Professionalism Archive

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Justice Burke’s Recent Remarks on Professionalism

Justice Anne M. Burke

Justice Anne M. Burke

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote that “the only way to have a friend is to be a friend.” This simple, yet powerful guiding principle has shaped my life. As I have realized countless times throughout my own experiences, when we become a friend to someone in need, we change the world.

Becoming a lawyer has also changed my life. And as I look back, I see that Emerson’s wise words – “the only way to have a friend is to be a friend”- have also shaped my legal career in a profound way.

Being a lawyer is a life choice. It cannot be turned on and off, as you might in some other profession or occupation. It is an enduring commitment, a “twenty-four/seven” privilege.

The privilege of practicing law brings us to the front lines of the most critical issues of the day. It allows us to assist others at the most difficult moments of their lives. It is an honor to be a lawyer.

To be a member of the legal profession means sharing in the grand history and remarkable tradition of the American legal system·- joining those who throughout our nation’s history have cradled the virtue of justice and carried the torch of enlightenment that shines on humanity’s most noble principles.

I am reminded of what British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said: “All of the greatest things in life are simple, and many can be expressed in one word – trust, honor, peace, truth, justice.”

Professionalism is another of those words that describes a great enterprise. When we speak about professionalism, we speak of:

  • Competence
  • Integrity
  • Respect for the Court
  • Respect for Colleagues and Clients
  • Honesty
  • Dignity
  • Civility
  • Service to the Community
  • Pro Bono Service
  • The Obligation to Continue our Professional Training
  • Involvement in Organized Bar Associations

I recently was at a lecture when the speaker asked those present if they would create a sentence 10 words long, with each word having only two letters. I ask this of you as well because in order to be a professional, it will be up to you. (Answer: “If it is to be, it is up to me.”)

Importantly, professionalism means conducting ourselves in such a way as to bring credit to our profession.

To be a lawyer – a truly professional lawyer – means committing ourselves each day to live and practice as “professionals,” in the broadest sense of that term. It means having the strength of character to live by the ideals and core values that have stood as hallmarks of the American legal system. Simply stated, being a lawyer who practices with professionalism means making a difference by being a friend.

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How Social Media Can Impact Your Professional Identity

I’ve been thinking about social media lately — how it impacts our professionalism as lawyers. With so much information readily available about us on the internet, it’s important to remain aware of how our actions, even our smallest comments, can reflect on us. I turned to John Marshall student Michael Korus for his thoughts on the subject.

Justice Frossard (Ret.):  What should students know about how their use of social media can impact their professional identity?

Michael Korus: Most people know how to act during an interview and how to conduct themselves professionally with an employer, but we easily forget this when we are in the audience of our friends.

Be aware of the reputation you have among your peers.  Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social networking sites put everyone under a microscope. As future attorneys, we need to remember that your peers are watching you. This is perhaps especially true with our non-lawyer friends.  Someday soon people will come to us with their most serious problems and their trust.  Our friends have the potential to become our clients.  Will they respect you when that time comes? If you are posting embarrassing or inappropriate pictures or comments on social media you may be tarnishing your professional reputation.  Your peers know you are in law school — they hear you talk about how hard it is, and how much work you have to do, and then they compare that with how you present yourselves to them.  Are you someone who is constantly posting pictures of partying and crazy antics? Are your Facebook statuses and tweets projecting you as a professional or as a clown? Avoid the urge to be an entertainer on social media.

Remember that social media is not just for socializing.  Employers may have access to our favorite social sites and use them.  One of the first things that my employer told me was that they could not find me on Facebook.  Your profile picture is worth a thousand words; what is the first image that you are projecting for everyone to see?  Most people have very low privacy settings and you can look at just about anyone’s pictures and posts.  If you have unethical or immature material on your social network, you are risking your professional reputation.  Take some time to look at your online profiles and clean them up if necessary.  Do it for your reputation and your professional identity!

