To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel :
During his tenure as New Jersey State Bar Association president in the early 1990s, Matthias Dileo had a vision. He wanted to improve our profession and the public's perception of it. He organized a blue ribbon group to study the concerns of lawyers and the state of the profession. His efforts resulted in focusing attention on professionalism in our legal community and in the creation of the Commission on Professionalism in the Law, a body now dedicated to encouraging the highest standards of conduct by lawyers and judges. Matt had a succinct definition of professionalism that I believe holds a lesson for us all. Professionalism, he said, is not simply doing what you have a right to do, but rather doing what is right. Were he with us today, Matt would be cheered by events around the state this month.
On October 4, the Commission on Professionalism in the Law is holding its annual Professionalism Awards Luncheon. This annual celebration of lawyers has been held since 1998, when the commission first began recognizing lawyers of outstanding character and reputation. The highlight of the day was the presentation of the Daniel J. O'Hern Award to Carl Poplar, a noted trial lawyer from Camden County. This special award is presented by the commission to a senior lawyer for commitment to the highest standards of the profession, career achievement and commitment to the bar and community. The award is dedicated to the memory of the late Justice O'Hern, who epitomized professionalism and served as a mentor to the commission.
The awards luncheon also includes the presentation of Professional Lawyer of the Year Awards honoring lawyers selected by county and specialty bar associations. These lawyers are noted practitioners, recognized by their peers for outstanding character and reputation. The Professional Lawyer of the Year Awards were conceived by the commission as a way not only to honor colleagues, but also to draw public attention to the good works done by lawyers, as at least a partial antidote to the often negative media attention.
For the first time, the state and federal courts, in cooperation with county bar associations, will this month celebrate Professionalism Day. The concept was developed by the commission as a way to underscore the professional commitments and obligations of judges and lawyers and to bring continuing legal education to convenient locations across the state. In each county courthouse, a seminar will be offered on a topic dealing with ethics and professionalism, and continuing legal education credits are available to attendees at low cost. Professionalism Day will be held in the federal courts on October 18 and in superior court on October 19, presenting the county bar associations with an opportunity to partner with the judiciary to produce a valuable program for the benefit of the county's lawyers and judges.
Also, between now and the end of the year, many legal organizations, including the New Jersey State Bar Association's Institute for Continuing Legal Education, will be offering ethics and professionalism seminars meeting the Supreme Court's requirement that attorneys earn at least four CLE credits during a 24-month period.
It is encouraging to know that New Jersey's organized bar and judiciary remain in the forefront of promoting professionalism and offering innovative educational programs that strengthen our reputation as one of the finest legal communities in the nation.
Susan A. Feeney