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IBA: A little professional humor

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As part of its ongoing efforts to promote professionalism, the Professionalism Committee of the Indianapolis Bar Association has borrowed from the format of a popular comedian to portray everyday scenarios that may illustrate situations in which lawyers may fall short of each of the committee’s five Standards of Professionalism. We hope that this presentation will remind IndyBar members of the standards, perhaps provide a little entertainment, and – to the extent any of the examples resonate with your own experience – help to maintain and promote our commitment to these standards.

Stated another way, you might be acting unprofessionally if …

I Commitment

We are committed to practicing law in a manner that maintains and fosters public confidence in our profession, faithfully serves our clients, and fulfills our responsibilities to the legal system.

Our commitment to fostering public confidence in our profession and fulfilling our responsibilities to the legal system requires us to avoid denigrating other lawyers, judges and the courts – the very people and institutions that comprise our profession and our legal system. Stated another way, you might be acting unprofessionally if, upon receiving an unfavorable ruling, you say things such as:

“The judge obviously did not read our papers or listen to us.”

“The judge took the easy way out.”

“The judge did not understand the issues.”

“The opposing counsel should not have … (however you may complete this sentence, the simple act of criticizing other lawyers often undermines public confidence in our profession).

II Character

We will strictly adhere to the spirit as well as the letter of the Rules of Professional Conduct and will at all times be guided by a fundamental sense of honor, integrity and fair play.

Our commitment to adhering to the Rules of Professional Conduct requires us to be familiar with those rules, and our commitment to a fundamental sense of honor, integrity and fair play requires us to view opposing counsel with respect. Stated another way, you might be acting unprofessionally if you:

Often find yourself having “no idea” of what the Rules of Professional Conduct actually provide with respect to a situation confronting you.

View the Rules of Professional Conduct as a hindrance to be grudgingly observed, rather than enthusiastically promoted.

III Competence

We will conduct ourselves to assure the just, economical and efficient resolution of every matter entrusted to us consistent with thoroughness and professional preparation.

Our commitment to the economical and efficient resolution of matters requires us to refrain from unnecessarily driving up litigation expenses or unnecessarily delaying resolution of disputes. Stated another way, you might be acting unprofessionally if you make statements such as:

“I don’t expect to win this motion but we should file it just to make them spend some money on the litigation.”

“I don’t expect to win this motion but we need to show the client that we are doing something.”

“I didn’t bother to review the file before the hearing because …”

IV Courtesy

We will at all times act with dignity, civility, decency and courtesy in all professional activities and refrain from rude, disruptive, obstructive and abusive behavior.

Our commitment to civility requires that we display no less courtesy in our professional lives than we do to friends, family or even complete strangers in our personal lives. Stated another way, you might be acting unprofessionally if:

You speak to opposing counsel in a manner that you would not use to speak to someone standing in front of you at a check-out line of a grocery store.

You describe an inability to reach agreement on an issue as a some type of character flaw on the part of opposing counsel, rather than “a disputed issue for the court to decide.”

You cannot recall the last time you apologized to opposing counsel, co-counsel, a client, or a court for anything at all.

You fail to alert opposing counsel before sending a harsh letter of the underlying problem that necessitates the harsh tone.

You tell the receptionist to “put it in voice mail” more often than you say “put it through.”

There are lawyers in town that avoid you.

There are lawyers in town that you avoid.

There are either (i) lawyers in town that avoid you; or (ii) lawyers in town that you avoid but (iii) you have not reached out to them to repair the relationship.

V Community Involvement

We recognize that the practice is a learned profession to be conducted with dignity, integrity and honor dedicated to the service of clients and public good.

Stated another way, you might be acting unprofessionally if:

All your pro bono cases turned out that way unexpectedly.

You believe that community involvement is a really good idea but leave it to someone else to handle.•

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