Nearly 600 Legal Journeys Begin at Bar Admissions Ceremony
Hundreds of the state’s newest attorneys completed their transition to licensed practitioners at the fall Ohio bar admissions ceremony on Monday.
The 598 inductees took their oaths during the virtual event, which was broadcast and livestreamed from the Courtroom at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus.
Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor presided over the ceremony. She was joined in person by Justice Patrick F. Fischer – the keynote speaker. University of Toledo College of Law Dean Benjamin Barros and Ohio State Bar Association President David Lefton shared recorded remarks.
“On behalf of the Supreme Court of Ohio, I congratulate you, for your achievement,” Chief Justice O’Connor said. “It is an honor to be with you on your special day.”
The final step to become an attorney – which includes earning an undergraduate degree, completing a law degree, and passing the Ohio bar examination – is just the latest adjustment for the men and women who’ve experienced numerous changes throughout their long journeys to the practice of law. Those shifts include experiencing the life-altering pandemic during law school, immigrating to the United States as young adults from other continents, and progressing from different career paths.
“I wanted to become a dentist,” said Olimpia Berdysz, who emigrated from Poland.
Berdysz was a dental hygienist while attending Ohio State University as an undergraduate but became increasingly disinterested with dentistry the more she practiced it. Through some research opportunities, she pivoted to studying law, which she always wanted to do, but seemed out of reach due to her initial language barrier.
Helping her to grasp legalese as a law student was Justice Melody Stewart, who mentored Berdysz during an externship.
“She personally would receive every one of my memos, and she would make comments, and we would talk about it,” Berdysz said. “She’s a great teacher, and the skills I learned from her I use every day.”
Like Berdysz, fellow Cleveland-Marshall College of Law alum Bakita Hill switched tracks during her university studies. Intent on being an air traffic controller, the reality was different when Hill arrived at Kent State University to pursue the career.
“Things change, and it’s fine to change the plans that you thought you had set for your life,” said Hill.
Connor Gibbons, a Case Western University School of Law graduate, rerouted his course after college. Initially working in real estate development, he sensed the limitations and recognized how “in the know” the real estate firm’s legal department was in all its dealings. Unbeknownst to him, his younger brother Michael was contemplating the same dual Juris Doctor and Master of Business Administration program at Case Western. This was after both received economics degrees from Kenyon College.
“From day one, it was just like I have a built-in friend or partner,” said Michael Gibbons.
“Having a study buddy that actually knew what was going on in your class was very helpful,” Connor added.
While there are all kinds of diversity in how people end up in the legal profession, some know it’s an odyssey they’ve always wanted to follow.
Sarah Ochieng is one such example.
“I went into law because I want to help people. Being from Nairobi, Kenya, I saw a lot of people suffering and nobody fighting for their rights,” Ochieng, a University of Cincinnati School of Law graduate, said.
Engrained with a service-oriented mentality from her parents, she’s paired her altruism with a growing appreciation of the intellectual enlightenment of her studies.
“I wanted to become a lawyer to just be an advocate for people, but once I was in law school, I actually realized I like learning about the law, I like the aspects of the law,” Ochieng said.
The event speakers – with decades of experience as practitioners – shared sage advice to help the new attorneys through the early stages of their career development. Common threads from all the speeches recognized the societal value of the rule of law and being honorable to everyone involved with their work.
“Do the best at whatever you do, especially as an ethical and professional lawyer,” said Justice Fischer. “The courts and opposing counsel will respect you, but most importantly, you’ll sleep well at night.”