Press Release

Law School Orientations Provide a Primer on Professionalism

Justice Joseph E. Birkett, 2nd District Appellate Court administers the Pledge of Professionalism to first-year students during orientation week.

Justice Joseph E. Birkett, 2nd District Appellate Court administers the Pledge of Professionalism
to first-year NIU Law students during orientation week.

August 28, 2013

Incoming students at Illinois law schools will gain early exposure to concepts involving professionalism, ethics, civility and diversity as a part of their law school orientations.Between August and October, all nine Illinois law schools will host programs to both welcome students to the practice of law and introduce them to core concepts of attorney professionalism. 

The idea behind professionalism programs during orientation grew out of a belief among justices of the Illinois Supreme Court that one of the most effective ways of improving professionalism among attorneys is to begin at the earliest stages with students and new lawyers.  The program has had tremendous success over the past few years and is a highlight of both the law school year and the judicial year.

"The incoming law students have years of work to complete before they become lawyers.  But as law students they have entered into the broader legal community,” said Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride.  “This program helps law students understand the responsibilities they have as members of that community, and it starts them on the path towards successful legal careers.”

The professionalism orientation program is organized and sponsored by the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism with the help of the Deans at the various Illinois law schools and their dedicated faculty and staff.  Justice Robert R. Thomas serves as the Court’s liaison to the Commission on Professionalism and recommended to his colleagues creation of the Commission to encourage greater professionalism in the bench and bar.   “Professionalism is the touchstone of our legal community,” said Justice Thomas.  “It is essential for incoming law students to consider and incorporate the ideals of our profession, both now as students, and later on as members of the Illinois bar.”

The program consists of two parts.  The first part of the program, held at each school, includes remarks on professionalism by Illinois Supreme Court and Appellate Court justices.  The justices then administer the “Pledge of Professionalism” in which the students commit themselves to upholding the highest standards and ideals of the legal profession.

Here is a schedule of the justices speaking at the law school orientations:

  • Aug. 14-  Justice Joseph E. Birkett, 2nd District Appellate Court, Northern Illinois University College of Law
  • Aug. 14 - Justice Michael B. Hyman, 1st District Appellate Court, The John Marshall Law School
  • Aug. 15 - Justice Jesse G. Reyes, 1st District Appellate Court, The John Marshall Law School
  • Aug. 20 - Justice Daniel J. Pierce, 1st District Appellate Court, DePaul University College of Law
  • Aug. 21 - Justice Mary K. Rochford, 1st District Appellate Court, DePaul University College of Law
  • Aug. 21 - Justice Terrence J. Lavin, 1st District Appellate Court, IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • Aug. 21 - Justice Maureen E. Connors, 1st District Appellate Court, IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • Aug. 22 - Justice Lisa Holder White, 4th District Appellate Court, University of Illinois College of Law
  • Aug. 23 - Justice Robert R. Thomas, Illinois Supreme Court, Loyola University School of Law
  • Aug. 26 - Justice Mary Jane Theis, Illinois Supreme Court, Northwestern University Law School
  • Sep. 26 - Justice Anne M. Burke, Illinois Supreme Court, University of Chicago Law School
  • Oct. 11 - Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier, Illinois Supreme Court, Southern Illinois University School of Law

At DePaul, John Marshall, Northern Illinois, and University of Illinois, students also participate in small group discussions utilizing hypothetical scenarios that implicate a number of challenging professionalism issues. The scenarios raise questions about a lawyer’s personal code of conduct and the ethical and professional choices students will face as they begin their legal careers.  The small groups are facilitated by attorneys and judges from the community who can draw on their own experiences in similar situations.

The Commission on Professionalism was established by the Illinois Supreme Court in September 2005 to help foster increased civility, professionalism and inclusiveness among the lawyers and judges in the state. Its duties are defined under Supreme Court Rule 799(c). The Commission consists of a Chair, law school faculty, judges, lawyers, and non-lawyers appointed by the Court. Commissioners serve terms of three years.


For more information, contact:
Melody Mitchell
Alumni Events & Public Relations
(815) 753-9655 or