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Bar Journal - June 1, 1999

Summary Report of the NHBA Professionalism Conclave
 

SUMMARY REPORT

Professionalism: pursuing a learned art as a common calling in the spirit of public service.

- Dean Roscoe Pound

Profession: (Latin) to make a public declaration. . . a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive preparation.

- Webster

On Saturday, November 7, 1998 President Randall F. Cooper brought together over eighty members of the New Hampshire Bar - lawyers and judges alike - in an all-day conclave at the Franklin Pierce Law Center to talk about the meaning of professionalism within the legal profession. Participants were asked to define professionalism, name impediments to its manifestation, and identify ways to enhance it in a series of small group discussions. Dialogue occurred among group members in a series of plenary sessions. This report attempts to synthesize the dozens of ideas generated in those discussion groups and plenary sessions. Please note: these are offered for further dialogue, not as "the correct and only answers" to the conclave's questions.

Attorney William L. Chapman, chair of the planning committee for this event, opened the Conclave. Justice John T. Broderick, Jr. set the tone with opening remarks about the need for and importance of this collaborative work. Randy Benthien of Benthien Associates served as overall facilitator for the day and wrote this report.

OUR GROUND RULES FOR HEALTHY DIALOGUE

The ground rules that guided our dialogue at the Conclave may prove useful in future Bar meetings:

  • Respect & Equality. We will treat one another with respect. We will minimize hierarchical differences and see each other as fellow members of the legal profession.
  • Candor & Passion. We will speak with candor, passion and honesty.
  • Full Participation. We will all participate, sharing our thoughts and listening to those of others.
  • Open-mindedness. We will keep open minds as we listen to one another's perspective and be tolerant of differing points of view.
  • Safety. We are committed to creating a safe environment in which all ideas are welcome.
  • Focus & Pragmatism. We will stay focused and be realistic in our thinking.
  • Sense of Humor. We will try to have fun and bring a sense of humor to our work together.
  • Dialogue. We will engage in dialogue, not debate.

WHAT IS PROFESSIONALISM?

Participants at the Conclave defined professionalism by describing dozens of traits and behaviors. Using the specific characteristics that were named in the discussion groups, the author of this report has grouped them into twelve thematic categories. Conclave participants suggest that lawyers who truly embody professionalism exhibit - or strive to exhibit - these qualities as defined by the bullet phrases that follow below.

  1. Justice-centered
  2. Steward of the legal profession and system of justice
  3. Personal integrity and accountability
  4. Not money-driven
  5. Respectfulness and civility
  6. Competence
  7. Good judgment
  8. Passion and objectivity
  9. Client-focused
  10. Solution-oriented
  11. Broad, compassionate worldview
  12. Community service

1. Justice-centered

  • loves justice and the law
  • in pursuing justice and upholding the rule of law, may have to do things the public doesn't like
  • embraces the profession as a higher calling.

2. Steward of the legal profession and system of justice

  • promotes the integrity of the legal profession
  • works to further the institution of the system of justice
  • is an officer of the court and an integral part of the administration of justice
  • has a fiduciary responsibility to the justice system
  • works to improve and strengthen the profession through mentoring and other activities
  • tempers zealousness on behalf of one's clients with one's role and responsibilities as an officer of the court
  • is committed to having the system of justice work as intended for everyone. . . . exercises a responsibility for those who cannot afford legal services
  • knows that in pursuing justice the law may appear imperfect to the public.

3. Personal integrity & accountability

  • first and foremost is honest and forthright, for one's word and integrity must be relied upon at all times
  • embodies decency, patience and humility
  • recognizes one's own weaknesses and fallibility
  • nothing - nothing - could ever justify lying or hiding documents
  • is self-disciplined, self-regulating and strives to be a moral compass
  • willingly accepts responsibility for his or her actions, decisions, counsel
  • would not take unfair advantage.

4. Not money-driven

  • sees the practice of law first and foremost as a profession, secondarily as a business... when conflict between the two arise, the "profession" wins out over the "business"
  • makes legal decisions irrespective of the monetary consequence (e.g., generating fees, billable hours, becoming wealthy)
  • resists business pressures that could keep one from doing a good job as a lawyer.

