by Wes Alost
On September 9, 2016, a significant event will take place in Dallas. Civility and Professionalism will be recognized in a collaborative effort by the Dallas Bar Association, the Dallas Chapter of American Board of Trial Advocates, the local American Inns of Court, and the Dallas federal and state judges. On September 9, Dallas attorneys are encouraged to reaffirm the Texas Lawyers’ Creed and rededicate themselves to the highest principles of civility in their practice. The day will be recognized and celebrated in every Dallas federal and state court. In addition, the DBA, the Dallas Chapter of ABOTA, and the local Inns of Court will jointly present a free half-day seminar at the Belo Mansion, 2101 Ross Avenue, from noon until 4:00 pm. Speakers will include a panel of Federal Judges including Chief Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn, a State Judges panel including the Hon. Jim Jordan, DBA President Jerry Alexander, Lewis Sifford, and former DBA Trial Lawyers of the Year Rod Phelan, Nina Cortell and Frank Branson, among several others. Four hours of ethics credit are being sought.
“Civility” is a term of art to judges, lawyers, and law students, but to our clients and the public it is nothing more than professional courtesy, respectful demeanor, or simply good manners. Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor observed that “[m]ore civility and greater professionalism can only enhance the pleasure lawyers find in practice, increase the effectiveness of our system of justice, and improve the public’s perception of lawyers.” Civility is a habit of practice and, like all good habits, must be exercised deliberately. The Day of Civility and Professionalism is an opportunity for each of us to rededicate ourselves to the highest standards of civility and professionalism. In this era of polarized political and social discourse, where intemperate words and acts have such profound effect, our justice system must continue to model effective conflict resolution. The deliberate practice of civility is one of the simplest, yet most effective, things we can do as professionals to fulfill that vital role in our community.
The Day of Civility and Professionalism continues a distinguished tradition of emphasis on professionalism and civility in the Dallas legal community. In 1987, the Dallas Bar Association’s Board of Directors adopted both a Lawyers’ Creed and Guidelines of Professional Courtesy, which memorialized principles of professional conduct “which we, our clients, and the public may rightfully expect.” The following year, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas adopted standards of practice in civil actions based upon the DBA’s Lawyers’ Creed and Guidelines of Professional Courtesy in the landmark en banc opinion, Dondi Properties Corp. v. Commerce Sav. and Loan Ass’n., 121 F.R.D. 284 (N.D. Tex. 1988). In the 28 years since, these principles have been echoed by civility codes such as ABOTA’s Code of Professionalism and Principles of Civility, Integrity, and Professionalism, along with numerous other courts and bar associations.
Michael K. Hurst, 2016 Chair of the DBA’s Morris Harrell Professionalism Committee and a Partner with Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst, captured the spirit of the Day of Civility: “As lawyers, we have chosen one of the most honorable, exciting and rewarding professions that have ever existed. The nobility of our job is not only in the battle for justice and for our clients’ causes, but in how we conduct ourselves in adversarial settings. By following the tenets of The Texas Lawyer’s Creed and Dondi, the practice of law is enjoyable and viewed by the public with the respect it commands. The DBA Professionalism Committee is proud to implement the ‘Day of Civility’ initiative and expects it to be a rung on the ladder that leads to universal professionalism in the legal community.” D. Patrick Long, current President of the Dallas Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates and Partner with Squire Patton Boggs, added: “The Dallas Chapter of the American Board of Trial Lawyers is extremely proud to be teaming with the Dallas Bar Association and the Inns of Court in sponsoring the inaugural Day of Civility. The great presentations scheduled for the Day of Civility will illuminate the point that civility is the usual hallmark of the best and most successful lawyers. This is an event that every lawyer, young or old, should make an effort to attend.”
Justice Elizabeth A. Lang-Miers, current President of The William Mac Taylor American Inn of Court and a Justice on the Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Texas at Dallas, provided a judicial perspective: “The Mac Taylor Inn of Court enthusiastically supports the Day of Civility and Professionalism…. Civil and professional conduct is not only the right way for lawyers to conduct themselves, but is also the hallmark of a successful legal career. We look forward to joining our colleagues for a great program and hope to see you there.” Similarly, Kim Askew, current President of The Patrick E. Higginbotham American Inn of Court and Partner with K&L Gates, added: “The Patrick E. Higginbotham Inn of Court is pleased to join our sister Inns and ABOTA in supporting the Day of Civility and Professionalism. Civility and professionalism are bedrock principles among lawyers, but incivility and unprofessionalism continue to be issues in the profession. The presentations being planned for the Day of Civility will provide an excellent forum for lawyers to be reminded of how civility and professionalism can be embraced so that they are the professional standard of every lawyer. Lawyers and judges who practice the highest standards of civility and professionalism will give guidance on how to maintain these principles in the tough and sometimes ethically challenging situations that we often face in the practice.”
The DBA, the Dallas Chapter of ABOTA, the local Inns of Court, and the Dallas federal and state judges enthusiastically welcome your participation in the Day of Professionalism and Civility on September 9, 2016. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said, “Civility is the mark of an accomplished and superb professional, but it is even more than this. It is an end in itself.”
Wes Alost is a partner at Jones Carr McGoldrick L.L.P. and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.