Uplifting Letter from My State Bar

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When I moved to Harvard a few years ago, I waived into the Massachusetts Bar.  This is the third bar to which I have belonged, having started in the Virginia Bar in 1977 where I remain a member though inactive.  When I joined the Villanova faculty, I became a member of the Pennsylvania Bar.  To join that bar I had to take the ethics exam.  That exam which is now standard for every state did not exist in the 1970s.  My effort to convince the Pennsylvania Bar that I should be grandfathered into not having to take that test probably still causes them to chuckle.  I studied for that exam because I did not want the first thing my new employer knew about me was my failure to pass the ethics exam.  When I took the exam in a room filled with 25 year olds, I saw them looking at me as someone who must have done something really bad to have to take the ethics exam at my age.  Fortunately, even though it had been 30 years since my previous multiple choice standardized test, I did manage to pass.

If only I moved to Kentucky and joined the bar of that state, I could claim the distinction of belonging to the state bar of every Commonwealth.  It will not happen.

The Massachusetts bar has very favorably impressed me.  It has much tradition of which it is proud, but so do Virginia and Pennsylvania.  Massachusetts also displays a lot of common sense and good communication skills.  I had the opportunity to sit on a jury for a criminal trial in Boston last December.  The judge and the other judicial officers did a great job of running the trial, using the jury’s time wisely and protecting the interests of the parties.

Things have not been going so well lately.  Times are difficult for courts as well as for everyone else.  A few weeks ago the judges who head the Massachusetts courts took the time to write and send out the letter below.  It does a good job of informing members of the bar, inspiring them and thanking them.  I have not seen this type of letter from a court to its members and thought it was worth sharing.  Thanks to Rochelle Hodes and Les Book for inspiring me to write this short post sharing the letter.  Perhaps we can all work together to create a better tax world and, in turn, a better spinning wheel on which to spin out justice.


  1. Jerry Borison says

    Impressive indeed.

  2. Donna Byrne says

    I also took the Ethics exam late. When I graduated from law school in Pennsyvania in 1990, the rule was that if you passed Professional Responsibility with at least a B, you didn’t have to take the exam. But 1998, after I’d been a full-time professor for several years, I moved to Minnesota to join the faculty of William Mitchell College of Law. I needed to become an active bar member in order to supervise the tax clinic, so when I took the Professional Responsibility exam, it was in a classroom full of my current students, some of whom had just taken the ethics course. Failing would have been inconceivable. I did pass, and I didn’t mind that some of my students scored higher.

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