Law Day is a national day to celebrate the rule of law. For lawyers to protect the rule of law, they must demonstrate the highest level of professionalism, which includes civility and integrity. At Southern Illinois University School of Law, we are committed to transforming our students into the lawyers and community leaders of tomorrow, empowered with the knowledge and skills to improve their communities. A lawyer’s professional reputation begins in law school — it is never too early to practice exemplary professionalism.

We are intentional about teaching our students the importance of civility and professionalism from the first day they arrive on campus — even before they begin classes.

During orientation, each first-year student reads various materials on professionalism and drafts his or her own personal reflections on the obligations of lawyers. Students then meet in small groups to share their reflections on professionalism. Each small group elects a class member to represent the group in the drafting committee. The committee identifies common themes and prepares one Declaration of Professional Commitment for the entire class.

During the induction ceremony, an Illinois Supreme Court justice leads the students as they recite the declaration. A member of the Illinois Commission on Professionalism presents each student with a lapel pin as an emblem of the responsibilities to which they committed. While the event is symbolic and ceremonial, it represents the transformation of these individuals into professionals who will conscientiously serve our profession and society in the years to come.

Our students repeat the declaration at graduation as they are reminded that professionalism, including civility and integrity, are non-negotiable qualities of a lawyer.