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California State Bar to Encourage Civility Among Lawyers (What a Concept!)

bulldog_1In a recent article, reported that President-elect of the California State Bar Association, Sheldon Sloan, has launched a civility initiative "aimed at cracking down on what he and many others perceive to be a rapidly rising increase in rude and rancorous run-ins between attorneys in all practices of law." Non-lawyers might think this is some kind of joke ("What? two intelligent, well-educated adults can't behave amicably to each other?"), but the truth is that with clients expecting their attorneys to act like bulldogs in board rooms and court rooms, anecdotal evidence indicates that the level of disrespect and discourtesy between lawyers continues to descend to new lows.

In fact, we have decided to launch a new content category on the JD Bliss Blog - Uncivil Lawyer War Stories - so that our readers can vent their frustration concerning unpleasant, discourteous or downright nasty behavior exhibited by opposing counsel during depositions, negotiations and other contexts. Hopefully, people will read these stories and realize just how ridiculous such behavior is, and just how much stress levels would drop and how much more pleasant practicing law would be if lawyers could simply behave civilly towards each other even when they vehemently disagree.

BoxingBack to the California State Bar program: Sloan cited various examples of incivility that anyone practicing law will immediately recognize: lawyers who schedule depositions to derail opposing counsel's vacation schedule, big firms that paper solo practitioners to death, or attorneys scheduling hearings for the day after Thanksgiving when many people take long weekends (note: all examples from litigation practice - any "war stories" from transactional attorneys???).

Sloan's solution: having the State Bar adopt a civility code and pressuring attorneys statewide to sign it and abide by it. He also hopes to convince judges to consider sanctions for rude behavior.

Some may scoff at the notion that lawyers will pay any attention to a "manners" code, but there is precedent that it works.  Christopher Arriola, president of the Santa Clara County Bar Association, said he's noticed a difference in lawyers' attitudes since that county adopted a civility code for lawyers in 1992.

"We haven't done any official study," Arriola said, "but it's fair to say most people who sign the code take it seriously, and that has had a positive effect on litigation in the county."  Attorneys who sign the code get a star placed next to their photo in the association's membership guide, which Arriola said is a way of letting others know who's committed to the pledge. Seems lawyers might behave unprofessionally, but don't necessarily want to develop a reputation for it.

We'll keep you posted on this long overdue initiative. We hope other state bar associations across the country will take notice and initiate their own civility programs.

Read the full article here.

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