When 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.•