5. Respectfulness and civility

  • is courteous
  • listens and communicates well
  • acts with civility toward all (but being civil does not
  • acts respectfully toward clients, judges, court staff, opposing counsel and parties - everyone
  • would not humiliate opposing counsel
  • participates civilly in the process of conflict resolution.

6. Competence

  • is learned in the law
  • possesses knowledge, skill, expertise and a quiet self-confidence.

7. Passion and objectivity

  • cares deeply about the law, one's clients and their needs
  • has compassion for all parties, and considers the problems and points of views of all involved in the process
  • remains objective about the issues.

8. Good judgment

  • upholds the fundamental purposes of the legal system
  • exercises common sense
  • keeps the big picture in mind at all times
  • picks one's battles thoughtfully
  • is not arrogant or paternalistic.

9. Client-focused

  • is committed to the needs of one's client and to the court of law - transcending one's own, personal interests - to such an extent that the client experiences that commitment
  • represents one's clients with skill and knowledge and the appropriate passion, intensity, perseverance and timeliness
  • offers one's clients thoughtful legal and practical counsel
  • takes an active role in controlling one's client when appropriate.

10. Solution-oriented

  • looks to solve problems and find solutions, rather than just "winning."

11. Broad, compassionate world view

  • understands differing view points and has empathy for others
  • goes beyond mere legalistic analyses
  • has compassion for all... considers the problems of all parties in the process.

12. Community service

  • serves one's community as a lawyer, an advocate, a volunteer leader.

WHAT ARE THE IMPEDIMENTS TO PROFESSIONALISM?

The Conclave participants saw many impediments to professionalism. As with the qualities of professionalism, it may be helpful to think of these impediments grouped into thematic categories:

  1. Expectations of clients that compete with those of the legal profession and system of justice
  2. Market pressures and business practices
  3. Time constraints and personal expectations
  4. Personal practices of individual lawyers
  5. Practices within the legal profession
  6. Judicial practices and court phenomena
  7. Societal perceptions about the law and the legal profession

1. Expectations of clients that compete with those of the legal profession and system of justice

  • pressures from clients on their attorneys to meet the needs of the clients even when in opposition to the principles or standards of the legal system;
  • expectations that one's attorney will exercise aggressive, hardball tactics on the client's behalf;
  • some clients choose a lawyer specifically for their unprofessional behavior;
  • client expectations that "justice" equals positive end results for them - and that this definition of justice should be shared - and thus pursued - by the client's lawyer.

2. Market pressures and business practices

  • monetary pressures on the profession to function as a business;
  • the economics of running a practice (e.g., the increased cost of technology, burdens of overhead and debt in law firms);
  • the law school/law practice debt load on individual lawyers;
  • clients cannot afford all the lawyering they need;
  • problems and conflicts in hourly-based billing;
  • being edged out of certain areas of work that can be performed more cheaply by others, (e.g., paralegals);
  • the fear of losing clients;
  • out-of-state counsel as competitors;
  • the need to learn how best to deal with people in crisis;
  • trend of in-house counsel reduces the amount of corporate work;
  • functioning as fungible commodities who are underbidding one another;
  • pressures for billable hours reduce firms' commitments to the community;
  • advertising has harmed the profession and public perceptions;
  • fear of malpractice suits and negative PCC reports...
  • defensive lawyering;
  • third parties calling the shots (e.g., insurance companies won't pay for two lawyers on a case, making it more difficult for firms to train less-experienced lawyers);
  • insurance companies speak derisively of personal injury lawyers;
  • various monetary pressures create more specialization within the profession... specialization impedes having a big picture perspective and common sense judgment.

3. Time constraints and personal expectations

  • increased time pressures (e.g., technology engenders an expectation for immediate responses, causing a lack of time to reflect);
  • lack of time (and money) to mentor and train newer, less experienced lawyers (including the long-honored practice of "bagging" by more junior lawyers for more senior ones).
  • attempts to balance one's personal and professional lives;
  • family/parenting pressures to spend adequate time at home, but also prepare properly for one's clients, and also earn a certain level of salary;
  • the attempt on the part of some within the profession to "have it all... now." becoming a lawyer with an expectation of making big money;
  • young lawyers "wanting it all" without being willing to pay the dues, put in the time;
  • type of people choosing the law as a profession are much less idealistic and driven more by money.

