Valley Voices

Lawyers take an oath to do good … and then some

Fresno County Superior Court, Judge Jonathan Conklin,left, welcomed his son, Jason, into the membership of the California State Bar.
Fresno County Superior Court, Judge Jonathan Conklin,left, welcomed his son, Jason, into the membership of the California State Bar.

Just as the silent agony brought on by bar-exam season touches a certain percentage of law school students twice a year, so too, does the triumphant bar-admissions ceremony held after each bar results announcement.

It is rare that Fresno’s Court of Appeal of the Fifth Appellate District plays host to such a happy, even joyful occasion, but the twice yearly swearing-in of the newest bar-passers and their admission to the California Bar, effectively making them official attorneys, is just such an event.

And what a moment it is! The Brad Hill Jury Room is packed with the beaming, pride-filled faces of family and friends, along with the freshly suited and coiffed attorneys themselves, who stand giddily and raise their right hands to swear the oath of admission to the California State Bar.

Several distinguished judges and members of the legal community attend this special court convening each time to share words of wisdom and welcome the newest members to their fold.

Representatives from the Fresno County Bar Association, the State Bar Board of Trustees and the Committee of Bar Examiners join notables such as U.S. Magistrate Judge Erica Grosjean, who advised the new attorneys to, “Always commit to the truth – as of today. Good lawyers stick with the facts and the truth so that you can always be taken at your word. No matter what,” she said.

It is always a pleasure to attend the admissions ceremony as a representative of Clovis’ own San Joaquin College of Law to bask in the glory of our graduates, but this most recent ceremony carried a special touch as well.

The former Presiding Judge of the Fresno County Superior Court, Judge Jonathan Conklin, who is also a law professor at SJCL and part of our law school family, had a special message for the inductees, including one in particular, as he addressed the crowd.

He spoke of the significance of their accomplishments thus far, and how an even more challenging career awaits – a career that will call for their best efforts, every day at all times.

Conklin equated the practice of law to the practice of medicine. “Like a doctor,” he said, “great bedside manner will be important, and you will need to be candid with your ‘patients’ and tell them what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear.”

He spoke of the importance of reciprocal colleague respect, and how today’s trends toward confrontation and offensiveness should never, ever, enter their legal practice. He talked about the touching and tearful memorial session that was held in the same room recently, where colleagues who had died this year were remembered.

“There were great stories about some titans in our legal community. And there were tears of admiration as those who remembered spoke.”

Conklin reminded the inductees that their colleagues and adversaries are “folks who have the same struggles, concerns and even self-doubts that you may have.”

Addressing one new attorney in particular, Conklin concluded, “Make sure your socks don’t have holes, and simply, do your best. That is all anyone can ever ask or expect. I love you, son.”

Jason Conklin, Judge Conklin’s son, was among the inductees.

Diane Skouti is the alumni coordinator for the San Joaquin College of Law in Clovis. Write to her at