I am, to the very core of my being, an attorney.
It is easy to understand why. Since the day I was born I have been immersed in the law. My father and my uncle were attorneys. They inspired me to attend law school and gave me my first job when I passed the bar. Shortly thereafter, Don Hanni, perhaps the most skillful criminal defense attorney I have ever known, took me under his wing.
I use the strategies and tactics he taught me to this day.
I was so enraptured by the law that I convinced — well, cajoled — my cousin Brian Kopp into becoming an attorney. Shortly after Brian received his Juris Doctorate, we formed an alliance with renowned personal injury attorney Michael Harshman and formed Betras, Kopp & Harshman.
Today, Brian and I are mentoring Justin Markota who will soon be teaching us old guys about the ever-evolving state of American jurisprudence.
I mention all of this because on Monday, I attended the Mahoning County “Opening of Court” ceremony. During the event members of the Mahoning County Bar and sitting judges welcomed new lawyers to the profession and recognized senior attorneys for their service. Brian Kopp, who has been practicing for 25 years, was among them.
One of the highlights of the ceremony is the reading of the "Lawyer’s Creed." I want to share it with all of you because it reminds me why, aside from my family, I value and cherish the law license that permits me to practice in the greatest legal system ever devised more than anything in the world:
TO MY CLIENTS, I offer loyalty, confidentiality, competence, diligence and my best judgment. I shall represent you as I should want to be represented and be worthy of your trust. I shall counsel you with respect to alternative methods to resolve disputes. I shall endeavor to achieve your lawful objectives as expeditiously and economically as possible.
TO THE OPPOSING PARTIES and THEIR COUNSEL, I offer fairness, integrity and civility. I shall not knowingly make misleading or untrue statements of fact or law. I shall endeavor to consult with and cooperate with you in scheduling meetings, depositions and hearings. I shall avoid excessive and abusive discovery. I shall attempt to resolve differences and, if we fail, I shall strive to make our dispute a dignified one.
TO THE COURTS and OTHER TRIBUNALS and TO THOSE WHO ASSIST THEM, I offer respect, candor and courtesy. Where consistent with my client’s interests, I shall communicate with opposing counsel in an effort to avoid or resolve litigation. I shall attempt to agree with other counsel on a voluntary exchange of information and on a plan for discovery. I shall do honor to the search for justice.
TO MY COLLEAGUES in the practice of law, I offer concern for your reputation and well-being. I shall extend to you the same courtesy, respect, candor and dignity that I expect to be extended to me.
TO THE PROFESSION, I offer assistance in keeping it a calling in the spirit of public service, and in promoting its understanding and an appreciation for it by the public. I recognize that my actions and demeanor reflect upon our system of justice and our profession, and I shall conduct myself accordingly.
TO THE PUBLIC and our SYSTEM OF JUSTICE, I offer service. I shall devote some of my time and skills to community, governmental and other activities that promote the common good. I shall strive to improve the law and our legal system and to make our legal system available to all.