Abrams: Professionalism and Civility

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jeff abrams ibaThis past week made two marks on my personal challenge to promote and encourage professionalism and civility. On Tuesday, the IndyBar honored Justice Brent Dickson and Philip “Skip” Kappes with the Silver Gavel Award and 2014 Professionalism Award. These two individuals demonstrate the epitome of class, civility and professionalism in our world. Justice Dickson had a remarkable career in Lafayette prior to ascending to the Supreme Court. He led our Supreme Court for several years with distinction. Skip Kappes, at the young age of 92, still provides leadership and counsel to the young attorneys at Lewis & Kappes while being known as one of the best and kindest attorneys in our community.

Our Professionalism Committee, chaired by Tricia McMath, did a superlative job in recognizing these two individuals for service to our community and to our profession. If you see Tricia or any of her committee members (listed below), please thank them for their tireless efforts in promoting professionalism and civility in our community in recognizing these two pioneers of remarkable vintage.

2014 IndyBar Standing Committee on Professionalism


Patricia Caress McMath, Marion County Public Defender Agency

Committee Members:

Kellie M. Barr, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana

Marie D. Castetter, Foley & Abbott

Justice Steven H. David, Indiana Supreme Court

Erin M. Durnell, Broyles Kight & Ricafort PC

Courtney S. Figg, Eads Murray &Pugh PC

Laura E. Gorman, Barnes & Thornburg LLP

Hon. Clayton A. Graham, Marion Superior Court

Susanne A. Heckler, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana

Daniel W. Kiehl, Law Office of Deborah M. Agard

Amanda J. Miller, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

MaryAnn Totino Mindrum, U.S. Attorney’s Office

Kevin A. Morrissey, Lewis & Kappes PC

Magistrate Victoria M. Ransberger, Marion Superior Court

Charles P. Schmal, Woodard Emhardt Moriarty McNett & Henry LLP

Fenton D. Strickland, Indiana Supreme Court

James H. Voyles Jr., Voyles Zahn & Paul

Hon. Heather A. Welch, Marion Superior Court

Brian K. Zoeller, Cohen & Malad LLP

Beginning Friday night and continuing until sundown on Saturday, I spent time in our Temple at Yom Kippur Services where we repented for transgressions against God as well transgressions against each other. I spent several hours contemplating how I can personally continue to improve how I treat people and conduct my life. All of us have times where we regretted sending that email or speaking those words. But we are human and make mistakes. We can, however, strive to improve our legal community by making wise choices and respecting the people with whom we work.

Ted Koppel once said, “Aspire to decency. Practice stability toward one another. Admire and emulate ethical behavior whenever you find it. Apply a ridged standard of morality to your life; and if, periodically, you fail as you surely will adjust your lives, not the standards.” And P.T. Barnum once said, “Politeness and civility are the best capital ever invested in business. Large doors, gilt signs, flaming advertisements, will all prove unavailing if you or your employees treat your patrons abruptly. The truth is, the more kind and liberal a man is, the more generous will be the patronage bestowed upon him.”

These two wise men said it quite well. And you always have the sage advice from the “Golden Rule” – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It is just as easy to speak kindly to the attorney on the other side of the court room or a deal as to be rude, abrasive and annoying.

Wake up every morning and remember to say something kind to at least one person throughout your day. You will be remembered for those kind words more than winning a case or extracting terms in a document. The choice is always yours and I would encourage you to strive to make the right one. The quality and success of your career will ALWAYS be enhanced if you follow these simple rules.•

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