Small cohort of new lawyers sworn in to bar


Group Photo: The distinguished panel of judges at last Friday’s new attorney admissions ceremony were, left to right: Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Hon. Jane M. Beckering; Chief Judge, Kent County Probate Court, Hon. David M. Murkowski; Chief Judge, 61st District Court, Hon. Jeanine N. LaVille; Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan Hon. Janet T. Neff; and Chief Judge (Pro Tem) of the 17th Circuit Court Hon. Kathleen A. Feeney.


by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Following statewide trends, it was a small group of new attorneys at last Friday’s admissions ceremony at the Kent County Courthouse.

The ten who were sworn in were primarily those who passed the February bar exam, which not only had a comparatively low passage rate, but was only taken by 392 people.

Though the passage rate of 54 percent is not the lowest ever in the state, it is no surprise that Kent County numbers were small.

As a comparison, in July of 2005, 897 prospective lawyers took the exam, and 64 percent of them passed it. That was prior to the worst of the economic downturn in Michigan, but even in July 2017, 680 people took the exam and 71 percent passed.

This is a continuing trend. Although last February’s number of takers was higher, at 415, the lower passage rate of 49 percent meant that there were fewer qualified to become members of the Michigan bar.

Nonetheless, as the more seasoned attorney sponsors spoke about the candidates whose admission they moved, it was clear that the incoming group, many of whom were older than traditional law school graduates, stood a good chance of contributing much to the Grand Rapids legal community.

And as everyone who spoke at the ceremony emphasized, it is a community well worth joining.

“You’ll never find a more collegial  bar anywhere you go,” said Grand Rapids Bar Association President Elizabeth Joy Fossel, following a warm and encouraging welcome by Young Lawyers Section Chair Christine Cameron of Grand Rapids Legal Advocates.

Cameron and her YLS?co-leader Josh Kosmerick, from Velo Law, also greeted their new colleagues before and after at a reception given by the Grand Rapids Bar Association.

Cameron and Kosmerick also invited them to a reception on June 14 to be held on the rooftop of Hilger Hammond, with live music, food, beverages, games and prizes. The section has an email address new attorneys can use as an easy contact:

“It really is a bar with civility and integrity,” Court of Appeals Judge Jane Beckering said. “My advice to new lawyers is this: get involved, get involved, get involved.”

Both she and U.S. District Court Judge Janet Neff urged those who were interested in litigation to participate in the Hillman Advocacy program. Neff swore in the group to the Western District of Michigan federal court, reading the oath for them because it is complex, after which they all affirmed “I do.”

Judge Jeanine LaVille, Chief Judge of the 61st District Court, welcomed them, noting that the 61st is among the busiest courts in the state, and that even so it is only one of three district courts in the county.
Chief Judge of the Kent County Probate Court David Murkowski, who spoke after 17th Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Feeney administered the state oath, reminded attorneys to return to the words of the oath whenever they face challenges.

Judge Murkowski said that when he joined the Kent County Bar (in the 1980s) there were 800 or 900  lawyers, but now there are over 3000. He observed that Bruce Neckers, a sponsor at the ceremony who has been in practice for 50 years, has probably seen even more change. “Yet this bar continues to have a high caliber of members — capable, diligent, honest practitioners,” Judge Murkowski added.

Judge Feeney, referring to the portion of the state oath that says “I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed, or delay any cause for lucre or malice,” shared that when she first met her husband, also a lawyer, his two calico cats were named Lucre and Malice.