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The Second-Year Experience: Hitting Your Stride in Law School

A Conversation with Brian Ashfar, Second-Year Law Student

Frossard: What is the biggest difference between your experience as a 1L and a 2L?
Brian Ashfar: The biggest difference between the 1L and 2L years has been my approach to school. Finishing the first year is challenging primarily because students really do not know what to expect. With a heavy course load, it is easy to get overwhelmed. As a 2L, you understand how to appropriately balance your studies. Knowing what to study and how to study it can make all the difference in the world come exam time.

Frossard: What activities or organizations do you belong to at JMLS?
Ashfar: I am currently the treasurer of the Middle Eastern Law Students Association (MELSA). I enjoy being part of an organization that is focused on the John Marshall community and bringing attention to critical issues in the legal field. We actually just held a successful event called “Women in the Workplace” and were fortunate enough to have Magistrate Judge Cox speak. Student organizations at John Marshall are truly a great way to get to know many of your classmates and get involved.

Frossard: Why did you choose to attend John Marshall?
Ashfar: I chose John Marshall primarily because of the real-world legal curriculum offered to students. The principles of hard work, diligence, and integrity are valued above all else. Located in the city of Chicago, John Marshall also has the added benefit of being in the heart of the third largest city in the U.S.

Frossard: Which professional skills do you think 2L students should focus on developing?
Ashfar: Networking skills are critical to a law student’s success and your 2L year is the best time to start. Who you know can make all the difference, but how you present yourself can seal the deal (or break it). Hard work is another professional skill I would work on, because reputation is everything in the legal field — everyone remembers the intern/extern that stayed late and put in the extra hours at the office.

Frossard: How do you intend to network with the legal community during law school?
Ashfar: Contacting JMLS alums is the first step to creating the lines of communication that will hopefully lead to more job opportunities in the future. Also, reaching out to family and friends is another great way to position yourself to find a job. JMLS has phenomenal resources and events that can really boost your chances at getting a job opportunity. As a 1L, I attended the “Practice Tracks” event, and it was a perfect opportunity to get to know attorneys in fields I had interests in.

Frossard: Any other words of wisdom you would like to share from the perspective of a 2L?
Ashfar: I think that the best advice I can give to a rising 2L who has yet to find their niche in the legal field is to extern for a judge. I had the opportunity to extern for a federal judge, and it really helped narrow the scope of my legal interest. Working for a judge has many benefits. First, you get a first-hand account of what goes on behind the scenes in a courtroom. Second, the array of cases that your read and research range from patents to criminal law. Third, the intensive research and writing that is required of you is amazing experience that looks great to future employers. Finally, you are able to develop a relationship with someone that can guide you in the right direction and remain a mentor for the rest of your life.

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Pipelining: Professional Networking with a Purpose, Part 3

As the director of the Office of Professionalism & Engagement, I meet regularly with students to get
their input as to how The John Marshall Law School can improve our delivery of services. Most recently the top concern expressed in those student meetings, particularly by 3Ls, is the need for assistance in their job search. In my last blog, we checked in with recent law school graduate Alex Stamatoglou, who advised that timing is everything in finding the right job. In this column, we hear from Katarina Durcova, who found that if at first you don’t succeed in finding a job – try, try again.

Read Justice Frossard’s Interview with Katarina Durcova

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The First-Year Experience: Tips for Tomorrow’s Law School Graduates

A Conversation with Lauren Adrian, First-Year Law Student

Frossard: What has surprised you the most about law school so far?
Lauren Adrian: I was all business in the weeks prior to law school. Being the first law student in my family, I was compelled to do some extra research in preparation, which reinforced the fact that law school was a highly competitive environment. Some sources went as far as suggesting the possibility of sabotage between students! I came to terms with the thought of having to watch my back once school started, but after the second week I didn’t see any evidence of student sabotage. In fact, my fellow students are all supportive and encouraging. After being in school for half a semester, I am very happy to report that there is a sense of community between the students. Our community thrives on the mentality that we are all in this together!

