My Commitment to You
By Linda S. Thomas
New Year’s Day comes with celebration and promises of self improvement so the coming year will be a great year, a better year — or perhaps the best year ever. For me this particular Jan. 1 came not only with those typical New Year’s resolutions, but also with my commitment to you, the members of the Oklahoma Bar Association, to remain focused throughout 2017 on the practice of law, the promotion of our association and issues related to the legal profession, including the independence of the judiciary and equal justice for all.
Oklahoma lawyers come from different walks of life, bringing with us a wide variety of backgrounds, interests, traditions, hobbies, political affiliations, etc. The journeys we have followed to get here are many, but regardless of where we focus our practice — large firm, small firm or solo practitioners, corporate, governmental or nonprofit agency lawyers, state or federal judges — we are all lawyers. We differ in countless ways, but we have all chosen the field of law as our career, and that itself is a tie that uniquely binds us to one another. With that comes great responsibility — to develop and utilize our legal, listening and communication skills in order to well-serve our clients and our profession; to commit a due share of our interest and energy to serve our community, our profession and our association; and to display basic, but critical, human interaction skills so that when we walk out of the courtroom, away from the negotiation table or hang up the telephone, we maintain respect for one another and the profession.
We, as individuals in our collective efforts, can grow and strengthen our association to meet and overcome the challenges before us. So, I ask you to join me by adding three promises to your list of New Year’s resolutions for 2017: 1) take care of our profession, 2) take care of our association and 3) take care of yourselves and each other. I believe that if we do these basic things, the future of our association and the practice of law will be even better for all lawyers — now and for those who come behind us.
What can we do to take care of our profession? We must practice law with integrity, professionalism and a bit of humility. When we became Oklahoma lawyers, we all took an oath to fulfill an obligation to the legal profession, to be a person clients, judges and colleagues can trust and to uphold the laws of the state of Oklahoma. Do what is best for your clients, but do it with integrity and professionalism. We are part of a long and hallowed calling that leads us to the privilege of serving others as lawyers and counselors. Take good care of this profession, and this profession will take good care of you.
How can we take care of our association? Get involved. Join one (or more) of the 29 OBA committees from Access to Justice to Work/Life Balance; join one (or more) of the 25 different practice area sections, apply for the Leadership Academy, run for an OBA office, teach a CLE course, volunteer for Oklahoma Lawyers for America’s Heroes or the Free Legal Answers program, take advantage of the more than 50 member services the OBA offers to assist you, not only with your practice, but also your personal life and plan now to attend our Annual Meeting in Tulsa Nov. 1-3.
Above all, we must take care of ourselves and each other. Pay attention to yourself, your physical, mental and spiritual self. Balance your professional life with your personal life. Enjoy a life outside the profession with your families and friends. We cannot compromise who we are as persons to get what we want as professionals. Don’t just be good lawyers, be good men and women. I recently had the privilege of hearing Dr. Antonia Novello, 14th U.S. surgeon general, give the keynote address to the very first class of medical students at Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine, a new medical school in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The words she spoke to those students are also appropriate for lawyers at any stage of our careers. She told them, “Remember — your work as a professional defines you as a human being. It has been said that much of the good and the bad you do in your life will be done in your work.”
THREE TYPES OF WORK
Then she went on to talk about the three types of work. First, there is a “job,” where the goal is to simply make a living and support a family. Second, comes the “career” where your progress is traced through your appointments and achievements. Then comes the “calling” — the blending of activity and character that makes work meaningful. Wherever you are, my fellow lawyers, along this path, I hope being a lawyer is or becomes your calling because I believe being a lawyer is an extraordinary privilege.
We cannot let the negative we see and hear about the legal profession deter us from a life of caring about and serving those who need our help — our clients, our community and our brothers and sisters in the legal profession. Keep the legal profession a sacred institution, not only for those of us who work in it, but even more importantly for those who depend upon it. There is a difference between doing well and doing good. DO GOOD!
You have entrusted me with the leadership of this association, and I pledge to serve our association with integrity, and to continue to build upon the solid foundation of the Oklahoma Bar Association in a way that best serves every lawyer in this state. I look forward to the coming year with excitement and anticipation of service to the OBA.
Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal --
OBJ 88 pg. 76 (Jan. 21, 2017)