4. Personal practices of individual lawyers

  • poor communication;
  • taking cases too personally;
  • lack of preparation and competence - which leads to some of the judicial abruptness in court;
  • fear and ignorance of young lawyers;
  • lack of accountability;
  • disrespectful or ignorant behavior by some lawyers ("bottom feeders") or pro se parties
  • the dishonesty of some lawyers.

5. Practices within the profession

  • a lack of clarity about the goals and commitment to the principles of the legal profession... (Are they truth and justice, or... ?)... obfuscation as a legitimized goal (versus searching for the truth);
  • our failure to recognize and acknowledge our own unprofessional behavior when it occurs;
  • path of least resistance is to allow the client to lead - and not confront unacceptable client expectations or behavior;
  • lack of participation in Bar activities by newer lawyers - and many others;
  • lack of informal relationships or familiarity with other lawyers;
  • lack of opportunities for building collegiality;
  • lack of a sense of community among members of the Bar;
  • lack of mentoring of newer lawyers;
  • associates abused (e.g., overworked, underpaid) by some firms;
  • absence of a place and means of offering assistance re: professionalism to members of the Bar;
  • the bureaucratization of the law;
  • the number of lawyers, in general, and the size of the New Hampshire Bar;
  • the accessibility to legal education and ease of opening a law office contributes to the overabundance of lawyers;
  • negative attitudes within the profession about the practice of law;
  • tolerance within the legal system for abuses (e.g., bad behavior);
  • sense of loneliness and isolation, especially with younger lawyers and sole practitioners;
  • lawyers taking on cases they shouldn't (e.g., due to inexperience);
  • adversarial nature of the legal system may also have an impact. . . . the role of lawyer-as-advocate conflicts at times with the role of lawyer-as-officer of the court;
  • growing disaffection by many within the profession toward the practice of law.

6. Judicial practices and court phenomena

  • judges are under the microscope and are being excessively criticized by the media and the public;
  • increased rigidity by the courts, plus a greater focus on rules, procedures, and scheduling obstacles... a strict, inflexible application of rules, frustrates the search for justice, and makes the courts non user-friendly, if not fortresses with a hostile attitude (e.g., we lawyers have to go through courthouse security everyday as if we were strangers to the court);
  • current tensions between judges and lawyers: a polarized Bench and Bar
  • a disconnect between judges and lawyers: a lack of access to or personal relationships with judges;
  • the rules and formalities that inhibit appropriate types of informal contact between the lawyer, judges and court staff;
  • costs of complying with all the rules;
  • the absence of lawyer lounges in court houses today;
  • conducting pre-trials in open court;
  • court's drive for case management interferes with individual cases (e.g., seeming to place emphasis on efficiency over quality);
  • double standards for pro se litigants as compared to those meted out for lawyers (e.g., pro se litigants get continuances that a lawyer never would receive);
  • procedures designed to make courts "user-friendly" for pro se litigants impose additional bureaucratic burdens on lawyers;
  • reluctance on the part of judges to comment on the bad behavior of lawyers (perhaps largely in an attempt to remain and appear neutral);
  • failure of the judiciary to issue sanctions when such sanctions are deserved;
  • an accumulation of many small offenses which do not individually warrant sanction;
  • failure of opposing counsel to act against inappropriate behavior by the other attorney (e.g., motions, reporting the behavior);
  • court scheduling (in which one spends all day in court waiting for what amounts to being a one-hour hearing) both impedes professionalism and raises the cost of representation;
  • fewer lawyers recommending to clients that a case needs to go to district court.

