How can the State Bar enforce its new civility rules for lawyers when clients want ruthless sharks in the courtroom?

Objectifying or demeaning a member of the profession, especially when based on gender, race, sexual preference, gender identity, or other such characteristics, is uncivil and unacceptable.

(Briganti v. Chow (2019) 42 Cal.App.5th 504.)

The State Bar of California's Board of Trustees has taken a bold step toward improving the behavior of attorneys in the state. They have approved a series of measures recommended by the California Civility Task Force to promote a more ethical and respectful legal profession. The California Supreme Court will now review and consider these proposed changes.
A headline from 13 Nov. 1913 announces the execution of former lawyer James Finch for the murder of the lawyer who presented his disbarment.Photo bySDOC News/Tacoma Times, Nov. 11, 1913, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Restoring Public Trust

Many citizens negatively perceive lawyers due to frequent scandals and unethical behavior within the profession. Implementing measures to restore public trust and confidence in the legal system is essential. By doing so, we can hold attorneys accountable for their conduct and promote a culture of respect and professionalism.

Annual Affirmation of Civility Oath

Lawyers must annually affirm their commitment to a civility oath as part of their ethical obligations. This upholds their duty to maintain professional conduct and prevent systemic incivility in the legal profession. It sets a standard for lawyers to provide the best representation to their clients and contribute to a harmonious and effective legal system.

The legal profession also implements other measures to promote civility, such as continuing education requirements and mandatory reporting of unprofessional conduct. By actively preventing and addressing incivility, the legal profession ensures that justice is accessible to all.

Ultimately, the goal of these efforts is to establish a fair and reliable system of justice. By upholding a high standard of professionalism and ethical conduct, lawyers are better equipped to serve their clients and maintain the integrity of the legal system.

Read the full California Civility Task Force Report: Beyond the Oath: Reccommendations for Improving Civility below.

Changes to Existing Regulations

The measures that have been approved involve making alterations to the current oath. These changes aim to enhance the language and give more importance to civility in the legal field. This will remind lawyers to respectfully treat their clients, other parties, courts, and the public.

Making Incivility a Basis for Disciplinary Action

It is essential to highlight the importance of being civil, which is why specific measures have been put in place to make incivility a reason for disciplinary action. Attorneys who behave in an unprofessional or uncivil manner may face consequences for their actions. This helps hold attorneys accountable and clearly conveys that incivility is unacceptable in the legal profession.

California Attorney Guidelines of Civility and Professionalism

The California Attorney Guidelines of Civility and Professionalism offer additional guidance for attorneys in addition to the proposed measures. These guidelines provide a framework for attorneys to follow and adopt as their personal standards. They emphasize the importance of treating clients courteously and respectfully, refraining from abusive behavior, and communicating professionally and respectfully.

The guidelines are essential for upholding the justice system's integrity in California and ensuring that attorneys behave ethically and professionally in their interactions with clients and colleagues. They also outline the importance of maintaining high professionalism in all legal practice areas and the critical principles mentioned in the content.

Critical aspects of the California Attorney Guidelines of Civility and Professionalism include maintaining a high level of competence and staying up-to-date with changes in the law and legal practice, avoiding conflicts of interest and maintaining confidentiality, promoting diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, and promoting the efficient and fair administration of justice.

By adhering to these guidelines, attorneys can help promote a culture of professionalism and civility in the legal profession and ensure that clients receive the best possible representation.

2 attorneys now face disbarment due to the massive misappropriation of more than $743,000

Watch the video below as lawyers sing for civility.

Contributing to a Harmonious Legal Practice

Lawyers in California can promote a more ethical and harmonious legal environment by adhering to the Attorney Guidelines of Civility and Professionalism. Upholding the highest standards of professionalism and treating everyone with respect benefits individuals and strengthens the justice system.

However, enforcing new civility rules for lawyers while clients expect aggressive representation presents a challenge for the State Bar. On the one hand, the State Bar is responsible for upholding professional standards and ensuring ethical guidelines are followed. On the other hand, clients often seek ruthless representation, believing it leads to better outcomes.

To address this issue, the State Bar must balance professionalism and meeting client expectations. Educating clients about the benefits of civil advocacy could be one approach. Research showing respectful and collaborative approaches lead to more favorable outcomes can help clients understand that being a "ruthless shark" may not always be practical.

The State Bar could also offer training and resources on alternative dispute resolution methods, negotiation techniques, and effective communication strategies to incentivize lawyers to embrace new civility rules. Equipping lawyers with these tools offers clients a range of options for resolving disputes beyond aggressive litigation.

Promoting a culture of civility and professionalism is vital to enforcing new civility rules. It requires changing the perception that being ruthlessly aggressive is synonymous with being an effective lawyer. By respecting expertise, integrity, and the ability to find creative solutions, the State Bar can address client concerns while upholding the legal profession's values.

Watch the video below that exposes a judge and her staff who "ridiculed people during hearings and trials by routinely emailing each other cruel and obscene statements, jokes, and memes."

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