Embrace Urgency and Uncertainty

Remarks from the high scorer of the Texas Bar Examination

By Philip Murray MacGregor Cooper

Philip Murray MacGregor Cooper
Philip Murray MacGregor Cooper (center), the high scorer of the July 2017 Texas Bar Examination and a University of Chicago Law School graduate, with Texas Board of Law Examiners Executive Director Susan Henricks, Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht, and Texas Board of Law Examiners Board Member Dwaine Massey

Editors note: The following remarks were delivered November 20 at the New Lawyer Induction Ceremony in Austin.

The last time most of us were in the same room, we were considerably less comfortable and much more anxious than we are now. Well, except for me, because I now must worry about convincing you that I actually have some insightful words to share about a profession that I will not even join for another few minutes.

So, I will talk about what I do know: the importance of self-doubt and uncertainty. A few weeks before the bar exam, around the same time that I had to call my parents to ask if they could explain what a personal check was, I texted a friend who sat for the Texas Bar Examination in 2016. I told him what studying I had done so far, and I sought reassurance that I had done enough. And I concluded my message with a hopeful, “So, the bar isn’t that hard, right?” I expected him to tell me that I had nothing to worry about. But instead he replied, “Well, the bar is definitely failable.” I then realized that I perhaps was not as prepared as I thought I was, and that, in fact, I had a long way to go. I’m sure that most of you had similar experiences of confusion and panic last summer.

Fortunately, things worked out for everyone in this room. But still, I hope that a similar sense of urgency and uncertainty stays with us throughout our careers. I hope that the same impulses that drove us to frantically learn about severing mineral estates and probating wills also compel us to explore and analyze all aspects of the problems that our future clients present to us. We are joining a profession that has put up significant barriers to entry, and so controls the access of nearly every American to the justice system. So, it is our duty to make our clients’ cases our own and, yes, sweat the small stuff. And maybe that’s the most important lesson the bar teaches.

Congratulations to you, your families, and everyone who supported you along the way.

Thank you, and God bless. TBJ

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