In recent years, polarizing issues such as hyper-partisanship, COVID-19 policies and societal unrest borne from our nation’s reckoning with systemic racism have provided fertile ground for debate and disagreements. Divergence of opinions has oftentimes been articulated in ways that are discourteous, disrespectful and at times, deadly.
Bound by rules of professional conduct and sworn to pursue justice “while maintaining a professional, courteous and civil attitude toward all persons involved in the legal system,” the legal profession can serve as a societal role model demonstrating the ability to work towards resolution of issues in a respectful and professional manner. Yet, the profession has not been immune to the lack of civility in our society. Reverence and respect for the profession has been tarnished by reported incidences of lawyers’ abrasive, boorish and hostile behavior.
Nevertheless, the vast majority of lawyers strive daily to practice with courtesy, candor and cooperation, recognizing that practicing with professionalism and civility contributes to achieving better outcomes for clients and to a more successful, healthy career. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said, “We can disagree without being disagreeable.
The next generation must be equipped with this knowledge by learning from more seasoned attorneys the appropriate ways to navigate the profession with fundamental decency and courtesy. As we celebrate Law Day, let us remember our shared responsibility to ensure that new lawyers appreciate civility, respect for the legal system and personal integrity. We do this by modeling the desired behavior and by participating in the education of the next generation via individual mentoring or taking advantage of the many opportunities to engage with our local law schools.
The work we do as members of the legal profession is perhaps more important today than ever before. Let us make civility, cooperation and collaboration the norm, and ensure the sustainability of those values in our honorable profession.