Reimagining Law: Client Advocate or Overly Aggressive? How Incivility Can Impact Your Case.

In this episode of Reimagining Law, we talk to Trisha M. Rich, a Partner at Holland & Knight and a Commissioner at the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, and Melissa A. Smart, Director of Education at the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission (ARDC).

Trish and Melissa discuss the difference between being a client advocate and overly aggressive, how aggressive behavior impacts legal outcomes and the bottom line, and how the ARDC is addressing acts of incivility that don’t rise to the level of discipline or an ethical violation.

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  • 1:10 – What is the difference between being a zealous advocate for your clients and being overly aggressive?
  • 2:06 – How can aggressive behavior impact the bottom line or case outcomes?
  • 3:46 – We kind of default to this atmosphere of litigation, but is this also true in aspects of transactional matters for lawyers?
  • 4:54 – From the client’s perspective, how do clients respond to overly aggressive attorneys? And also, how do judges respond to such attorneys?
  • 6:03 – What about when an act or the behavior of an attorney doesn’t quite reach the level of an ethical violation? Are there things the ARDC is focusing on to address matters of over-aggressiveness or incivility that aren’t technically a violation of a rule?
  • 8:36 – Trish, how do you address these issues when it’s not a violation of a rule?

Related resources

Trisha M. Rich

Trisha Rich is an attorney in Holland & Knight’s Chicago and New York offices, the national co-chair of the firm’s Legal Profession Team, and a member of the Litigation and Dispute Resolution practice. She also serves as the Deputy Professional Responsibility Partner for Holland & Knight’s Chicago office. Her practice focuses on legal ethics and professional responsibility matters and complex commercial litigation.

Rich is a national leader in the legal ethics community. She founded and coordinates the Attorney Defense Initiative, the nation’s first privately sponsored pro bono initiative that focuses on assisting impaired lawyers facing disciplinary charges.

She serves on the board of directors of the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers and as the organization’s president-elect, and is a frequent speaker and author on a variety of issues related to ethics and risk management.

She is currently an adjunct professor at New York University School of Law, where she teaches legal ethics and professional responsibility.

Rich has served on the Commission on Professionalism since 2017.

Connect with Trish:


Melissa A. Smart

Melissa Smart is the Director of Education at the Illinois ARDC where she develops, implements, and presents programs and materials to educate lawyers regarding their professional responsibilities, and supervises a team of lawyers and paraprofessionals dedicated to helping lawyers serve their clients effectively within the bounds of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

She also investigates and prosecutes lawyer disciplinary cases, including cases involving allegations of conversion, billing fraud, conflicts of interest, and public corruption.

Smart is past-Chair of the YLS Professional Responsibility Committee of the Chicago Bar Association and currently serves on the Illinois State Bar Association Standing Committee on the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission and the Illinois State Bar Association Committee on Legal Education, Admission and Competence.

She is an active member of the National Organization of Bar Counsel, serving as Editor of the Current Developments Project and on the Lawyer Well-Being Committee. Smart is an adjunct faculty member at Loyola University School of Law where she teaches professional responsibility.

Connect with Melissa:


About Reimagining Law

The Reimagining Law video series explores how legal and judicial professionals are adapting the delivery of services to meet the unique needs of today’s consumers. Reimagining Law is produced by the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism.

This interview was recorded on November 9, 2021.

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One thought on “Reimagining Law: Client Advocate or Overly Aggressive? How Incivility Can Impact Your Case.

  1. Without wasting my time to listen to this tripe, people should recognize that lawyers have 1st amendment rights too. I can accuse an adversary of anything short of incurring liability for libel or slander.

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