7. Societal perceptions about the law and the legal profession

  • undeserved broad-brush negative reputation for lawyers as an entire profession... the diminished standing of lawyers within the community/society;
  • lawyers and their clients define professionalism differently - and have often very different expectations about reasonable outcomes and the lawyer's role;
  • the public does not have a realistic perception or expectation of what the law can or should do... some in the public have the perception that lawyers are not helpful, that they do not add value (this perception affects the self concept and feelings of self worth of some lawyers)... some feel lawyers get in the way... the pro se movement may be contributing to the public's perception that lawyers' services are of minimal value - and that they can do it themselves better;
  • unreasonable TV/media-created expectations about lawyers and the legal system (e.g., the media focuses on unrepresentative cases that create unrealistic expectations on the part of the public... the OJ Simpson case conveyed to many the message that money wins and justice does not prevail);
  • TV law dramas are mixed in their portrayal of lawyers... some are clearly not helpful or realistic (e.g., "Ally McBeal") and are a far cry from "The Defenders" in educating/inspiring about lawyers;
  • the efforts by the profession to be very accessible to and compassionate toward the public may have caused the value of the lawyer to be diminished in the eyes of the public;
  • a diminished sense of personal responsibility existing, in general, within our society... a "grab it" mentality of entitlement for being wronged... many people look to the courts as the avenue for getting what they want and for making decisions for them.

WHAT INITIATIVES COULD WE UNDERTAKE TO PROMOTE AND ENHANCE PROFESSIONALISM?

Here are the ideas and suggestions for enhancing professionalism that emerged from the Conclave. They are gathered into seven categories or groups with the legal system, with actions each might choose to undertake:

  1. All within the legal/judicial system
  2. Individual lawyers
  3. The Courts
  4. The Bar Association
  5. Local Bar Associations
  6. Law Firms
  7. Law Schools

What do you think? Which ones could you implement? How might you move this effort forward?

All in the Legal/Judicial System

  1. Act respectfully toward everyone.
  2. Engage in cordial greetings. Show courtesy.
  3. Acknowledge and praise the good work/behavior - professionalism - of others whenever possible.
  4. Observe the Golden Rule: for clients, counsel, opposing counsel, judges, court staff, etc. Ask the other side first for understanding, if you make a mistake or missed a deadline. Be reasonable when asked to be compassionate and flexible with respect to the mistakes of others. Don't take unreasonable advantage of the situation. Educate newer practitioners that this is the way to go.
  5. Judges and lawyers overtly discuss professionalism at all possible opportunities.
  6. Reach out to others informally and personally to get involved in Bar activities.
  7. Increase phone and face-to-face contact to enhance relationships rather than just faxes or emails.
  8. Develop informal peer pressure mechanisms. Find informal, timely ways to "call" people on problems, bad behavior, etc.
    • approach used would vary with the person involved;
    • may involve a call to senior partner in the firm;
    • develop safe, clear and available routes for giving feedback to judges and, ideally, to Chief Justice of each court system;
    • form your own small feedback group with colleagues;
    • praise good work early and often;
    • judges use frequent bench conferences with counsel.

  9. Take away all incentives and rewards for unprofessional conduct. Make it clear that unprofessional behavior will not be tolerated. (This is preferred over formalized sanctions for misbehavior.)
  10. Lawyers and judges alike engage in mentoring.
  11. Consider some form of mandatory mentoring.
  12. Look into a funded system of ADR with exemptions to those who cannot afford it.
  13. Recognize that advertising can be used as an educational tool for providing information about the roles and responsibilities of lawyers.
  14. Scrutinize the underwriting of public legal costs by lawyers. Is it in the best interests of lawyers to underwrite such costs? Are we harming ourselves? Does the system work? Could it be improved?
  15. Retain a sense of humor!

Individual Lawyers

  1. View one's own conduct objectively. Pay attention to it, then be sure to behave professionally. Control one's own unprofessional, uncivil behavior.
  2. Be less defensive with one another about our own behavior. Be willing to hear and accept criticism. Be willing to apologize when wrong.
  3. Exercise more restraint in criticizing judges and fellow lawyers.
  4. Encourage other lawyers not to take the low road.
  5. Bring offensive behavior to the attention of the other individual in private and off the record.
  6. Be tough but fair. Posture within bounds. No digs. No slamming. No personal attacks.
  7. Consider whether or not there needs to be different standards of professionalism for criminal defense.
  8. When you lose a case, lose gracefully.
  9. Lawyers in court should accept the rulings on objections and move on: If you lose, "Shut up and give it up."
  10. Work to lower financial expectations of colleagues and law students.
  11. Are you, yourself, willing to accept less money in exchange for a better quality of life and more reflective time?
  12. Slow down! Don't let technology rule. Think before you act!
  13. Slow down your clients. Insert more thought and reflection.
  14. Mentor by example - even to your opponents.
  15. Show both your enthusiasm and your carefulness.

