Skip to Content

The HONORABLE Judge Robert M. Bell gives JASON A. SHAPIRO the distinguished honor of being keynote speaker at this year’s Bar Ad


The Honorable Judge Robert M. Bell appoints Jason A. Shapiro to give one of the induction speeches at this year’s Bar Admission Ceremony. This great ceremony is branded into the brains of each and every member of the United State’s Bar and Jason A. Shapiro has crafted an amazing speech to impress upon the candidates the importance of this great day.


“May it please the Court, Chief Judge Bell, distinguished members of the Maryland Court of Appeals, successful candidates to the Bar of the Great State of Maryland, their families, friends and guests, my name is Jason Shapiro. I am a partner with the Law Firm of Shapiro Zwanetz & Lake (SZL), located in Columbia, Maryland, and I am the current President of the Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney’s Association.  As the product of Maryland public schools, college at the University of Maryland and postgraduate education spent at the University of Baltimore School of Law, as the product of a government employee and a homemaker, and the grandson of four immigrants who came to America with essentially only the clothes on their back, I am extremely humbled and honored that I have been chosen to appear before you today to move the admission of these successful candidates to the Maryland State Bar.

Chief Judge Bell, with your permission, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce the members of the Maryland Court of Appeals to the assembled candidates and their guests.  From our left to right, sits the Honorable Judge Sally Adkins of Wicomico County; the Honorable Judge Clayton Greene, Jr. of Anne Arundel County; the Honorable Judge Glenn Harrell, Jr. of Prince George’s County; our Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, the Honorable Robert Bell from Baltimore City; the Honorable Judge Lynn Battaglia, my fellow resident from Howard County; the Honorable Judge Joseph Murphy, Jr. from Baltimore County; and the Honorable Judge Mary Ellen Barbera of Montgomery County.

To the candidates and soon my brothers and sisters of the bar, today marks the culmination of more than 20 years of school attendance, research papers, final exams and of course, the bar exam. Although it seems that today marks the end of an era, it actually marks the beginning  —  the beginning of a new career and a new life.

The practice of law is a privilege that just a small segment of our society gets to experience.  However, it is the practice of law and the administration of justice that is the focal point of the many in our society. It is through the practice of law that you have the unique ability to honor the biblical commandment found in Deuteronomy: Justice, justice you shall pursue.

It is through this pursuit of justice in the court rooms that our schools and other public institutions have become desegregated; that the disenfranchised earned the right to vote; the concept of privacy, although not specifically enunciated in our Constitution, was defined and enforced; and the rights of the individual over the unlawful and unwarranted intrusion of the government has been sustained.

This truly is a very interesting time to be an attorney. After the terrorist attacks on the United States and its citizens of September 11, 2001 and the attempted attacks since, our courts are going to need guidance from you, the leaders of the law profession in tomorrow’s world, as to what restrictions should be placed upon the government, yet at the same time allow our government to have the tools to keep us safe.

This theme, the rules and restrictions placed upon the government versus the government’s ability to catch and prosecute the bad guys, is reflected in a number of new TV shows that the networks are putting on television. For example, CBS describes the plot of the new Hawaii 5-0 series as:

“McGarrett returns to Hawaii, where he grew up, to investigate the murder of his father. He is recruited by the governor to head up a new elite federalized task force that would operate under (McGarrett’s) rules, (the Governor’s) backing and no red tape.”

In other words, no probable cause, no search warrants and no constitutional protections.

The web page for the new Tom Selleck TV series, the “Blue Bloods” about a family of police officers in New York City reads:

“the Reagans have very different ideas of how to gain justice. But they have one thing in common: they’ll stop at nothing to see justice served; because their occupation is more than just a job, it’s the family business.”

In other words, the crime fighting Reagans of the NYPD also do their job without probable cause, no search warrants and no constitutional protections.

Although we can be dismissive of these statements that they are generated by writers in Hollywood and do not reflect the true values of American society, as a criminal defense attorney I can tell you that several times a month I am representing defendants who were charged by police officers who seem to have learned about the constitutional rights of the accused, not in the police academy, but by watching one of these TV shows which are quite Machiavellian in nature: that the ends in bringing a bad guy to justice justify the means of conducting an unconstitutional investigation. However, so too do I see attorneys who learned civility, not from a proper up-bringing or from their law professors, but from TV characters in court room and crime dramas. It is these attorneys who apparently have forgotten the old axiom by Will Rodgers: “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute.”   Remember that building a reputation is a long process and takes much work, and once built, its maintenance also requires careful attention and concentration.

