I had the opportunity to speak to the first year class as part of Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School Professionalism Series on October 30, 2012. I was introduced by Associate Professor Michael Mears, a classmate from the University of Georgia School of Law. I spoke on the topic of “Professionalism–What is it and Why is it Important?”
The Elements of Professionalism
I see four necessary elements of professionalism in the practice of law: (1) developing a state of mind that prevents a lawyer from responding in kind to improper conduct; (2) recognizing that the advancement of justice is more important than a lawyer’s ego, income or the result of an individual case; (3) developing a relationship of trust and honor with others; and (4) becoming a skillful practitioner. Our basic human nature causes us to want to strike back when challenged, and in the practice of law, we are going to get challenged daily. We need to train ourselves so that our emotions don’t take over and we fail to remain calm and rational–something necessary for effective representation.
This same mental state focuses on the goal of achieving justice as more important than the outcome of a case. It allows us to be zealous advocates for our clients, but not at the cost of hindering the search for truth. Professionalism also includes maintaining a high level of skill. If we are courteous and ethical but provide just an average quality of representation, we fall short of being professionals. The result of all of this is that professionalism will allow a lawyer to develop a relationship of trust and honor with opposing counsel, opposing parties, our clients and others.
The Benefits of Professionalism
The benefits of professionalism include bringing to our nation a better quality of justice, offering a model for society that sorely needs it, and providing a lawyer the your best opportunity to obtain satisfaction in the practice of law. The cost of litigation can be reduced, the number of trials can be reduced and a greater likelihood of a just outcome if lawyers can maintain a high level of professionalism. Ironically, at a time when politicians, pundits and others demonstrate rudeness and closed minds, our profession–not highly regarded by many persons–can be a role model for calm and reasoned disagreement. In addition, lawyers embracing professionalism will find more satisfaction from their practice.
For More Information on This Topic . . .
For the complete text of my presentation, go to Professionalism–What is it and Why is it Important? To read more of my articles on professionalism in the practice of law, click here. I invite your comments.