Are Civility and Respect Gone from Our Profession? Can Young Lawyers Make a Difference?

If you have read my new book about and for millennial lawyers, you know how much emphasis I put on civility and respect in law practice.  I believe that it is at the core of what sets us aside as professionals, and we have a responsibility to protect it.

Sadly, we have seen a lot of civility and respect sacrificed on the altar of money and power in the last decades, and law practice has changed.  Those changes are critical to who we are as professionals and what society thinks of us.  They are also important to who we want to be as people.  How we want to live our lives.  What we want to think of ourselves.

As I wrote in What Millennial Lawyers Want:  A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2018), I see a pathway back to the days of greater civility and respect, and young lawyers have a critical role in achieving that goal.  It was a bit of an epiphany when I discovered that the values of millennial lawyers are a mirror image of the values of Greatest Generation lawyers of mid 20th century America, who were my role models.  And it gave me hope.  It is why I wrote the book, and it is what I spend a lot of time explaining to law firm leaders and other audiences.  It is hard to disregard the teachings of the Greatest Generation.

Take a look at this post on Above the Law for more on this subject.  Hopefully you will remember the anecdotes shared there and delete the behaviors described from your lawyer repertoire.  It is not necessary.  It is not civil.  It is not respectful.  And it does not dignify you.

That post made me think about a conversation I had with my Dad, a Greatest Generation lawyer, when I was in my first years of litigation practice.  I described to him my difficulty in scheduling a deposition because opposing counsel was being so uncooperative.  My Dad was dumbstruck.  His questions were so fundamental.  Why should that be a problem?  Can’t you just agree on a day and get a court reporter there?  Are you sure there is not some misunderstanding?

Nope, Dad.  No misunderstanding.  Now everything is a power struggle.  And we don’t go to lunch together afterward either.

Push back has become a major league sport in the law.  Yelling, too.  And, as pointed out by the writer in the ATL post, it rarely changes the outcome.

What it changes is us.  It makes us less human.  It makes us less professional.  And it makes us less likely to respect ourselves.


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