The deed has been done.
Yesterday I went to the Oakland Convention Center for the swearing-in ceremony for the California bar. It only took about an hour, but it was a fairly large shindig, replete with various organizations (e.g., local bar associations) tabling along the corridor handing out information and congratulations. Part of me wanted to stop and chat, but I couldn't bring myself to do more than grab a free donut and their paperwork. I had to get to the big room for the swearing-in before someone changed their mind and told me I couldn't...
Once inside we dropped off our oath cards and took a seat. The majority of the crowd appeared to have been the family of admittees, but there still were probably a few hundred people there for the oath. The proceedings were called to order, a few people spoke, and then six judges filed in for the formalities. Three were from the California courts, who officially accepted the qualifications of the admittees from a representative of the Committee of Bar Examiners. Judge Saundra Braun Armstrong accepted a motion from the chief of the US Attorney's office in Oakland to admit us to the US District Court for the Northern District of California, and Judge William Fletcher accepted a similar motion for the Ninth Circuit court of appeals. Each also had their clerks administer separate oaths.
They also made their own short speeches. Recurring themes were reminders to "be kind" and have compassion, both towards our fellow lawyers and the underrepresented.
I think I most appreciated some of the comments of Judge Armstrong, particularly in light of some of my recent concerns about the Great Change. Her advice seemed like it was the most applicable to people in our position, about to enter this rather dysfunctional business we're only barely prepared for.
"Don't jump too far too soon," she said. Of course there's lots to learn, and it will take time. So take the time, she counseled us. "Learn to play the game -- and the games people play." At the same time, however, "Don't doubt your abilities. Someone else's opinion of you does not have to become your reality."
I left there feeling appropriately proud, but as I walked to my next appointment afterwards I noticed a feeling I hadn't expected. I was happy to have finally reached this day, but my happiness was somehow tempered by this subtle sense of nervousness. All this year I've been able to hide behind this giant asterisk of not actually being a lawyer in this jurisdiction. It's been a source of frustration, but it's also been a luxury, giving me some time to learn the trade without it really "having to count." Yesterday all that changed though. That asterisk that's been hanging like a cloud over my head has been blown away. Now, now it's all for real.