Frossard: What activities and organizations at John Marshall currently excite you the most and why?
Adrian: Of the diverse list of organizations and activities that are offered at John Marshall, there are three that piqued my interest. My interest in the first two – The John Marshall Review of Intellectual Property Law (RIPL) and John Marshall’s Intellectual Property Society – is a given considering I’m focusing on intellectual property law. The third interest is John Marshall’s Moot Court Honors program, even though it initially made me uneasy. When I was first introduced to the program, I remember asking myself: Why would anyone be interested in such a program? But I wanted to learn more, so I volunteered as a bailiff. Now I understand why so many students are interested. I would love the opportunity to participate in this program. It has so much to offer! Aside from these three programs, I am just as excited, if not more due to my past experience as a mentor and teaching assistant, about working with John Marshall’s faculty and staff.

Frossard: Why did you choose John Marshall?
Adrian: Like many prospective law students, I was overwhelmed, and at times consumed, by the search for the right law school. The reputation of the school and faculty were really important to me, and with my interest in pursuing intellectual property law, I was naturally drawn to The John Marshall Law School. We’re currently ranked 17th in the nation for IP, and the professors at John Marshall really stood out to me. I had always pictured law professors as stuffy and intimidating, but John Marshall’s faculty is an exception. Despite a great diversity of personalities, they all still share the same passion for the law, teaching, and their students. I never imagined that law professors would be as approachable as they are at John Marshall. It goes without saying that when John Marshall hit a home-run with my top two criteria, I was sold!

Frossard: What have you done differently since the start of law school up until your mid-semester?
Adrian: The biggest change I’ve made since starting school is my approach to outlining. I found that it works best to keep up with outlining as material is covered in class. This allows me to fully master the details of the topic and ask follow-up questions during my professors’ office hours. Then when it comes time for the final exams, it’s more of a review of material I have already mastered. Repetition is a great study aid. A smaller change I have made is participating more in class. The first week I must have looked like a deer in headlights. Now I relish the opportunity to answer questions and get immediate feedback from the professors, and at the same time, develop confidence in my public speaking.

Frossard: Which professional skills had you learned before attending law school?
Adrian: My undergraduate institution provided many workshops and graded courses with the purpose of preparing us for the job search and strategies for being a successful employee. I learned the basics of cover letters, resumes, and interviews. Through the application of these skills, I was hired as a cooperative-education (co-op) student/employee at Briggs and Stratton Corp. in their research and development department. During my co-op position, I was on a rotation of working full time with professional engineers and going to school full time. I learned the inner workings of a large company and the professionalism that is expected in such an environment. Those experiences provided a foundation of professionalism that I’ve been building upon during my legal career.

Frossard: Which professional skills do you think first-year law students need to keep in mind throughout law school?
Adrian: My favorite phrase with regard to professionalism is “you never know whom you might run into.” In other words, always be prepared for an opportunity to present itself. When an opportunity arises be bold and take advantage of it! Another professional skill for first-year students to keep in mind is how you present yourself – not only to your teachers but to your fellow classmates. A few years from now chances are you will be working with, for, or against your classmates in the legal community. Your professionalism and reputation in law school will impact their view of you in the field.

Frossard: How do you intend to network with the legal community during law school?
Adrian: The white elephant for all law students is trying to find a job after graduation. The only way to succeed is to network and to network well. Along with grades, networking is really important to me. Throughout school I plan to have a great balance of school, networking, and career-skills improvement. I believe that career-skills improvement and networking work hand-in-hand. Through the Career Services Office, I plan to take advantage of all applicable workshops and events that will better prepare me for my career and for networking in the legal community. At the same time, I plan to take advantage of all of student-related opportunities to network, including getting involved with student organizations, bar organizations, and various volunteer opportunities.

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Recent Law School Graduate Increases Legal Job Prospects Through “Pipelining”

As the director of the Office of Professionalism & Engagement, I meet regularly with students to get their input as to how The John Marshall Law School can improve our delivery of services. Most
recently the top concern expressed in those student meetings, particularly by 3Ls, is the need for assistance in their job search. To that end, the Job Placement Initiative was created with very positive results. Let’s check in with Joe Kearney (’12), a recent graduates who found a job with the help of my office.

