Sandra Day O’Connor, Professionalism, 78 Or. L. Rev. 385 (Summer 1999)
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Justice O’Connor cites research that shows a high and increasing number of lawyers are dissatisfied with their profession; she suggests that declining professionalism is, in part, the cause of lawyers’ job dissatisfaction and the public’s unfavorable opinion of lawyers and the profession.
According to Justice O’Connor, professionalism includes, along with technical skill, a calling to public service and an obligation to conduct oneself in a professional manner towards others. “Personal relationships lie at the heart” of lawyers’ work, and this “human dimension remains constant.”
“When lawyers themselves generate conflict, rather than addressing the dispute between the parties they represent, it undermines our adversarial system and erodes the public’s confidence that justice is being served. Greater civility can only enhance the effectiveness of our justice system, improve the public’s perception of lawyers, and increase lawyers’ professional satisfaction.”
“The common objection to civility is that acting courteously will somehow diminish zealous advocacy for the client….In my view, incivility disserves the client because it wastes time and energy: time that is billed at hundreds of dollars an hour, and energy that is better spent working on the client’s case than working over the opponent.”
Lawyers have a duty to serve the public, and those who work to ensure “equal justice under law” and thereby make a contribution to society, “bring meaning and joy to [their] professional lives.”