If you read this magazine cover to cover — full album style, start to finish — you’ll notice recurring ideas as we examine the issue of civility under the 2023 Law Day theme “Cornerstones of Democracy: Civics, Civility and Collaboration.”

Pandemic stress, social distance and mental health issues may help explain some crude language or rude acts. But other blunt, eye-popping comments and incidents make you wonder how this stuff is still happening in 2023 — in the workplace, no less. We set out to explore the Illinois legal community’s efforts to promote a more civil profession and society, as well as what challenges remain. And note: Our Law Day content is free for all to read and share, with no paywall.

Reporter Grace Barbic spoke with court officials about the state’s formal efforts to study incivility and in turn educate and improve the profession. Some see poor behavior stemming from a pandemic-era lack of familiarity and bonding between parties. We’re slowly coming together in person more often, but the myriad impacts of technology aren’t going away, introducing a need for opportunities to connect with intention across forums. But make no mistake: Behaving appropriately in a digital environment should be considered a core competency for working life.

On the other side of the struggle to deal with bad behavior — the disciplinary side, that is — reporter Emma Oxnevad asked current and former officials with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission what makes incivility survive despite many motivations to the contrary. Is it the pleasure of venting? The rush of setting an opponent back on their heels? Or is it actually profitable? (Spoiler alert: If so, no one will admit it.)

Three sources met our challenge to thoughtfully answer a series of pointed questions on civility: Patrick A. Salvi II of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, Terry A. Fox of the Illinois Defense Counsel and Stephanie Villinski of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism. Don’t miss their well-stated viewpoints. And special thanks to the judicial leaders — and our own president and publisher, as well as two of our columnists — who shared insights from their own experiences.

Our annual Law Day Letters from bar and industry associations were encouraging as leaders reflected upon more collaborative efforts and events that brought practitioners together. And law school deans gave us hope that the coming wave of lawyers will be well-equipped to identify and navigate suitable behavior in the profession. Of course, what we learn in school or early in our career isn’t the end. Rather, it’s the beginning of what must be a lifelong effort to refine our understanding and respect for others.

That doesn’t sound so hard … does it?