Saturday, September 2, 2023
Debunking the Major Myths Surrounding Mandatory Civility for Lawyers Plus Five Mandatory Civility Rules That Will Work by David Grenardo
Is civility important in the legal profession?
Civility remains a problem in the legal profession. Teaching law students about civility is important, if not critical, but it is not enough. Entertaining CLEs on civility for lawyers make for a fun hour, but they also fall short. Calls for civility and calls to return to civility have become routine, yet they can ring hollow. Adding phrases about civility to the oaths lawyers take to practice sounds wonderful, but those oaths oftentimes lack accountability. Recognizing that our country is divided and toxic in the way we communicate with each other is accurate, but that similarly fails to solve the problem. And most of all, we are naïve to hope that some lawyers will make significant changes to their behavior in a profession riddled with systemic incivility just because others in the legal profession kindly ask them to do so. Systemic change requires significant changes to the system.
Part I of this Article provides an overview of civility in the legal profession. Part II describes mandatory civility in the legal profession. Part III raises the major myths of mandatory civility and responds to each of them. Part IV includes proposed mandatory civility rules, while Part V sets forth arguments against mandatory civility and responds to those arguments. This Article concludes that mandatory civility rules are necessary and practicable.
How many more calls to civility must we endure as civility continues to decline in society and the legal profession? How long will the legal profession continue to pay lip service to civility while the negative effects of incivility continue to plague the profession? Talking is not enough—leaders of the legal system need to act. State bars, state supreme courts, and, if necessary, state legislatures must take the step that four brave states already have—mandate civility.