Many of us lawyers grouse about the lack of civility in the legal profession; this article, Maryland Lawyer Makes A Case for Civility reports on Rockville, Maryland attorney Steven Seltzer who’s actually trying to do something about it. In addition to calling lawyers’ on their incivility (for example, Seltzer once wrote a letter to a firm about the rude treatment he’d received from one of its attorneys and obtained an apology), Seltzer has also written a book and lectured on civility in the work place.
I’m beginning to wonder, however, whether incivility is actually the worst aspect of law, particularly litigation practice. I’ve found that some of the lawyers who are the most polite and courteous face to face are the same ones who’ll file unnecessary motions or fail to be forthright about other matters in the case. Yet the latter actions are considered zealous advocacy rather than uncivil conduct. In fact, I’ve reached a point where I’d rather go up against an attorneys who let off steam every so often with a stream of profanity but let me know clearly where they stand rather than the attorneys who’ll publicly smile and then turn around and stab me in the back.