Read Justice Frossard’s conversation with Joe Kearney (’12)

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It’s Not Just Another Mentoring Program, Part 3

John Marshall’s Lawyer-to-Lawyer Mentoring Program began in 2011 in collaboration with the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, matching practicing alumni with recent graduates. Over the past two years, we’ve received a tremendous amount of feedback and support from the mentors and the mentees. We put that feedback to work, expanding the program dramatically and focusing the program on those issues of professionalism that affect all developing attorneys, while still leaving room for the mentors and mentees to create a unique relationship.

My first post gave a bit of the background behind the Lawyer-to-Lawyer Mentoring Program, as well as offering the insights of Karen Dimond, an assistant state’s attorney with the State of Illinois. In Part 2 of “It’s Not Just Another Mentoring Program,” Barry Kozak, an adjunct faculty member at John Marshall and the director of our Elder Law Programs, shared his thoughts. In this final post, I’ll present the perspectives of two John Marshall alums working in the private sector.


Read “It’s Not Just Another Mentoring Program, Part 3″

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It’s Not Just Another Mentoring Program, Part 2

Barry Kozak, Director of Elder Law Programs

Barry Kozak, Director of Elder Law Programs

John Marshall’s Lawyer-to-Lawyer Mentoring Program began in 2011 in collaboration with the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, matching practicing alumni with recent graduates. Over the past two years, we’ve received a tremendous amount of feedback and support from the mentors and the mentees. We put that feedback to work, expanding the program dramatically and focusing the program on those issues of professionalism that affect all developing attorneys, while still leaving room for the mentors and mentees to create a unique relationship.

Last week, in Part 1 of “It’s Not Just Another Mentoring Program,” I offered the insights of Karen Dimond, an assistant state’s attorney with the State of Illinois. Part 2 continues below with insights from Barry Kozak, an adjunct faculty member at John Marshall and the director of our Elder Law Programs.

Read “It’s Not Just Another Mentoring Program, Part 2″

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It’s Not Just Another Mentoring Program, Part 1

On October 17, 2011, The John Marshall Law School became the first law school in Illinois to launch an Illinois-Supreme-Court-approved Lawyer-to-Lawyer Mentoring Program in collaboration with the Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism. Fifty lawyer/mentors and student/mentees were matched, attended orientation, and participated in an ethics program presented by Judge Ray McKoski (Ret.) to kick off their one-year commitment to mentoring. Since that date John Marshall has held two additional mentoring orientations to match a similar number of mentors and mentees.

Judge Ray McKoski (Ret.)
19th Judicial Circuit

What makes this program different from other mentoring programs is the continued structure and support provided by John Marshall and the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism. The Commission’s Mentoring Guide serves as a year-long curriculum to facilitate the relationship between mentors and mentees. It provides a mentoring plan that articulates suggested topics for the mentor and mentee to discuss, including professionalism, legal ethics, civility, diversity and inclusion, wellness, mental health, and addiction. Of course, discussions are not limited to these topics.

In addition to the mentoring plan, mentors and mentees are provided with worksheets that correspond to topics identified in the mentoring plan. Worksheets contain articles, websites, books, etc., and help facilitate discussion-and-answer questions in connection with the topics suggested in the mentoring plan.

At our most recent orientation on July 25 several current mentors and mentees discussed their experiences. Let me share some of the interesting insights from the panelists who participated in this orientation.

Karen J. Dimond

Karen received both her undergraduate and law degrees from Loyola University in Chicago. She has spent her entire career representing public entities – as an assistant attorney general, as an associate for a firm representing school districts, and, currently, as an assistant state’s attorney. She is the past president of the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois, and has lectured and taught extensively in the areas of litigation and appellate practice.

Karen is currently mentoring a recent John Marshall graduate, Sheila Wentland. Sheila has worked for a law firm specializing in creditor’s rights. Before becoming a licensed attorney, she worked for about 16 years in consulting and finance positions. Sheila holds a BS in finance and an MBA.

When I asked Karen to comment on her mentoring experience she responded, “I love being a mentor and often find that I learn a lot from my mentees, too (regarding new technology, what law schools are currently teaching, how cases are handled at their firms, etc.). It’s actually a two-way street.”

