If asked what civility is most would answer it means treating others with respect and dignity. I think Tomas Spath and Cassandra Dahnke, founders of the Institute for Civility in Government, perhaps expressed it best in saying, “Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.” What I like about this definition is that it encompasses the need and right to express one’s own needs while accounting for the right to dignity we all deserve. I am currently involved in a contentious case in which the parties are, in my opinion, needlessly spending money for attorneys that could be better spent on other things. Consequently, I have asked myself what I am doing to make the situation better and the case as a whole has led me to ask whether I am part of the problem.
All too often it is easy to see the fault of others, but as we all know it is harder to examine our own behavior objectively. In the review of my actions I was led to call another lawyer to get his opinion, and he told me to “take the high road” and that the truth would ultimately win out. I hope that I have, but I am not quite sure. I have an obligation to protect my client, and I hope I am doing so in an ethical way. Maybe it is enough that I am even stopping to think about what I am doing. Perhaps in the process I am becoming more self-aware and that this alone will make me more humble and human.
One of the lawyers in the office brought me an article about civility in the Court; the article, published in the Colorado Lawyer lamented the lack of civility between attorneys and the clients they represent. The judge who wrote the article polled jurors and found that the lack of respect shown by one party toward another often influenced them more than the evidence did. Wow. Reading this reinforced my desire to take the high road in my present case. I will be candid, I do not want to; I want to react and lash back, but to what end?
I was in Court the other day when one of the clerks stopped me and told me what her niece had said about me. Her niece cuts my hair, and I did not know the two were related, but the niece had said to her aunt that she enjoyed cutting my hair because I was always polite and kind. Hearing this I felt good, but then I thought, “Would opposing counsel say the same, and if not, why?”
I know I have a duty to be an advocate, but I also know that I have a duty to be compassionate and civil; I think the obligations are compatible, and it is my pledge to work to these joint ends. If we can help bring civility to your life give us a call. 719-687-2328