

• I will conduct myself to assure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action and resolution of every controversy.

• I will abstain from all rude, disruptive, disrespectful, and abusive behavior and will at all times act with dignity, decency, and courtesy.

• I will respect the time and commitments of others.

• I will be diligent and punctual in communicating with others and in fulfilling commitments.

• I will exercise independent judgment and will not be governed by a client’s ill will or deceit.

• My word is my bond.

What a powerful statement of how we lawyers should conduct ourselves. Certainly, I plead guilty to having fallen short of several of those tenets, but the creed is what I would like Marshall to know what being a Wyoming lawyer means to me.

The Bar has adopted a strategic plan, which it reviews and updates periodically. One of our goals is that the Bar should "Develop and Implement Professionalism Programs, an Enduring Goal." It appears to me that one of the ways that we could develop programs that stress professionalism would be to begin by adopting a code of professionalism such as the creed of Florida’s Center for Professionalism.

Once again, and for the last time, thank you for the privilege.