A Roadmap for Lawyers on Navigating Incivility

incivility lawyers

The legal profession is built on the principle of ensuring justice and protecting the rights of individuals. Lawyers are tasked with exhibiting passionate, sophisticated, and civil advocacy on behalf of their clients, though often in tumultuous and highly charged situations.

This can lead lawyers to turn to uncivil and dismissive behavior and aggressive and unethical practices to demonstrate strength and attempt to win cases.

However, the impact of incivility on lawyers and legal practice cannot be overstated. Abuses of power can undermine confidence in the legal process and the perception of fairness in the justice system, and may push people away from seeking the services of a lawyer to resolve their problems.

According to the Commission on Professionalism’s 2021 Survey on Professionalism, which asked more than 1,500 Illinois lawyers about their experiences with incivility, 90% of respondents said that uncivil or unprofessional behavior harms public and client confidence in the profession, 95% said it makes it more difficult to resolve a matter, 92% said it makes the practice of law less satisfying, and 88% said it leads to an increase in litigation and transaction costs.

Exploring incivility as lawyers in the real world

The Commission often receives questions from attorneys on how to handle instances of incivility. We wanted to take things one step further in a session at our upcoming Future Is Now: Legal Services conference (register to join us for the virtual conference on April 20).

We have assembled a panel of seasoned experts from the judiciary and law practice who will discuss the real-world implications of incivility in the legal profession in the session “Civility in Legal Practice: Why it Matters.” This includes how attorneys should respond to incivility and the impact uncivil behavior may have on your practice and the justice system.

Deborah Enix-Ross, President of the American Bar Association (2022-23), will join Illinois Appellate Court First District Justice Sharon O. Johnson and attorney Nathan Hinch of Meyer Capel in Bloomington, Ill., as panelists to discuss topics like:

  • What constitutes client advocacy vs. being overly aggressive.
  • How incivility impacts cases and transactions and may harm a lawyer’s reputation among the bench and bar.
  • Why incivility undermines public confidence in the justice system.
  • A lawyer’s responsibility to exemplify civility as a representative of clients, an officer of the court, and a public citizen having a special responsibility for the quality of justice.
  • How lawyers should navigate incivility and inappropriate behavior when it is directed their way.

The Future Is Now speakers

Enix-Ross, the current ABA president, is an international lawyer with over three decades of experience in corporate and commercial law. As ABA President, she has championed the need for civility in the legal profession, especially when it comes to instilling public confidence in the justice system.

Justice Johnson, a distinguished jurist and one of our appointed Commissioners, will offer insights from the judiciary’s standpoint. Her wealth of experience in handling cases as a trial court and appellate judge will provide unique insights into how incivility can affect the outcome of cases.

Hinch, a litigator and transactional attorney with extensive experience, will bring a practitioner’s perspective to the discussion. In his practice in central Illinois, he has experienced the impact of incivility on cases firsthand and how it can impact a lawyer’s reputation.

I hope you will join us on Thursday, April 20, from noon – 4:20 p.m. CDT. Additional sessions will focus on how to create a sustainable business strategy, the importance of developing cultural competency in expanding your legal business, and how to advocate for your mental health and well-being as an attorney.

Registration is open but time is running out. Don’t wait, register today! Click to register.

Attendees are eligible to receive 4 hours of professional responsibility CLE credit, including 1 hour of diversity and inclusion CLE credit and 1 hour of mental health and substance abuse CLE credit.

The virtual conference will be held on the HopIn conference platform.

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3 thoughts on “A Roadmap for Lawyers on Navigating Incivility

  1. With regard to any lawyer attending the session on incivility in the legal profession, you are wasting time talking about its existence and impact. You are preaching to the choir.

    The only subject that would be valuable — and that would be incredibly valuable — is how to deal with the uncivil lawyer, particularly when the judge is unwilling to deal with the incivility, or rewards and actively encourages it.

    In addition, I will be unable to attend on April 20th. Will the webinar be recorded and available for future viewing?

    1. Thank you, Michael, for your comment! Yes, the conference sessions will be recorded and available to watch on our website at a later date (CLE credit for LIVE event only). Sorry we’ll miss your attendance.

      I appreciate your input and agree that we want to (and plan to) focus on advice, techniques, strategies, and other takeaways for our profession to utilize proactively and reactively to incivility and unprofessional behaviors.

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