Karen’s mentee, Sheila Wentland, had the following insight:

“I have enjoyed participating in the mentoring program for many reasons. The very personal and insightful information from my mentor, Karen Dimond, was an unexpected benefit. The time Karen took to listen to my aspirations and challenges as I began my legal career was invaluable. I genuinely feel the relationship we have established through the mentoring program will last well beyond our initial year.”


Stay tuned. My next post will continue with the insights of Barry Kozak, John Marshall adjunct faculty member and director of Elder Law Programs.

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Dress for Success

Dress for Success

Dress for the job you want.

In a struggling economy and a saturated job market, making a great first impression in a professional setting is crucial for the successful advancement of your career. Studies have shown that people form an impression of you “in the blink of an eye,”[1] and “most likely” this impression will “never change.”[2] Here are a couple of helpful tips to increase your chances of making the best impression possible on a prospective legal employer:

Look and Act Put Together At All Times

You can meet a potential employer anywhere, especially if you have committed fully to your job search and are actively networking. Dressing appropriately at all times during your “workday” is therefore part of your strategy. For women, skirt suits are generally a safe bet, minimal jewelry and a little make-up can go a long way to helping you make a great first impression.[3] For men, dark, well-tailored suits with conservative ties will help you look professional. It is also important to have a strong hand shake and to check your posture before you meet anyone for the first time, whether it is for an interview or for an informational meeting. One recent John Marshall alumnus obtained a clerkship not only because of his academic and professional qualifications, but also because he took his job hunt seriously and dressed in a suit every single day. Joe Kearney (JD ’12) explains that “after becoming licensed as an attorney and still in the job hunt during a tough economy, I knew that I needed to do everything possible to set myself aside from the crowd. That included, for myself, dressing in a suit every day, as if I were going to work, just in case an interview might pop up that day. It’s surprising just how fast things move sometimes, and I didn’t want to be caught off guard or lose an opportunity.” Joe is now employed as a Staff Attorney at the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, due, in part, to his professional attitude and attire.

Dress for the Job You Want, Not the Job You Have

Regardless of the temporary legal position in which you may be employed while looking for permanent employment, it is crucial to dress professionally with an eye toward the job you would like to have.[4] Although you may be working in a temporary position while looking for a permanent job, it is important to dress the part if you want prospective employers to take you seriously. Even if you are meeting an old acquaintance for job advice, it is crucial that you convey the message that you value his or her time, and you dress appropriately. Dressing in jeans and a t-shirt may give the impression that you do not think he or she is important enough to impress, and may stand in your way when a position at his or her firm finally becomes available.

Once You Get a Job, Keep Up the Good Work

The legal community is very small even in a city as big as Chicago, often hinging your success on your good reputation and how the community perceives you. One aspect of being perceived positively by your peers, by the court personnel, and by the jury, is your overall appearance. Sociological studies have shown that jurors will “evaluate you, your case, and your client” within “a relatively short period of time,” so even once you obtain your job, it is crucial to dress appropriately for the maintenance of your success.[5] So don’t let a bad first impression keep you from achieving your goals – keep these easy tips in mind to impress prospective employers, clients, and jurors alike.


1. How Many Seconds to a First Impression? ASSOCIATION FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE, www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/getArticle.cfm?id=2010 (studies suggest that it only takes one tenth of a second to form a first impression); www.forbes.com/sites/yec/2011/11/02/5-ways-to-make-a-killer-first-impression/.

2. 5 Ways to Make a Killer First Impression, FORBES, www.forbes.com/sites/yec/2011/11/02/5-ways-to-make-a-killer-first-impression/

3. Staci Zaretsky, Summer Associates: Please Don’t Dress Like Fashion Victims, ABOVE THE LAW, http://abovethelaw.com/2012/06/summer-associates-please-dont-dress-like-fashion-victims/2/

4. Bill Lampton, PhD., How to Make a Strong First Impression: Seven Tips that Really Work, www.businessknowhow.com/marketing/seventips.htm

5. Robert B. Hirschhorn, Opening Statements, www.kearneywynn.com/cm/Articles/article-03.pdf