Commission on Professionalism Launches Free Online Civility CLE

CLEIllinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism is pleased to announce the launch of a new free online CLE. Ending Harassment, Bullying and Incivility in the Legal Workplace explores challenges to civility in the legal profession from multiple fronts – societal, professional and personal.

Lawyers taking the interactive eLearning will learn to (1) understand the forms of incivility in the legal workplace, (2) recognize the causes and consequences of incivility and (3) incorporate effective tools for managing incivility in their organization and in person-to-person interactions.

“Incivility is an ongoing challenge with wide-ranging consequences for the legal profession,” said Jayne Reardon, Executive Director of the Commission on Professionalism. “Uncivil conduct can discourage diversity and well-being, lead to more costly resolutions of matters, reduce public confidence in the profession and prolong discovery and negotiations. Lawyers must be equipped to manage incivility in everyday interactions. However, the profession should also recognize when organizational culture is contributing to unprincipled behavior.”

Ending Harassment, Bullying and Incivility in the Legal Workplace is available on the Commission on Professionalism’s website. Attorneys who complete the course are eligible to receive 1 hour of professional responsibility CLE credit in Illinois.

The problem

The American Bar Association Model Rules, as well as the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, indicate that civility is required for the practice of law. However, civility is at a boiling point.

The annual Civility in America survey, conducted by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate with KRC Research, demonstrates the severity of Americans’ incivility concerns. In the 2018 report, 93% of respondents identified incivility as a problem in society. The majority (69%) characterized it as a major problem.

In the legal profession, lawyers routinely direct negative and derogatory comments at opposing counsel and even judges. Ironically, this frequently occurs under the pretense of client advocacy.

The Commission on Professionalism’s 2014 Survey on Professionalism survey found that 85% of Illinois lawyers had experienced uncivil behavior. Surprisingly, the largest margin (51%) experienced strategic incivility. This is particularly troubling as it represents deliberate acts.

How this CLE can help

Many lawyers may not know what constitutes incivility. Ending Harassment, Bullying and Incivility in the Legal Workplace defines incivility, which can include rudeness, harassment, discrimination and inequitable treatment of others. It asks participants to reflect on the uncivil acts they’ve encountered in their careers and to consider their behavior through the eyes of others.

Attorneys are placed in real-life situations to explore how incivility can negatively manifest itself in the legal profession. This includes managing individual situations where incivility arises and identifying organizational changes that can lead to a more equitable work environment.

“Improving civility within the legal profession has been a longstanding issue and changing mindsets doesn’t happen overnight,” said Cynthia Fountaine, law professor at Southern Illinois University School of Law and Chair of the Commission on Professionalism’s Education Committee. “However, educating the profession on the problems incivility creates is a first step. The interactive elements of this course provide attorneys with a unique opportunity to explore realistic scenarios and learn about the outcomes of the decisions they make.”

Ending Harassment, Bullying and Incivility in the Legal Workplace is the fourth free online CLE provided by the Commission on Professionalism. Courses on diversity, ethics and professionalism and generational differences in the legal profession are also available on the Commission’s website.

About the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism 

The Illinois Supreme Court established the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism in 2005 under Supreme Court Rule 799(c) to foster increased civility, professionalism and inclusiveness among lawyers and judges in Illinois. By advancing the highest standards of conduct among lawyers and judges, the Commission on Professionalism works to better serve clients and society alike. For more information, please visit and follow us on Twitter @2CivilityOrg.

Press Contact
Laura Bagby, Communications Director

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