Spend only what is yours; keep your reputation good and maintain your integrity.
These words of wisdom were handed down to 61 new lawyers who were admitted to the Bar this afternoon by Acting Attorney General Wilfred Abrahams, who cautioned them not to become a statistic for the wrong reason.
Describing them as an “eclectic bunch”, Abrahams encouraged them to make the right decisions.
“There is no excuse for not making the right choices. Work hard, make a lot, spend a lot, but spend only what is yours.
“…The most important attribute for an attorney is integrity. There are some attorneys that if I shake their hand I would count my fingers, but that is very, very few. There are those attorneys, some I see in here, that if they tell you it is x then it is x and no one can tell me any different. You need to be one of those attorneys because the trust of your colleagues also helps you to succeed,” Abrahams said.
“When the bench knows that they can take your word you are on the way to success. If you become that person that everybody whispers about we are doomed to failure and your misdeeds will eventually catch up with you.”
The acting AG urged the new lawyers to do whatever was necessary to make a name for themselves.
He said even though that might mean working for free it was important they maintained good reputations if they wanted to have long and flourishing careers as lawyers.
“If you need to work for free for somebody doing research services then you do that and prove your worth. If you need to go into a court and start to volunteer as I did when I started, representing people for free, then you go and do it. There are a number of social organizations that need a young attorney; volunteer for one of those.
“It does not matter how you make your name. If your conscience is clear and you keep your integrity intact and your reputation is good you will eventually get to where you want to be and achieve those things you aspire to,” Abrahams said.
In his brief address, Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson cautioned them about taking shortcuts to achieve their goals.
He urged them not to covet the possessions of their senior colleagues, but to put in the hard work and dedication that would eventually lead to their success.
“Just as there were no shortcuts in the road you took…there are no shortcuts in this profession. Shortcuts lead to problems which I would not specify but which you know all too well. Just read the daily newspapers and you will know what I mean.
“All of the senior lawyers and judges who have practiced in this country started out where you were. They worked in Magistrates’ courts and they were able to get referrals from other senior attorneys, so don’t look at their dream car and
their dream house, and in the process forget the 10th Commandment about coveting your neighbour’s house,” Sir Marston said.
The Chief Justice also called for more criminal lawyers saying there were “only a handful and a half” of such attorneys in the country.
He also encouraged the new crop of lawyers to register their services with Legal Aid and to explore the possibility of becoming mediators.
The ceremony was attended by the who’s who in the judiciary, including Justices of Appeal, High Court Judges, the Director of Public Prosecution Donna Babb-Agard; Solicitor General Jennifer Edwards; President of the Bar Association Rosalind Smith-Millar and several Queen’s Counsel.