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Bar President's Message


Richard D'Addario, Esq., President, Rhode Island Bar Association

Civility 

Lynda L. Laing, Esq.
President, Rhode Island Bar Association

"Attorneys should not personally attack or bully each other; instead, we should learn and benefit from each other's perspective and skills."

 

Welcome 2022! As the New Year arrives, we all start to make our New Year’s resolutions. This year, I encourage you to add civility to your resolution list. During the height of the pandemic, many of my fellow bar friends reached out to me to see how I was coping under the difficult circumstances. I also reached out to other fellow attorneys making certain they and their families were well. The Judiciary also extended courtesies by allowing attorneys and witnesses to appear remotely. As a result, I was not surprised that the Bar’s COVID-19 Impact Survey showed that there was an increase in civility during the pandemic. I hope we continue to show civility and professionalism as we move into 2022.

I recently attended the 2021 New England Bar Association Annual Meeting where one of the panels consisted of judges and representatives from the court systems of each New England state. One of the judges on the panel described witnessing unprofessional and uncivil conduct by an attorney while conducting a remote hearing. This judge felt that the attorney would not have conducted himself in the manner that he did if he were physically in the courtroom. We need to make certain that we continue to treat each other and the Judiciary with the same respect and civility that we saw during the height of the pandemic. This professionalism extends to depositions, discovery disputes, and other non-judicial proceedings. The new practice of remote hearings does not grant us the liberty to speak out of turn or be disrespectful when challenging a judge’s ruling. We should appear on time, dress appropriately, and be prepared to present the facts of our client’s case.

Being civil does not mean we are not zealously representing our clients. Our ethical rules of conduct require that we zealously represent our clients, but being zealous does not constitute rude, abrasive, and uncooperative behavior. Attorneys should not personally attack or bully each other; instead, we should learn and benefit from each other’s perspectives and skills. It’s necessary to be cooperative and attempt to resolve disputes that arise in litigation in a civil manner with our colleagues. I believe that good lawyering and being professional can help promote your client’s case.

As lawyers, by nature, we often work in high-pressure environments and sometimes experience secondary trauma through serving our clients’ needs. We’ve all heard the statistics that lawyers suffer from stress and mental illness at a higher rate than the general population. Because of this, it is especially important that we take the time to be kind to one another. On a related note, if you see a colleague struggling or are struggling yourself, keep in mind that the Bar’s Lawyers Helping Lawyers (LHL) program is available to offer confidential, free, peer and professional assistance with any personal challenges. To discuss your concerns, you may contact an LHL member, or go directly to professionals at Coastline EAP who provide confidential consultations for a wide range of personal concerns including but not limited to balancing work and family, depression, anxiety, domestic violence, childcare, eldercare, grief, career satisfaction, alcohol and substance abuse, and problem gambling. For more information on how to contact a Lawyers Helping Lawyers Committee member or the professionals at Coastline EAP, please visit the Bar’s website by clicking here.

Unfortunately, uncivil behavior impacts the public perception of the practice of law and affects many attorneys with job satisfaction, mental health, and other wellness issues. I know that long hours and the pressures of the practice can give us short fuses that can lead us to snap back at opposing party. However, we need to be aware of these situations and find other ways to release the tension. Please remember to visit the Bar’s Lawyers Living Well page on our website for a variety of resources to help attorneys find a work-life balance focusing on mindfulness, fitness, and overall wellness. You can also follow the Bar on our social media channels for weekly Wellness Wednesday tips that provide mental, emotional, and physical health advice. Thank you all for your efforts to be civil and professional with each other and the Judiciary. Let us all start the New Year with a resolution to continue the important practice of civility within the profession.