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Hickey: It's No Joke.

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IBA-Hickey-ChristineWhen is the last time you heard a good lawyer joke? I am not always quick to the draw on jokes and often forget punch lines; however, there is one type of joke that always grabs my attention: those that degrade our profession. I don’t like them; I don’t tell them. There is no such thing as a good lawyer joke.

I have written often this year about our community of lawyers and what a difference we are making in so many ways. I have written about individuals and groups of lawyers and judges who are upstanding, professional, giving, and committed to the law, the judicial system, and the people it serves. The names of those who have been mentioned in columns are just a small example of the bigger, greater group of lawyers whose names could have replaced those listed. Those people are from all walks of our profession: private firm, public sector, non-practicing, part-time, partner, law student, legal assistant, and every category of law practice imaginable. It is an honor to be a part of this special group. To make jest of this profession, these people, is simply not funny.

As lawyers, we take an Oath of Attorneys, which includes the following affirmation: “I do solemnly swear or affirm that: . . I will not counsel or maintain any action, proceeding, or defense which shall appear to me to be unjust, but this obligation shall not prevent me from defending a person charged with crime in any case; . . I will abstain from offensive personality . . .; I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless, the oppressed or those who cannot afford adequate legal assistance; so help me God.” To take lightly or belittle this commitment is wrong.

The IndyBar Standards of Professionalism were created to foster continued respect and trust among lawyers and with the public. Those Standards include a commitment to maintaining and fostering public confidence in our profession; an agreement to be guided by “a fundamental sense of honor, integrity and fair play; and to act with dignity, civility, decency, and courtesy,” refraining from rude, disruptive, disrespectful, obstructive and abusive behavior. What we say about each other and about our chosen profession should be guided by these very principles.

Simply put: respect each other and the profession. Sometimes, the most important lessons are learned before we even realize their significance. So I share with you one of my favorites, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum:

Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.

There is something in this for everyone, no matter your age and no matter your stature. Play fair, live a balanced life, and always remember it is best to hold hands and stick together. That, my friends, is no joke.•

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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