Bethany Krajelis May 1, 2014, 3:55pm

The state's roster of attorneys grew by nearly 700 today following bar admission ceremonies held throughout the state, including a first-time ever trio in the First District.

Out of the 691 attorneys set to be admitted today, the largest group --474-- took the oath here in Chicago. This year marked the first time the First District ceremony was split into three and at the James R. Thompson Center's auditorium, an apparent cost-saving measure.

It also was the first time the three First District justices on the Illinois Supreme Court did not preside over the ceremony together. In previous years, only one ceremony took place and it was held at larger and more extravagant venues like the McCormick Place ballroom and the Arie Crown Theatre.

At the second Chicago ceremony today, Justice Charles Freeman joked that unlike the past, he would be ruling alone in his decision to admit the new lawyers, although he noted his fellow justices approved by proxy.

Freeman was joined on stage during the 11:30 a.m. ceremony by First District Appellate Court Justice Joy V. Cunningham, who presented the motion to admit the group and later offered some words of wisdom to the new lawyers.

Justice Anne Burke administered the oath at the 9:30 a.m. Chicago ceremony and Justice Mary Jane Theis at the 2:30 p.m. event. Neither Burke nor Theis were joined by an appellate court justice at those bar admission ceremonies.

Cunningham, who lost her bid for the Supreme Court to Theis in 2012, told the new attorneys that despite the rainy weather, today was "a glorious day" because it represented the culmination of their hard work and sacrifice, not to mention a proud moment for those who supported them along the way.

Urging the state's new lawyers to get involved in bar associations and take advantage of mentoring programs, Cunningham stressed to the new attorneys that character is an integral part of the legal profession.

Illinois State Bar Association President Paula Holderman and Deidre Baumann, second vice-president for the Decalogue Society of Lawyers, also spoke at the second Chicago ceremony today and provided some advice to the crop of new lawyers.

"Your reputation as a lawyer is critical to your success," Holderman said, noting the importance of first impressions.

Baumann agreed and reminded the new lawyers that while Chicago may be a big city, its legal community is small. She told the group that adhering to the concept of justice will help them move forward in their careers as moral lawyers with upstanding character.

Delores E. Robinson, president of the Cook County Bar Association, and Malcolm C. Rich, president of the Chicago Council of Lawyers, spoke at 9 a.m. ceremony and J. Timothy Eaton, president of the Chicago Bar Association, and A. Thomas Skallas, president of the Hellenic Bar Association, spoke at the 2:30 p.m. ceremony.

Bar admission ceremonies also took place today in Springfield, Elgin, Ottawa and Collinsville, where Chief Justice Rita Garman and Justices Robert Thomas, Thomas Kilbride and Lloyd Karmeier, respectively, swore in the new attorneys.

The attorneys admitted today bring the total number of Illinois attorneys to 93,247.

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