The Courts

  1. Judges: please continue your involvement in programs such as these.
  2. Lawyers and judges find ways to get together informally (e.g., Inns of Court).
  3. Hold brown bag lunches at courthouses with lawyers and judges. Announce topics for the day, such as criminal law, civil law, domestic law, etc. and invite discussion/gripes on the hot topic. Hold these monthly or at least quarterly.
  4. Encourage the development of a process for informal communication between lawyers and the courts to air concerns regarding professionalism on both sides (e.g., county bar, Bench/Bar committee).
  5. There have been changes in recent years regarding judges' treatment of lawyers; it should return to relationships of mutual respect.
  6. Judges should convey their judgments by using their own example of professionalism.
  7. Enhance training for judges in applying consistent standards as it relates to positive reinforcement, negative sanctions and not rewarding unprofessional conduct.
  8. Judges should find opportunities to offer legitimate praise of the practicing lawyers in open court. (Except for rare exceptions, don't criticize in open court.) The parties (and the public in court) need to hear - when it applies - "This was a well-tried case."
  9. Set clear and consistent boundaries of acceptable behavior (e.g., dress, conduct, respect for the judge, etc.). Communicate clearly that bad conduct will neither be tolerated nor rewarded. Take control early on in the case to ensure professional behavior - or to curtail unprofessionalism. Enforce appropriate behavior in all - including pro se litigants.
  10. For the Supreme Court: Be mindful of professionalism issues in the court building plans (e.g., lawyers' lounges).
  11. Institute an ID system for attorneys rather than having to search them. Alternatively, if searches of lawyers continue, have equal treatment for all: the public, defendants, lawyers, prosecutors, judges, etc.
  12. Consider eliminating part time judges litigating in other courts.
  13. Do better scheduling for the courts. Replace unnecessary hearings with mail process wherever possible.
  14. Review rules and retain the absolutely necessary ones. Eliminate those that really are not needed.
  15. Exercise better time management in court hearings. Limit them to the time scheduled.
  16. Give clear and prompt rulings.
  17. Make better use of case management conferences with "meet and confer" rules.
  18. Create court advisory committees made up of lawyers to call attention to problems.
  19. Reexamine the effectiveness of the pro se rules; ensure that they are fair, equitable and do not harm the system. They should not breach formality standards.
  20. Don't allow the law to be "dumbed down." In fact, through teaching and counsel in the courts, judges should help "raise the bar."
  21. Judges should instruct court staff to assist counsel.
  22. Identify an officer of the court to perform screening process.
  23. Use the family court system as the lowest common denominator for conveying the shared values and principles of professionalism.
  24. Change the Bar admission requirements and process to improve lawyer competence and professionalism. (E.g., Link Bar admission to formal internship/clerkship. The Bar Association, as well as the law school would play a role in this, too.)

The New Hampshire Bar Association

  1. Have programs like this conclave on professionalism in the orientation of new lawyers.
  2. Create a "professionalism" corner or column in the Bar News. Highlight good deeds, professional behaviors, etc.
  3. Hold more conclaves.
  4. Hold more informal and less costly local gatherings as a way to involve more lawyers/judges. (Expand low cost, low alcohol socializing.)
  5. Offer member discounts for bringing more people into sections.
  6. Help reinvigorate local and county bar meetings.
  7. Include a time on all CLE agendas for people at their tables to introduce themselves and socialize.
  8. Likewise, include time at all CLEs and most other Bar gatherings for talking about professionalism in a meaningful way.
  9. Develop programs to assist new lawyers in better managing their debt while pursuing a career. (Something akin to AmeriCorps?)
  10. Improve the Nuts and Bolts and the Practical Skills programs to offer more options for training.
  11. See that "professionalism" gets defined - and widely discussed and embraced. Articulate, promote and reward professionalism.
  12. Create an office of professionalism; hire someone to instruct the Bar on infusing professionalism throughout the membership.
  13. Develop new training programs focused on professionalism for "problem lawyers."
  14. Work with Franklin Pierce and other law schools to encourage skill-based training and professionalism and better communication.
  15. Develop a young/new lawyer mentoring system. Mid-life lawyers take the lead in doing this.
  16. Think of mentoring like the ongoing role of parenting.
  17. Promote bar committees and activities as a route to building collegiality and involvement. (Note: personal contact invitations are much more effective than form letters.)
  18. Find ways to educate that portion of the Bar that does not participate.
  19. Do more frequent public education, including regarding reasonable client expectations, the value of lawyers, what lawyers do, etc. Promote the profession to the public.
  20. Have more public education activities like Law Day - but more frequently throughout the year.
  21. Oppose mandatory night court sessions.
  22. Study pro se litigation to identify ways to serve litigants better, while helping lawyers deal with the economics of it.
  23. Request that the Court change its prohibition on "pure" referral fees.
  24. Ask the Supreme Court to give CLE credit for Bar Association activities, including more programs on professionalism.
  25. Encourage the Supreme Court to initiate a study that could lead to the approval of specialty designations.

