IMPROVING THE PROFESSION
CHRISTINA M. HABAS, J.
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of attending a very important meeting. The meeting was important because it involved a candid and civil discussion about how judges should best manage cases assigned to them. It was also important because there was no posturing or manipulation. Instead, attendees were dedicated to finding ways to make the civil justice system work, not just for the lawyers or the courts, but also for the people who find themselves embroiled within that system.
There is no need to share the names of the lawyers who attended this meeting, other than to note that there were lawyers who represented both sides of the bar with significant experience handling civil litigation and with reputations of being utterly ethical and professional in their work.
There is also no need to share the name of the judge who asked for this meeting, other than to note that this was a very experienced judge who was looking for assistance in better managing what is often a very contentious and increasingly time-consuming process.
The single most important part of this meeting was the fact that while the judge certainly had questions for the lawyers, the judge spent the bulk of this meeting listening—just listening.
Too often we attend seminars and other meetings to hear the opinions of those sitting on the bench about how lawyers might better present their cases. Frequently, these meetings turn into nothing more than gripe sessions where the judges tell lawyers how incompetent, impractical, and impossible we all are.
I have become increasingly concerned over the last 20 years that the relationship between bench and bar has become strained to the breaking point. The lack of empathy and understanding on both sides as it relates to the challenges faced by the other side is certainly one cause. What better way to address this than to have honest exchanges of information without blame or fault?
Too often we attend seminars and other meetings to hear the opinions of those...