It’s no secret that lawyers don’t enjoy the greatest reputation among the general public. It makes me sad, because most lawyers I know are good, kind, hardworking people who care about their clients, colleagues and reputations. Most lawyers want to play fair, and expect to be treated fairly.
A small but highly visible minority of lawyers, however, have given the public a jaundiced view of what lawyers are like. They treat others poorly, both in the courtroom and out, and more often then not, their lousy example leaves a lasting impression.
That’s why I’m proud of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association’s recent efforts to craft, adopt and publish eight core “Principles of Civility.” These principles were designed to promote courtesy and fair play among members of our profession, and I have heard that some local judges are circulating them among attorneys who appear in their courts.
Most of the principles are common sense measures, such as the admonition to “[h]onor promises and commitments made while engaged in the practice of law.” Others apply principles of civility to the advance of technology, such as the mandate that when circulating documents, one should ensure that all revisions, edits or changes are explicitly highlighted.
Common sense or not, sometimes we all need reminders – particularly when engaged in heated competition – that civility is important, that our opponents are colleagues, and most importantly, that the eyes of the public are upon us.