A Description of the Swearing-In Ceremonies in Michigan -
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A picture of the Macomb County Swearing In Ceremony.

A picture of the Macomb County Swearing In Ceremony.

A Description of Swearing-In Ceremonies in Michigan for those who Pass the Bar Exam

To be admitted to practice law in the state of Michigan, after you pass the bar exam, you will need to attend a “swearing-in” ceremony. You may attend the swearing-in ceremony in any county. It doesn’t make a difference in terms of where you can practice law. Some counties offer different programs or advantages than others, but most students choose which swearing-in ceremony they are going to attend based on location and convenience. 

What Generally Happens at a Swearing-In Ceremony?

At the swearing-in ceremony, an attorney will make a motion to have you admitted to the state bar. This attorney can be a “sponsor” that you bring (discussed below) or the attorney will be someone who is appointed by the court to make the motion. The judge will grant the motion near the end of the swearing-in ceremony. Then, you will pay a fee and wait for your P# in the mail. You are not allowed to practice law until you get your official P#!

Here is a description of a couple of the swearing-in ceremonies in Michigan that I have been to as well as answers to questions that applicants frequently ask:

The Oakland County Swearing-In Ceremony:

I have been to the Oakland County Swearing-In Ceremony several times. It is a very nice ceremony in an auditorium. The ceremony begins with a few short introductory speeches by judges and members of the Oakland County bar. After the speeches, those applicants who brought sponsors will be called upon first in alphabetical order. After being called, the applicant and the sponsor will simply stand up where they are seated (you do not walk to the front of the room). The sponsor will make a short one- or two-sentence motion, generally saying something like, “I move to admit Ms/Mr.________. She is ethical, hard-working and will be a great addition to the bar…” or something along those lines. Then the applicant and sponsor sit down and the next applicant/sponsor pairing is called. After all the applicants who have sponsors are called, the rest of the applicants’ names and schools they attended will be read by the sponsor who is appointed by the court.

If you want your sponsor to make a long, elaborate speech about your background and why you would make a great admission to the bar, Oakland County is probably not the right court for you (try a smaller swearing-in ceremony, like Macomb County or a private swearing-in ceremony – both described below). The Oakland county staff will tell all of the sponsors to please keep their motions short for the purposes of saving time. As such, motions by sponsors are usually only a few sentences long.

After all of the applicants are named, the judge will generally grant all of the motions and the applicants are required to state an oath. Sometimes they require the soon-to-be attorneys to walk to the front of the room to take the oath. Last time I was there (for the May 2014 swearing-in ceremony) all applicants simply stood up where they were sitting and took their oaths.

The Oakland County Swearing-In Ceremony, from what I have heard, is the biggest swearing-in ceremony in Michigan. However, it doesn’t take very long. It generally takes an hour or so.

A few tips: If you are going to be bringing several people to your swearing-in ceremony in Oakland county, get there as early as possible so that you can all sit together. I would recommend getting to the ceremony as early as an hour early. You can also take pictures during that time.

Also, at the end of the swearing-in ceremony in Oakland county (at least this is how they have done it in the past), you will have to go up to the front of the room and sign your name in a book (to get your P#). You will also have to pay a fee to the court clerk. My suggestion is to get to the front as soon as the ceremony is over – and don’t lollygag around. If you are first in line, you will be able to take pictures in front of the flags and wherever else you want – before anyone else. If you wait too long,  you may find yourself standing in line for 30-45 minutes.

The Macomb County Swearing-In Ceremony:

The Macomb County Swearing-In Ceremony is much smaller than Oakland County’s and it is more personal. There are generally only about 9 or 10 attorneys who get admitted in Macomb County.  These soon-to-be attorneys will sit near the judge’s bench (see the picture). The rest of the family members and sponsors will sit behind them. The judge will call up the admittees  one-by-one in alphabetical order with their sponsor. The judge will usually ask the sponsor questions such as where the applicant attended law school/undergraduate school, and why the applicant would be a good admission to the bar. Then the judge will frequently ask the applicant questions – such as what they plan to do with their law degree. The applicant and the sponsor walk to the podium and face the judge to answer these questions.  If you do not bring a sponsor, one will be appointed for you (discussed below).

The Washtenaw County Swearing-In Ceremony: 

The Washtenaw County Swearing-In Ceremony is bigger than the Macomb County Swearing-In Ceremony but smaller than Oakland County’s. Sponsors sit separately from the applicants and are given the opportunity to walk to the podium and make a brief statement about why the applicant would make a stellar admission to the state bar. If you do not have a sponsor, as is true with all swearing-in ceremonies, one will be appointed for you.

At this swearing-in ceremony, there are also about a million different short speeches given by different organizations. They tend to be pretty short but this makes what would have been an otherwise pretty brief ceremony closer to an hour in length.

I attended the Washtenaw County swearing-in ceremony in May (for February bar applicants) and the room was packed full. I hear it gets even more packed for the fall swearing-in ceremony.

Other Swearing-In Ceremonies in Michigan:

I have not been to any Swearing-In ceremony in Wayne County nor Ingham County. I assume they are bigger than Macomb County’s but not as big as Oakland County’s. I would love to hear the thoughts of anybody who has attended these swearing-in ceremonies or any of the other swearing-in ceremonies in Michigan.

Private Swearing-In Ceremony:

If you are lucky enough to have a connection or know a judge, you may be able to arrange a private swearing-in ceremony. This ceremony can consist of you, the judge, and any and all family members and friends you want to invite. It is generally held in the courtroom of the judge who conducts the ceremony. It is the most personal way to be sworn in. You will likely want to bring your own sponsor if you are having a private swearing-in ceremony.

For more information on how to create a perfect private swearing-in ceremony, see this post.

Who should my sponsor be? Do I need a sponsor?

A sponsor can be anyone who is licensed to practice law in the state of Michigan.

Many times, a sponsor is a boss, a coworker, a friend, a family member, or someone who has made a big impact on the applicant. You do not need to bring a sponsor for any of the public swearing-in ceremonies. Many applicants do not. If you do not bring a sponsor with you, the court generally provides one for you.

What should I wear to the Swearing-In Ceremony?

You cannot go wrong by wearing a suit. The vast majority of applicants (and their sponsors) wear suits.  The rest of the family members or friends invited are usually dressed nicely.

How long does the Swearing-In Ceremony take? 

Generally not very long. The Oakland County swearing-in ceremony (the biggest one) takes an hour. The Macomb County swearing-in ceremony takes 30-45 minutes. I assume the other ceremonies in the state would not take much longer.


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