Measuring Progress in Professionalism

Survey 2014Over the next few weeks, the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism will be reaching out to 15,000 randomly selected lawyers around the state, asking them to complete a short survey designed to measure perceptions of professionalism and civility in their practices. The survey, which updates a 2007 version, will be conducted by the National Center for Professional and Research Ethics (NCPRE) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Individual survey responses, which will remain confidential, will go directly to NCPRE’s offices for compilation and interpretation.

The Commission on Professionalism is charged with: promoting among both lawyers and judges in Illinois greater integrity, professionalism and civility; fostering commitment to the elimination of bias and divisiveness within the legal and judicial systems; and ensuring those systems provide equitable, efficient and effective service to the citizens of Illinois. This updated survey data on whether, and in what settings, Illinois attorneys have experienced uncivil or unprofessional behavior will help shape the Commission’s programs and initiatives over the next several years.

Beginning in the mid-1990s the Conference of Chief Justices, consisting of the highest judicial officer of all states and territories, began discussing what could be done to address incivility and unprofessionalism in the profession. There are many theories about the underlying causes, but there is widespread agreement that the consequences are troubling.

Our 2007 Professionalism Survey showed that incivility and unprofessional behavior makes it more difficult to resolve a client’s matter, costs the client more money, harms the public’s confidence in the judicial system and makes the practice of law less satisfying. In fact, research shows that not only has the practice of law become less satisfying, lawyers are more than twice as likely as the general population to suffer from mental illness and substance abuse.

Illinois is one of 15 states that have established a Commission on Professionalism to address the perceived national increase in attorney incivility and unprofessionalism. We take promoting civility and professionalism seriously, believing that it helps lawyers, our clients and the judicial system as a whole. If you are one of the 15,000 who receives a survey, we encourage you to complete it promptly. If you are not, we’d still love to hear your thoughts. Please contact Katherine Erwin, the Commission’s Special Projects Director.

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