In a recent survey on civility in the legal industry, a whopping 88.4 percent of Connecticut Law Tribune respondents said a lack of civility is either a pervasive or somewhat pervasive problem. Part of a series of informal, anonymous surveys at Law.com publications, the poll drew some extended comments from respondents regarding specific incidents and general experiences in the legal workplace.
Of the 43 respondents, 10 said they see lack of civility as a pervasive issue and 28 individuals said it was somewhat pervasive.
(Click the arrows in the graphic to explore results in other regions.)
A female respondent remarked that she has been told “to learn to let the men talk” in conferences, during which she is routinely asked if she is even an attorney.
Another attorney noted that incivility can be part of a game attorneys play. “I was recently involved in a settlement negotiation with an attorneys from out of state,” the laywer wrote. “There were just a couple of sticking points left, but he thought my client might have more. When I started with the first of my client’s two concerns, he started screaming and accusing me of bad faith. He accused my client of worse. We moved to the second issue and made short work of it, and he asked me what was next. When I told him that was it, and I would let my client know that his had not budged on the first issue, he suddenly changed position and tone. He immediately agreed to the first term and thanked me for my professionalism. His incivility, which he had projected on me, had all been an act and a negotiating ploy. This was a commercial dispute between two businesses and the biggest issues had already been agreed on.”
Numerous respondents said they had seen incidents of screaming, bad language and berating behavior from opposing counsel, sometimes in front of bystanders. An attorney with 40-plus years in the business said there remains a consistent, “small cohort of lawyers who continue to push the bounds of civility with name-calling, sharp tactics and boorish behavior.” The attorney added that, while it does not seem to be getting worse, it’s not getting any better either. “Avoiding the tendency to sink to their level and fight fire with worse is probably the true professional challenge,” the attorney wrote.
If there is an aspect of incivility that has changed with time, it may lie in the techologies we use. Wrote one attorney: “Generally, lawyers, especially the younger generation, are paper tigers and are more comfortable sending scathing emails and filing motions rather than picking up a phone and trying to work out an issue directly with opposing counsel.” Perhaps it is easier to be rude to someone when you’re not doing it face-to-face?
And finally, one attorney wrote that breaking the rules is an act of incivility that should face stronger enforcement in the courts. The lawyer lamented “failing to adhere to deadlines without apology or excuse, asking for continuances of important events at the last minute without apologizing or providing an excuse–which is encouraged by state court judges who are unwilling to enforce deadlines or rules, the violation of which would likely result in sanctions in federal court.”
So yes, according to reader responses, incivility is definitely an issue in the legal profession in Connecticut. Stay tuned for further surveys as we explore additional questions.