Commission on Professionalism to Survey Illinois Lawyers on Civility in the Profession

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The third edition of the Survey on Professionalism will analyze changes in attorneys’ attitudes and behaviors compared to previous surveys.

The Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism is pleased to announce its 2021 Survey on Professionalism, which will explore the practice of civility in the legal profession through the experiences of Illinois’ attorneys.

In August, the anonymous, online survey will be emailed to a randomized, representative sample of 20,000 attorneys across Illinois. Responses will be used to study the behaviors and attitudes of Illinois lawyers regarding civility and professionalism and to analyze changes in these areas since the Commission’s 2014 and 2007 Surveys on Professionalism.

“Our Surveys on Professionalism provide valuable insight into the state of civility in the legal profession, which enables the Commission to develop and advise on educational programming that is responsive to the current needs and concerns of Illinois’ lawyers,” said Mark C. Palmer, Chief Counsel at the Commission on Professionalism. “The behavior of lawyers not only impacts those in the profession but the public’s perceptions of the legal system as a whole. We look forward to launching this survey later this month.”

The survey was developed by the Commission on Professionalism in conjunction with the National Center for Professional and Research Ethics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (NCPRE). In July and August, legal professionals from across the state participated in a pilot survey to refine the survey’s design before the full-scale research project.

The NCPRE will evaluate the survey responses and provide an analysis report to the Commission this fall. The Commission will release the data soon thereafter.

Background on the Survey on Professionalism

As part of its mission, the Commission periodically surveys lawyers on their perceptions and experiences with civility and professionalism in the environments where they work.

In 2007, the Commission sponsored a Survey on Professionalism that was designed in collaboration with the American Bar Foundation and the behavior and opinion research firm Leo J. Shapiro & Associates LLC. A random sample of 1,079 Illinois lawyers participated in the 2007 survey.

In 2014, the Commission collaborated with the NCPRE to move the Survey on Professionalism online. A random sample of 4,450 Illinois attorneys participated in the 2014 survey.

Results of the 2014 and 2007 Surveys

Over 90% of respondents to the 2014 survey reported that most attorneys they deal with are civil/professional or very civil/professional, which was comparable to findings in the 2007 study.

However, despite this positive assessment, more than 85% of 2014 respondents said they had experienced uncivil or unprofessional behavior from another lawyer within the past six months.

In the 2007 survey, 81% of respondents said they had experienced or witnessed unprofessional behavior from another lawyer in the past year and 51% in the past month. (The 2007 survey measured different periods than the 2014 survey.)

Interestingly, three of the top four unprofessional or uncivil behaviors experienced by lawyers in the 2014 survey (sarcastic or condescending attitude, misrepresenting or stretching the facts, and playing hardball [e.g., not agreeing to reasonable requests for extensions]) were identical to those reported in the 2007 survey.

When confronted with unprofessional behavior by another attorney, fewer than 2% of attorneys who responded to the 2014 survey said they would respond in kind, a decrease from 4% of attorneys surveyed in 2007.

However, 2014 respondents reported that unprofessional and uncivil behavior has a significant negative impact on the practice:

  • 94% strongly or somewhat agreed that unprofessional behavior makes resolving a matter more difficult;
  • 91% strongly or somewhat agreed that unprofessional behavior harms public/client confidence in the judicial system; and,
  • 89% strongly or somewhat agreed that unprofessional behavior leads to an increase in litigation/transaction costs.

A variety of initiatives and programs to improve civility and professionalism were suggested by 2014 respondents. The most frequently suggested included imposing or enforcing consequences through the court system, training on civility/professionalism, mandatory continuing legal education on civility/professionalism, educating judges to better deal with incivility, increasing law school professionalism training, and creating a mechanism for reporting to the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission or other tribunals. These suggestions mirrored those reported in 2007.

Since 2007, the Commission has used this data to drive its educational programming and strategic planning initiatives.

About the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism

The Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism was established by the Illinois Supreme Court 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 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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14 thoughts on “Commission on Professionalism to Survey Illinois Lawyers on Civility in the Profession

    1. Hi Elena,

      Thanks for your interest! The survey will be sent out to a randomized, representative sample of 20,000 attorneys across Illinois. We appreciate your support.


      1. When I started practicing 60 years ago the rules were “don’t lie to a court and don’t steal from a client.” But Carl Llewylyn taught a higher standard; nobless oblige. Also if you did something that was offensive to your brother lawyers like lying to them or not keeping promises it became harder to practice law because every agreement you wanted had to be in writing. There was no email so doing everything by letter was expensive. If you did not have a strong moral fiber you learned fast to get one.

    1. Thanks, John. The survey was sent out to a randomized group of Illinois attorneys. We appreciate your interest!

  1. I have been practicing 47 years. People were far more professional then than now. People formerly recognized that law was a high calling, respected and revered. Not so much now.

    Unprofessional conduct creates unnecessary stress and anxiety in the practice, lack of creativity for problem solving, bad conduct and lack of cooperation for matter resolution.

    Back stabbing is now the norm and it is becoming more difficult to trust opposing counsel. Thx

  2. Thank you all for your interest in our Survey on Professionalism! The survey was sent out to a randomized and representative sample of Illinois attorneys last month. If you were part of this sample, you should have received an email.

    Thanks again for your interest in advancing civility in the legal profession.

    Laura Bagby

  3. I am semi-retired and only represent myself; only interacting with other attorneys rarely; therefore, I cannot take the survey.

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