Attorney Swearing-In Ceremony

What Is An Attorney Swearing-In Ceremony?

You’ve graduated from law school, been certified by character and fitness, and passed the bar exam – congratulations!  You are almost ready to begin practicing law!  One of the final steps is to attend an attorney swearing-in ceremony.  Each jurisdiction, and each county or district within the jurisdiction, likely has their own specific procedures, so make sure you check the rules in your jurisdiction to find out how to be formally admitted.  But this post will give a general overview of what you can expect from an attorney swearing-in ceremony!

What Is An Attorney Swearing-In Ceremony?

Attorney swearing-in ceremonies generally come in two types: public and private.  Attending a public ceremony with other prospective attorneys in seeking admission is the most common method, but many jurisdictions offer the option to hold a private ceremony as well.  Perhaps you have a close personal connection with a local judge.  You can ask that judge whether he or she would be willing to preside over a personal attorney swearing-in ceremony for you.  This would likely be done in the judge’s courtroom with your family and friends present, as well as your sponsor (discussed below).

Note that if you choose to have a private swearing-in ceremony, it will be up to you to find the judge and to file the appropriate paperwork and complete all of the steps (generally filing paperwork, paying a filing fee, etc.). The advantages of a private swearing-in ceremony are:

  • you can invite as many guests as you want,
  • your “sponsor” (an attorney who is admitted to practice) can make a lengthier speech, and
  • it is more personal.

The only time you will be speaking out loud at a private swearing-in ceremony is when you repeat the attorney oath. Many times the judge will also ask you if you want to thank anyone or say anything.  Other than that, it is pretty quick.

What is the public attorney swearing-in ceremony like?

If you do not wish to have a private ceremony, you may attend one of the many public attorney swearing-in ceremonies offered in your jurisdiction.  Generally, after each bar exam, states will hold a public ceremony in each county or judicial district within the state.  Some states may require you to attend a specific ceremony based on your address. Others allow you to attend any ceremony you choose.  Family and friends are often welcome to attend with you. However, some states might place a limit on the number of guests you can bring. (If you want to bring several guests, assuming it is permitted, arrive early so everyone can find a seat!)

A public attorney swearing-in ceremony can vary in length based upon the number of prospective attorneys and what sort of opening remarks the judge makes.  Often they will begin by giving an opening speech on the profession and what will be asked of you.  The main crux of an attorney swearing-in ceremony is the individual “swearing in.”  To be admitted, a licensed attorney needs to make a motion on your behalf.  If you have a family member, friend, or mentor who is an attorney, you may wish to have them sponsor you.  In that event, they will make a brief motion to the court to have you admitted. (At smaller swearing-in ceremonies, the sponsor is often permitted to say a few sentences about you and is sometimes asked questions by the judge. At larger swearing-in ceremonies, the court sometimes limits the sponsor’s remarks to a sentence or two. Generally, the sponsor will say why you should be admitted to practice law — e.g., you are ethical, hard working, whatever. After all, it is a motion to have the court admit you to the practice of law.)

At larger swearing-in ceremonies, usually all of the applicants repeat the oath at the same time in front of the room. So you do not really have to say anything.

If you do not bring your own personal sponsor, that is okay!  The judge will first go through all the motions made by personal sponsors. Then, those remaining will have a sponsor appointed by the court make a motion to admit them. (This is how it works in most jurisdictions, but please check yours!)

Following the motions by sponsors, things should wrap up rather quickly.  (Note that most swearing-in ceremonies last an hour or less!) At some point, you will likely be asked to pay an admission fee. Depending on your state, you may have to sign paperwork (like a book of admitted attorneys).  There will be a chance for you to take pictures, so make sure to bring a camera!  Many attorney swearing-in ceremonies will also offer refreshments after.  Remember though that even once you’ve participated in your attorney swearing-in ceremony, you may have to await other steps to officially become licensed. But as soon as you receive your official license, you are good to go!

What is a private swearing-in ceremony like?

Read about private swearing-in ceremonies here!

What should I wear to an attorney swearing-in ceremony?

If you are the one being admitted (which you probably are if you are reading this) you should wear a suit. Most of the people being admitted will wear a suit. (If you are a woman, I have seen both pantsuits and skirt suits and it really makes no difference!). I have also seen women wear nice dresses or a suit without a jacket but that is less common.

If your relatives are wondering what to wear, tell them to dress in “business” clothes — i.e. a nice dress for women. The relatives do not need to wear suits, though some do.

NOTE: Please check with your jurisdiction to make sure you follow the requirements. This post is just a general overview of what occurs at most swearing-in ceremonies. You are welcome to post any questions/comments below!