What is the DC Bar Swearing In Ceremony Like?
You graduated from law school. You took and passed the bar exam and passed the character and fitness check. Now there is just one thing left to do until you are officially a lawyer: the swearing in ceremony. But if you are getting sworn into the DC Bar, there is very little information provided for you on what the swearing in ceremony is actually like. The Committee on Admissions is not liberal with information about the swearing in ceremony.
What is the DC Bar Swearing In Ceremony Like?
Luckily, you do not have to go in completely blind as my experience with the DC Bar swearing in ceremony can shed some light on the milestone event for you. However, all of the recounted events in this post pertain to the December 2017 DC Bar swearing in ceremony. It is possible that in the future the Committee on Admissions may change the ceremony or process surrounding the ceremony.
The Committee on Admissions Email
The first you will hear of your swearing in ceremony will be after you see your name on the pass list. Scroll back up to the top of the list and read the blurb of writing at the top. There, the Committee on Admissions basically says that just because you passed the DC bar exam. However, they explain that it does not mean you will automatically be barred in DC. You still need to pass the character and fitness requirement. The note says that applicants will be notified a week before the swearing in ceremony whether they pass the character and fitness requirement. They provide the date of the swearing in ceremony. That’s it.
You get more details about the DC lawyer swearing in ceremony once you receive the email notifying you that you passed the character and fitness requirement. In this email, you are given your time to appear for the swearing in ceremony. Since so many applicants attend, there are multiple ceremonies. Make sure you show up to the right one.
The Committee on Admissions also provide an alternative swearing in date and time if you cannot make the original. You do not need to confirm with that the Committee on Admissions whether or not you can make the original time and date. All you have to do is show up for your time the day of the ceremony.
The email also says that all applicants must complete and have notarized an attached Supplemental Questionnaire form. The form has to be notarized no more than three business days before the swearing in ceremony. This form is to make sure you have not committed any serious character and fitness transgressions in the week leading up to the swearing in ceremony. You must have the form with you when you get sworn in as you will turn it in along with your bar registration form after the ceremony.
Be sure to do not forget the Supplemental Questionnaire form. I put it in my bag I knew I would take with me for the DC lawyer swearing in ceremony. There are opportunities to have it notarized the day of in case you are unable to do so before the ceremony. I would not recommend that. You do not want to add unnecessary stress to a happy day.
Guests of Applicants
One thing the email fails to mention, and the thing you are probably most curious about, is whether or not you can bring guests. Guests are welcome at the DC Court of Appeals on the day of the swearing in ceremony. However, they cannot join you in the ceremonial courtroom. Guests watch the ceremony via a livestream on closed circuit television from overflow rooms.
If you are having guests, be sure to have them arrive early to the courthouse. Many people will be there to watch their loved ones become new DC attorneys, As such, the line to get through security is long. The ceremony starts on time, so have your guests arrive early so they do not miss it.
The Swearing In Ceremony
The DC lawyer swearing in ceremony takes place in the ceremonial courtroom on the lower level of the DC Court of Appeals. All the applicants for one time slot are in the courtroom and the benches can get a little tight so grab a spot on the end if you can.
Three DC Court of Appeals judges oversee the ceremony and it goes relatively quickly. A staff attorney for the DC Court of Appeals introduces the motion for the Committee on Admissions to admit the following list of applicants. The clerk gives the copy of the motion to the judges. The judges briefly review the motion and the list of applicants, then approve it. The clerk administer the oath. The clerk has everyone stand and administers the oath to everyone at the same time. It is relatively straightforward and easy to repeat. Afterwards, the newly sworn in DC attorneys return to their seats. The judges then share a few words of wisdom and advice.
Forms After the Ceremony and Photo Ops
Here is a great “life hack” for the DC swearing in ceremony. Snag an aisle seat. When the ceremony ends you can be one of the first people in line at your designated table (divided up by letter your last name starts with) to turn in your registration form for the DC Bar and your Supplemental Questionnaire.
Then while everyone is still waiting in line to turn in their forms, you can head back into the ceremonial courtroom with your guests before a line forms and snag some photos. Another great spot for pictures is the front of the courthouse facing Indiana Avenue. After you get your pictures, you can post to the social media platform of your choice and be as self-congratulatory as you want. You deserve it, you are finally a DC lawyer!
As the judge said at my ceremony, I hope you do well, but also, do good. Congratulations!
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