The adventures (and non-adventures) of a marginally seasoned attorney.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

The "Don't Be a Jerk" Rule

In what I think is a FANTASTIC move, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a per curiam order that added a pledge of civility to the Arkansas attorney's oath. The full order can be found here, and the new language added is this:

"To opposing parties and their counsel, I pledge fairness, integrity, and civility, not only in court, but also in all written and oral communications."

I call this clause the "Don't Be a Jerk" Rule, and I think it's important. Civility makes the practice of law and the legal system better, and I think bad manners are just a crutch that weak attorneys use because that's all they know to do.

Here's my beef with the rule, though.

The only people who take this oath are those just getting sworn in to practice law. In other words, if you're already a licensed attorney, you aren't going to be taking this oath. That means you haven't sworn to the "Don't Be a Jerk" Rule. And while I've had to hear countless old men lecture about "you young people" needing to be nice to other attorneys, it's rarely the young folks who aren't civil. More often than not, it's people who've been licensed for years who think it's okay to be uncivil.

This is what I think: Every single licensed attorney in the state of Arkansas should take this oath. If we're making the young 'uns pledge to this, I think that those of us who are already licensed should be held to the exact same standard. Do I think this will change those who have a habit of being uncivil? Absolutely not. But at least they will have promised to make a commitment to civility, and that's a start.

So even though I am not going to be re-sworn in, I am going to make this promise, right here and now: I'm not going to be a jerk. I applaud the Supreme Court for issuing this order and making the commitment to civility in the legal profession.

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