Take pride in your legal work, Chief Justice urges
Six new lawyers were admitted to the bar on Tuesday.
Maureen Epati Tuimalealiifano, Tacy Seupepe Sasagi, Christina Angela Te’o Faitele, Quentin Sauaga, Lolomaiuitivaiuto Faasii and Yonita Mary Aiga Tuia were admitted during a ceremony attended by families and friends at the Court building, Mulinu’u.
The lawyers were congratulated and admitted to the Bar by the Chief Justice, His Honour Patu Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu, who urged them to do their best and take pride in their legal work.
This is what he said:
“To the newly admitted applicants, I express my sincere congratulations and a warm welcome to the Bar. I would also like to extend a warm welcome to your parents, members of your families, friends, and colleagues who are here this afternoon to witness this special ceremony.
For each of the newly admitted applicants, today, marks both an end a beginning. It is the end of four years or so of dedicated legal studies and one year of practical legal training. At the same time, today, is the beginning of your career as a lawyer.
From today and everyday hereafter, each of you will be known, and deserves to be known, as a lawyer. It is as a lawyer that you will, from now onwards, present yourself to the public. And I wish to say a few words to you based on my experience as a lawyer and as a Judge.
No doubt you have acquired a substantial body of legal knowledge from your years of legal studies. But I have to say that after one year or so, your law degree no longer matters. What you make of yourself as a lawyer no longer depends on your law degree. It depends on you yourself. It is what you do with the talents that God has given you that will define you as a lawyer. It is what you do with what you have that will be the real measure of yourself as a lawyer. And to become a truly accomplished lawyer requires hard work, perseverance, and good character. I stress and emphasise to you good character.
You will also find that to be truly effective in the practice of the law requires continuous study of the law. The four years or so that one spends in legal studies to get a law degree is far from enough time to learn all there is to know about the law.
The law is so deep and so broad because it applies to almost every area of human activity. The law is also hardly at a standstill as it is always evolving and developing. So even though your days of legal studies are over, your education as a lawyer must still continue. Learning is a never ending process. And the legal profession is supposed to be a learned profession. It is the only profession where one colleague refers to another colleague as my learned friend.
A few years ago, an assistant chief executive officer of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration gave the following advice to the staff of the Ministry. She said:
“One who graduated yesterday, and stops learning today, will become uneducated tomorrow.”
In my view, those words are a pearl of wisdom. They reflect what happens in real life. And they apply not only to law graduates but to every university graduate.
I would also ask each of you to take pride in the quality of your legal work so that you will always strive to achieve and maintain the highest standards even if you fall short of those standards sometimes. I do not expect you to become top quality lawyers overnight after your admission to the Bar. Rome was not built in a day. But I would like each of you to make a genuine attempt to become a top quality lawyer. Our country needs top quality lawyers to serve its people.
The quality of your legal work can also reflect the type of person and lawyer you are. And I am confident that you would like to convey a good impression of yourself as a person and as a lawyer through the quality of your legal work.
Should you decide to practise at the Bar, you will find that life at the Bar can be quite challenging and demanding at times.
However, it is never boring because no two cases are ever exactly the same. In fact life at the Bar can be quite interesting, stimulating, and rewarding. You will also find that at the Bar no lawyer wins every case that he or she appears in as counsel.
You will win some cases and you will lose some case. Some cases will just win or lose themselves regardless of which lawyer appears as counsel. Such is the reality of life at the Bar. So the outcome of a case is not necessarily the true test of a good lawyer. It is how you prepare and present a case to the Court that is a more reliable test of a good lawyer.
Also try to avoid making mistakes in your practice of the law. But if you do make mistakes sometimes, because it is only human to err, do not allow yourself to be disheartened or become demoralised. Success in life is not for the faint-hearted.
To learn by experience, as it is often said, is to learn by mistakes. And I must tell you that experience in the law comes to you much more quickly through application and hard work than by any other way. There is no room for a lazy genius to gain experience or success at the Bar.
Having said that, there is, however, an easier and quicker way of gaining experience – you learn from the experience of others. You may consult those lawyers who came before you about their experiences in legal practice. They should be more than willing to help you if you consult them. Once you feel that you have learnt all that your experienced colleagues can teach you, then there is no substitute for application and hard work on your part if you are to continue to make progress on your own in the practice of the law.
The practice of the law also offers you many opportunities which include the opportunities for fame and fortune. But I wish to stress and emphasise to you the importance of legal ethics in the practice of the law, and ask each of you to maintain the highest ethical standards in your dealings with people who seek your advice and services as a lawyer.
Do not forget that the practice of the law is not a right but a privilege. It is a privilege which can be taken away from you if you do not observe and maintain the ethical standards of the legal profession. Many lawyers around the world have been suspended or terminated from legal practice because they have forgotten that the practice of the law is not a right but a privilege.
I would also ask you to maintain the honour and dignity of your profession and calling as a lawyer. Bear in mind that the legal profession is supposed to be a noble and honourable profession directly concerned with the administration of justice. Like any other profession, the most important asset of the legal profession is its collective reputation. For the legal profession to command the respect and confidence of the public and to maintain its honour and dignity, it is essential for its members to maintain the highest ethical standards.
Finally, I ask you not to forget during your practice of the law the words of the oath you have taken today, that you “will truly and honestly conduct yourself in the practice of barrister and solicitor”.
With those words, I wish each of you a long and successful career as a member of the legal profession.”