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A day to celebrate our greatness

On any given day, I may be in court. After enough trips, the process has become somewhat routine. I make sure that I am prepared, I arrive before the scheduled time (which allows me to talk with opposing counsel or go over any last-minute details that may have come up with my client), I wait to be called by the court and then we are off to the races.

I am also fortunate because the clients that I usually represent (businesses and their owners with any disputes that arise throughout the life of their companies) usually have some familiarity with the legal process. Essentially, for the most part, they already understand the legal process or understand the process after a brief explanation.

Unfortunately, for others, the legal system is a foreign concept shaped by two- or three-minutes clips from the daily news and hour-long legal dramas (a la “The Firm,” “Law & Order,” “Boston Legal,” “Ally McBeal” and “L.A. Law,” to name a few). These misconceptions of the practice of law (which make for good television) run contrary to the work performed everyday by each member of the legal system, including judges, lawyers and courthouse staff.

During my clerkship in Baltimore City Circuit Court, I was interviewing with the  state’s attorney’s office, public defender’s office and a private, civil defense law firm. During my interview with the PD’s office, I was asked, “Will you have any problems with representing a client who allegedly committed one or more terrible crimes?”

After a short pause, my response, which I still believe to this day, was: “All attorneys have a commitment to zealously representing their clients. In addition to representing your client, an attorney is a member of the judicial system.  Public defenders protect individuals and their rights. They protect against self-incrimination and unlawful searches.  On the flip side, state’s attorneys protect the rights of society. They help make sure that there is law and order. Without both, the system does not work and justice fails.”

Admittedly, a lot of time has passed since this interview, so my recollection of my response has become more polished over the years, but the takeaway should be that attorneys are needed to ensure justice. We should be celebrated for our work and not be the punchline to random jokes. We should be celebrated because we ensure justice and equality, whether for to an alleged criminal, a victim or a wronged business owner.

Fortunately, but unbeknownst to many, we are celebrated. Pursuant to 36 U.S.C.  Section 113, Law Day is a

special day of celebration by the people of the United States (1) in appreciation of their liberties and the reaffirmation of their loyalty to the United States and of their rededication of the ideals of equality and justice under law in their relations with each other and with other countries; and, (2) for the cultivation of the respect for law that is so vital to the democratic way of life.

And, in celebration of Law Day, the American Bar Association, Maryland State Bar Association and local bars (including Baltimore County) use Law Day as an education tool for students and an opportunity to focus on important legal issues.

The theme this year, “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom,” centers on the importance of courts to the viability of the legal system. The MSBA is having a video and poster contest open to all Maryland residents, students and attorneys licensed to practice in the state. Prizes will be given to participants with the best video or poster about the importance of courts in the history of the United States and/or everyday life.

The Baltimore County Bar Association will celebrate Law Day with events in the morning and at Patriot Plaza in front of the circuit courthouse. So, on May 1, let’s celebrate our own greatness and our own commitment to the justice.