Local Bar Associations

  1. Encourage and convene more local bar meetings.
  2. Revitalize local and county bars, including access and publicity.

Law Firms

  1. Law firm cultures and structures need to support and reward training time, "bagging," socializing, Bar activities.
  2. Law Schools

  3. Make sure professionalism is a significant part of the law school curriculum from start to finish.
  4. Encourage Bar Association and community involvement as part of the expected role and behavior of a good lawyer.
  5. Regularly convene informal brown bag gatherings to discuss professionalism and other important legal topics with members of the legal community.
  6. Educate law school applicants and students about the realities of the practice of law - including the economics.
  7. Look into helpful curriculum changes. E.g., get students into actual law practices. Expose them to practical skills, challenges, billing issues, matters of professionalism, etc.

CLOSING REMARKS BY PRESIDENT RANDALL COOPER

It was apparent from our discussions that our efforts cannot end today, but must begin today. Before we leave, however, the efforts of some of us must be recognized: Bill Chapman, and his committee - Richard Uchida, Betsy Cazden, Chuck Doleac, Debbie Cooper, Jim Duggan, Jim Muirhead and Carol Ann Conboy, I cannot thank these individuals enough, and would appreciate you joining me in an ovation.

As well, Jeannine McCoy, Executive Director of NHBA, Denice DeStefano, her assistant, Melissa Childs, executive department secretary, and Angie Sepela, the voice you hear when you call the NHBA. We ask them to do too much, and here they are on a Saturday, providing us the necessary support for our efforts. Please join me in thanking them.

Lastly I want to thank you.

I believe it was extremely important, both in the context of today's discussions and through the questionnaires, to have identified initiatives to enhance professionalism to be undertaken by the courts, the bar association and the law school. To the extent that I can help implement any of these, I will. For instance, it is my intent to petition the NH Supreme Court to immediately direct the NHBA to create a standing committee on professionalism, which will include representatives from the courts, the law school, the organized bar, not only to serve as a central clearinghouse for all efforts to promote professionalism, but as well, to make recommendations for those institutional changes that may be necessary. While the Board of Governors, or even I as President could appoint a special committee or task force, I believe one of the recommendations of this conclave, is the necessity of court involvement and support in our efforts. Furthermore, no one is more fitting to be the first chairperson of that standing committee than Bill Chapman.

But the thrust of my concluding remarks addresses the paramount role of the individual lawyer, the individual judge, and the law firm. The United States Navy and United States Marine Corp. in light of Tailhook and other incidents have undertaken an introspective identification and rejuvenation of their core values of honor, courage, and commitment. Similarly, they have struggled with the individual meaning or definition that each person places on those words. For instance, if you were to ask who was the most powerful person in Czarist Russia, there are two good answers, Czar Nicholas the 2nd, and the person who last spoke to him.

When addressing core values, the only lasting solution is that each individual lawyer must wear his or her values as a seamless garment, which cannot be taken off at will. If the leaders of our profession, the judges, the senior partners, and professors send signals to those who are learning that certain behaviors are no big deal, then the seamless garment hits the rag pile. The Marine Corps and Coast Guard have mottoes of Semper Fidelis (always faithful) and Semper Paratus (always prepared). Fidelis and Paratis are a function of honor. If not a seamless garment, not a continuous effort, then those mottoes should be Saepe Fidelis, and Saepe Paratus (usually faithful, and usually prepared). We as lawyers must wear our honor as a seamless garment at all times, but we have two things to help us.

