Incentivizing Lawyers to Play Nice: A National Survey of Civility Standards and Options for Enforcement
44 Pages Posted: 20 May 2015 Last revised: 28 Jul 2015
Date Written: 2015
Notwithstanding bar associations’ widespread adoption of formal statements setting standards of professionalism and civility for lawyers, complaints abound. The response is a new movement to make such “creeds” directly enforceable. A report card on the state of the profession and the usefulness of now-aging creeds is overdue.
This Article reveals the results of a comparative study of thirty-eight sets of professionalism creeds. The research sample includes the creeds in most states, as well as a sampling of the creeds adopted for counties, cities, and specific courts. We found substantial variations, suggesting that some creeds do not adequately cover the appropriate range of conduct, use the most effective language, or describe with sufficient specificity the circumstances where professionalism issues arise. These defects are especially alarming as we face major changes in the profession. Bar associations need to reassess the content of creeds before hoping they can be effectively enforced or make a substantial difference in behavior.
We urge a coordinated national effort to develop a consistent concept of the reasonable expectations of behavior in the law using updated and fully-vetted wording that effectively describes what is not acceptable while also accounting for the diversity in the bar.
Keywords: professionalism, profession, civility, bar associations, lawyer discipline
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation