SC Lawyer, March 2004, #4. Ethics Watch March 2004 Uncivil equals unethical.

AuthorBy John Freeman

South Carolina Lawyer


SC Lawyer, March 2004, #4.

Ethics Watch March 2004 Uncivil equals unethical

South Carolina LawyerMarch 2004Ethics Watch March 2004 Uncivil equals unethicalBy John FreemanLawyers exist because other people have problems. Good lawyers are good problem solvers. Some lawyers, unfortunately, have an uncanny knack for creating as many or more problems as they solve. These lawyers breed a lack of civility. See Warren E. Burger, The Decline of Professionalism, 63 Fordham L. Rev. 949, 953 (1995) (observing lawyer civility is "an essential element of the fair administration of justice" and that attorneys should act as "problemsolvers" and "peacemakers," not "promoters . . . of conflict"); Patrick J. Schlitz, On Being A Happy, Healthy, and Ethical Member of An Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unethical Profession, 52 Vand. L. Rev. 871 (1999) (finding a perception among lawyers that our profession is one "in which aggression, selfishness, hostility, suspiciousness and cynicism are widespread"). How does a lack of civility manifest itself? In general, we find it manifested as rudeness, personal attacks, threats, false accusations, boorish, "cutthroat" tactics, discovery abuses, misrepresentations, aggressive behavior and the like. What follows are examples of uncivil behavior and some suggestions about what can be done about them. Inspiration for some items on the listing came from Randy Grau, An Associate's Seven Simple Steps to Civility, The Bencher, July/August 2003, at 18.

The liar

If you speak with experienced lawyers and ask them about a major sea change in lawyer behavior over the last 20 years, you will often hear that a shocking development is the major increase in the willingness of some lawyers to lie. This uncivil character is not SNL's John Lovitz playing Tommy Flanagan and topping off every whopper with the tag-line, "Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket." These uncivil lawyers lie to their fellow lawyers, to the court and, presumably, their clients and think nothing of it. Consider the list of lawyers in this state caught lying about something as mundane as attending CLE classes. When cornered, i.e., caught dead to rights, lying lawyers are prone to blame others for the bad information they dish with impunity. What to do with this miscreants? They need to be turned in to the disciplinary enforcers, but...

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