“To promote a culture of civility and inclusion, in which Illinois lawyers and judges embody ideals of the profession in service to the administration of justice in our democratic society.”
For the last decade, that’s been the mantra of our Commission on Professionalism.
Back in 2001, Justice Robert R. Thomas of the Illinois Supreme Court addressed a need to advance the presence of civility, a value that lies at the heart of the legal profession. Thanks to his leadership, the Illinois Supreme Court formally identified the problem plaguing our profession, and, from there, laid the groundwork to formally establish what was to become the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism.
Originally named the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Civility, the Court charged the committee with the task of better understanding the profession’s lack of respect toward one another and the rise of the “win at all costs” attitude of the state’s attorneys.
How so you ask?
The Committee held town hall meetings across the state to see what the Court could do to better promote and improve civility within the practice and in the courtroom setting. In turn, however, their findings uncovered that the problems were much more widespread than just “incivility”. According to original Committee on Civility member and current Chair of the Commission – Hon. Debra Walker – that’s what led to the eventual name change formally establishing the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism in 2005 and adoption of Illinois Supreme Court Rule 799.
With Rule 799 in place, the Commission on Professionalism truly began impacting the state of the profession in Illinois for the better. Over the last ten years, the Commission established a number of initiatives that put professionalism at the forefront of the legal community in Illinois.
For example, one of the first orders of business was to collaborate with the new lawyers entering our profession. Today, the Commission’s Professionalism Orientation is hosted at all nine Illinois law schools. This has relationship even blossomed into year-round professionalism education programs and lecture series at various Illinois schools.
Likewise, thanks to the Commission on Professionalism, quality Professional Responsibility Continuing Legal Education is also a reality. In fact, not only does the Commission, approve and facilitate CLE across the state, they even have developed their own courses for attorneys to take, both in-person and online.
In addition, Justice Thomas points to the Commission on Professionalism’s mentoring program as putting the organization on the national map.
The Commission rolled out its Lawyer-to-Lawyer Mentoring Program back in 2011, and it is only continuing to expand, along with all of the other initiatives of the organization.
As the Commission on Professionalism continues to connect lawyers to one another and the core values of our profession, the landscape is changing. The importance and need for civility, though, remains relevant day in and day out.
That being said, even though the Commission has come such a long way in the last decade, it is only the beginning of what’s to come. As the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism paves the way for Professionalism Commissions in the United States, you’ll want to stay in tune with this organization. It’s safe to say that they are leading the charge to a more civil profession.
About the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism
The Commission on Professionalism was established by the Illinois Supreme Court in September 2005 to foster increased civility, professionalism and inclusiveness among lawyers and judges in the State of Illinois. By advancing the highest standards of conduct among lawyers, we work to better serve clients and society alike. These duties we uphold are defined under Supreme Court Rule 799(c). For more information, please visit 2Civility.org, the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism’s website.