First, we have our oath. I attended swearing in of our new lawyers. The most stirring part of the ceremony, occurred after the standard oath to uphold the Constitution, when the Clerk asked all members of the NHBA to stand, the five justices stand, and then the attorney's oath is given. How many of us remember that oath? At this year's annual meeting on Jan. 21st, as a part of our business meeting I will ask the Clerk of Court to give us that oath again. Can you imagine anything more meaningful to the public, the clients, the witnesses, and the court personnel, if the lawyers and judges, in open court and at the beginning of each day, reaffirmed that oath?

Second, I would also suggest a mantra. In the early 1970's the U.S. Navy had a drug problem. The Chief of Naval Operations created a mantra of "not on my watch, not on my ship, not in my navy," which personalized the anti-drug commitment for each sailor. It worked.

The mantra for our efforts - a take-off that of Alcoholics Anonymous - "One Day at a Time" - should be "One Lawyer at a Time."

Seeking to implement professionalism by threats, while time honored and easy, is less effective then peer pressure and leadership by example.

Bill Chapman makes an analogy regarding the powerful osmosis of example to the sport of tennis, while I have observed it in the game of golf. If we play with someone who is better than we are, we not only have to elevate our play, we actually do. Sometimes a good swing just rubs off.

We need, starting today, to elevate our play, so by our example - on a day-by-day basis, we convert and rejuvenate professionalism "one lawyer at a time." So I am going to ask you to make a commitment, not to me, but to yourselves. You are being handed out slips of paper. Please take a few minutes to join me in anonymity to write down your personal commitment on how you will change what you now do to help (by example and leadership), to elevate your play and start our process - "one lawyer at a time."

