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California Bar Adopts Voluntary Lawyer Civility Guidelines for Lawyers

Boxing Last year, JD Bliss reported on an initiative in the California Bar to promote civility among lawyers. We promised to keep you posted on the initiative's progress, and we're happy to report that the State Bar of California has adopted a voluntary set of guidelines for lawyers to conduct themselves more civilly.

The attorney civility guidelines (PDF document) address eight areas of concern:

  • civility
  • professional integrity
  • personal dignity
  • candor
  • diligence
  • respect
  • courtesy
  • cooperation

The guidelines are divided into twenty one sections addressing civility in different contexts, including:

  • service of papers; 
  • scheduling, continuances and extensions of time;
  • communications with the court, opposing counsel, and other parties; 
  • discovery and motion practice; 
  • settlement negotiations;
  • alternative dispute resolution; 
  • conduct in court; 
  • social relationships with judges, neutrals, and court-appointed experts; and
  • special provisions for family law and criminal law practitioners.

While the California Bar's guidelines on civility technically apply only to California lawyers, they are designed to "foster a level of civility and professionalism that exceed the minimum requirements of the mandated Rules of Professional Conduct as the best practices of civility in the practice of law." As such, these guidelines are useful reminders for lawyers in any jurisdiction, to the extent that they do not conflict with that jurisdiction's mandatory ethics rules.  Moreover, in the Introduction to the guidelines, the California Bar observes that "civility in the practice of law promotes ... the enjoyment of the practice." Indeed, enjoyment of the practice of law is a cornerstone of a lawyer's career satisfaction.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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