So how do the lawyers of today balance trust, civility and honesty with zealously representing their clients in adversarial proceedings? The best advice I have for you is from my father, Arthur Shapiro, may he rest in peace.

My dad was not a lawyer. He retired after 35 years with the federal government, and passed away in 2005. After my dad died, I was going through some of his personal belongings and I found a book called “The Bluejackets’ Manual of 1940.”  This book is the manual that is given to Midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy and those who are participants in the United States Navy ROTC program. Of course, this book has been updated since my father’s publication 70 years ago. This book is viewed as the Bible in guiding young people to become not just naval officers, but becoming gentle people as well. My father never took this manual off the shelf to show me in black and white what it meant to be an honorable person and attorney. However, he lived these precepts every day and taught me by example exactly what I found in print shortly after his funeral.

This manual reads:

“Study these rules and practice them, for your future success will depend upon your ability to master them, whether in the naval service or later in civilian life.

Knowledge — Knowledge comes only through hard work and study. There is no “royal road to learning.” Men always respect you for what you know. It pays to know, and to know you know.  Know your own job. Know the job ahead of yours.

Fighting Spirit — Have a grit to stay with a hard job. Never say “I can’t.” Forget there is such a phrase. Don’t be a quitter. A person may be down but never out, unless he admits it.

Reliability — Do your job the best you know how. Can you be depended upon, whether alone on a job or with others? Get the reputation of seeing the job through.

Loyalty — Stick up for yourself and for your compatriots. As you show loyalty to them, they will show loyalty to you. Boost, and if you cannot boost, do not knock.

Initiative — A person with initiative takes hold of the things that need doing and does them without being told, while the others are standing idly by because no one has told them what to do. A person with initiative thinks on his feet. This person can be trusted to take care of an unexpected situation because he is always on the alert and thinking ahead of his job.

Self-control — Do not fly off the handle. It nearly always gets you into trouble and always lessons the respect that others hold for you. If you lose your self-control in little things you are sure to do so in big things. A person who cannot control himself will never develop into a person respected by others.

Energy – A lazy person never has time to do anything right or to do anything to improve himself, and he never gets far. Be peppy, show drive, and be a self starter.

Courage — Have physical and moral courage. Be fearless in the face of your duty. A courageous person admits when he is wrong and takes his medicine. He doesn’t bluff. A person of courage doesn’t have to bluff.

Justice — Be square. Play the game hard, but play it squarely. Give a square deal to others and expect one in return. Act so that others can respect you and you respect them.

Truthfulness — The final test of a person is: In a pinch, will he lie? Many a person who told the whole truth has been let off or given light punishment, where the liar was punished for the offense and for lying as well.

Faith — Believe and trust in your self. Count on yourself to be the best you can be, and then go to it and make good.

Honor — Act so that your home folks will be proud of you and will tell others what fine things you are doing. Act so that others will want to be like you. Few people can survive dishonor. Remember that you can never disgrace or dishonor yourself without bringing dishonor on your name and your family.

Cheerfulness — Smile and the world smiles with you. Smile when things go wrong. If you cannot smile, at least try to. You can surely keep the corners of your mouth up.

Honesty — Without honesty your career is limited and you are sure to fail in the long run. Nobody wants to deal with or associate with a cheat.”

So there you have it. Words written 70 years ago used as guidance for the lawyers of today and tomorrow. Use these words as you apply your skills to seek justice in a civil and professional manner.  Put your integrity, and the integrity of the profession and the American system of justice above ego and remuneration, because integrity, yours and that of our courts, is a priceless commodity.  And finally, remember the words of American singer, songwriter, Bruce Springsteen who said when asked what motivates him:  “More than rich, and more than famous, and more than happy, I wanted to be great.”  This is a wonderful mantra to adopt.  Become a great lawyer  — great in the area of not just your craft, but a great professional who treats others in a civil and courteous manner  —  you will be happy, and respected.

Congratulations to you all.  Welcome to this great and noble profession where we serve as agents to insure that our fellow citizens continue to enjoy the fundamental and inalienable rights of Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness.”