PERSONAL COMMITMENTS FROM CONCLAVE PARTICIPANTS TO FURTHER PROFESSIONALISM

  1. Review with my partner what has been discussed today at the Conclave.
  2. Spend more time mentoring young lawyers in my firm on professionalism issues.
  3. Develop ongoing professionalism programs with the CLE Committee.
  4. Work to improve communication between FPLC and the NHBA.
  5. I will continue to participate in programs as a teacher and a leader.
  6. Seek to elevate my own professionalism; inspire others to do likewise.
  7. Practice civility and open communication with other counsel.
  8. Complete projects by or even before the date when I've told someone I'll deliver it to them (i.e., keeping my promises).
  9. Check on Monadnock Bar to get it going again and have a program on professionalism.
  10. Control my temper, meet my deadlines, return telephone calls.
  11. Take more time to think about the big picture.
  12. I will be more proactive in recognizing and acknowledging lawyers who act towards others and me with professionalism; I will also admonish those lawyers who act without professional values.
  13. Provide respectful, competent service to clients in a respectful, honest, forthright fashion before the courts of our state.
  14. Take responsibility for encouraging professionalism among the new lawyers in my office and not let unprofessional conduct go unnoticed.
  15. Work to reduce expectations of peers.
  16. Be more patient with the lawyers and litigants who appear before me: professionalism takes time.
  17. I will invite as many new lawyers in my area as possible to lunch on an individual basis to do informal mentoring.
  18. Although I try to compliment counsel when they have performed particularly well (professionally), I shall in the future be patient in explaining the ramifications of unprofessional behavior, informally and in chambers.
  19. I would like to join the committee on professionalism and contribute to its further efforts, and also work with my Bar Association on this.
  20. Praise lawyers for acting professionally in open court.
  21. Offer more effective supervision of young lawyers in court.
  22. Model professional behavior in my dealings with other attorneys.
  23. Review the learnings of this conclave with office staff and others.
  24. Get to know younger lawyers and expand my communications with them.
  25. I will commit myself to speak more positively about my job, my profession and others within it.
  26. I will be gracious everyday.
  27. Before acting or responding to a situation, stop to think first: is what I'm about to do best for me and everyone whom it will affect? If the answer is yes, proceed. If not, reevaluate.
  28. Compliment opposing counsel on a job well done.
  29. Apply heightened attention to the core values that exemplify what it means to be a professional and to act with professionalism.
  30. I will stop speaking in disparaging terms of other lawyers and work harder to promote, by my example, the core values of professionalism.
  31. Take more time to mentor with less experienced lawyers on a regular basis.
  32. I will take the time every time I see a lack of professionalism in my courtroom to bring it to the attention of the attorney, in chambers, in a non-embarrassing and hopefully constructive way.
  33. I promise to take what I've learned today and incorporate it into every aspect of my life.
  34. Identify unprofessional conduct, have dialogue with anyone identified as so acting, both in and out of the firm.
  35. I will read the NH litigation guidelines each year. I will try to be more careful to avoid needless confrontation in litigation.
  36. I will make continuous effort to meet all discovery deadlines.
  37. I will encourage/require attorneys to work with each other on this issue at local and state bar levels.
  38. I will learn what my client wants. I will tell him/her if it is possible. I will encourage discussion with clients as to whether it is desirable. I will always remember that lawyers are society's agents to affect the just, peaceful resolution of disputes in a way that society perceives it as well.
  39. I will try to be more aware of my clients as people rather than cases, opposing counsel as fellow professionals rather than the opposition and judges as lawyers who know a governor.
  40. I will more actively mentor younger lawyers on specialty areas.
  41. I will address professionalism issues in departmental meetings at the firm.
  42. I will avoid addressing difficult issues between counsel in writing; instead pick up the phone to encourage a useful discussion designed to solve the conflict.
  43. I will extend praise to others when I recognize acts of professionalism.
  44. I will be more considerate and respectful of opposing counsel.
  45. I will reach out to one different lawyer each day: compliment on a professional and or competent job; mentor younger lawyers; invite new lawyers to lunch; seek out new faces at Bar meetings.
  46. I will be interactive and vocal in intervening with unprofessional attorneys.
  47. I will focus on professionalism.
  48. I will become more involved in mentoring associates, junior partners and junior bar members. I will look for ways to build better relationships with bar members; look up the oath and read it; keep a copy of litigation guidelines handy and refer to them.
  49. I will help out a lawyer when needed. I will ask for advice when I need to.
  50. I will generally be more attentive to professionalism issues on a daily basis.
  51. I will tell fellow attorneys when their actions embody professionalism (or lack it - with a reason).
  52. I will participate in the process of conflict resolution with honesty, empathy and compassion. I will spread the word, one lawyer at a time.
  53. I will commit to finding a way to organize more local bar activities that bring in the area non-participants.
  54. I will keep in mind that the role model of a professional lawyer is the keeper of the client's conscience, not the client's hired gun.
  55. I am going to check myself daily to ensure that I treat everyone as I would want to be treated.
  56. I will model professionalism in all dealings with other lawyers and pleadings.
  57. I will make the effort to communicate more often verbally with opposing counsel as opposed to merely through fax, mail and e-mail.
  58. I can enter into dialogue with another lawyer, if I feel his or her behavior has not been civil or professional. Likewise, I can compliment a lawyer on behavior I observe that has been professional.
  59. I will strive to ensure that the fellow attorneys I deal with are always treated in the same way that I want to be treated myself.
  60. I will strive to increase my sensitivity to an attorney's position with his/her client: less direct debate or criticism of his/her position, more graciousness - even when I need to be firm. I will offer more praise for good work.
  61. I will be nonjudgmental of my colleagues. I will express more positive feedback and less negative.
  62. I will continue to offer materials and insights openly to all less-qualified attorneys in my area of concentration - freely and frequently so they can become more competent. I will continue to volunteer for NHBA activities to share a "transactional lawyer's" view to a litigator - dominated viewpoint.
  63. I will speak to others about these issues.
  64. I will call (a specifically named colleague) and attend the MC Bar meeting and NHBA sections.
  65. I can give foremost to colleagues when they do something professionally, and I can discuss with them when they fail to act in a professional manner.
  66. For hearings, meetings, negotiations and even important phone calls I use a checklist to make sure I cover all my points, ask all my questions, touch all my bases. At the end of the meeting I review it and evaluate how effective I was. In making the checklist and evaluating outcomes, I will add to the equation: How can I be more professional? How could I have been more professional?

 

 

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