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July 17, 2006

Sensitive Litigation Moment: Is "Professionalism" Just A Lawyer-Centric Ruse?

For those of you interested in minor blogislative history, and for what it's worth, one article gave rise to the WAC/P? blog 7 years ago. Reprinted from a 2005 "Law Week edition" of The San Diego Daily Transcript, here's "Professionalism Revisited: What About The Client?", written by one of the most hard-working, polished and physically attractive of trial lawyers, lobbyists and business warriors on this failing, commercially degraded and cover-your-ass planet. Note that the piece ends with "rules of professionalism"--but from the client's perspective.(Hey, what a concept.) Excerpts from Rules 1, 5 and 6:

1. We come first. Be nice--but if in doubt, use the rules. If you feel you know the lawyers you are dealing with, we will follow your advice and instincts. If you are in doubt about the lawyers, or if it might compromise us to deviate from the formal procedural rules, please stay close to those rules.

5. If you have, or would like to have, a personal relationship with opposing counsel, that's fine, but don't let the relationship hurt us--the client. We don't care as much as you do about your maintaining or developing collegiality with other lawyers in your jurisdiction; in fact, we could not care less.

6. If opposing counsel shows animosity toward you for following the procedural rules and keeping things moving, that is tough. This is not about the lawyers. We hired you to represent us. We would like you to get this done. Again, as your client, we seldom think that aggression and persistence are "unprofessional".

Posted by JD Hull at July 17, 2006 07:34 PM


Mr. Hull:

If you have any more material that you or others have written on the sham that "lawyer professionalism," as it is generally defined, please forward it to me. I will be participating in a Utah State Bar panel discussion where I am the anti-professionalism code voice (See my article on the Utah Standards of Professionalism and Civility at: http://webster.utahbar.org/barjournal/2005/06/standards_for_standards_sake.html)

You have cut to the core of what true attorney professionalism is: unadulterated high performance. You hit the nail on the head when you describe the rash of "professionalism codes" sweeping state bar associations:

Sorry, but in its current form, lawyer
professionalism is a morally pretentious,
archaic, hypocritical and silly movement
which lawyers' towns tend to invest in
heavily to protect and coddle apathetic,
mediocre and lazy lawyering. [Lawyer
professionalism codes keep] standards low,
and the tone lawyer-centric. Current lawyer
professionalism is: "pro-lawyer", prissy,
routinely and dishonestly misused by
incompetent and uncaring lawyers in defense
of their delays and screw ups, a waste of
time and money, and anti-client. Just
talking about it makes clients think we have
our heads up our wazoos.

Hull, J.D., “ClientTown or LawyerTown? Which do you practice in?” (http://www.whataboutclients.com/archives/clients_getting_them/index.html (December 01, 2006))

Posted by: Eric K. Johnson at September 20, 2008 08:47 AM

PALO ALTO DESK. Eric--Well, thanks. Dan's back in Europe until Wednesday but I think there are two similar articles, both at www.hullmcguire.com about 8 years apart. Not lots of literature on this. He and I both believe that clients need to be factored into "professionalism", which too often (not always) has been corrupted into an anti-client, lawyer-centric scam and pretext for slackers who pose as lawyers, and crappy lawyering. See. e.g., http://www.sddt.com/Reports/article.cfm?RID=313&SourceCode=20050429rb

In litigation, and contentious transactions, we like to stick to the rules (procedural) and client schedules and agendas with opponents we don't know and who stridently buy into "professionalism". We think clients will always agree with that tact (they do with us)--even when "professionalism" is a pretext to "conserve on fees by making communications and discovery responses more informal, delayed, slower-moving and 'nicer'".

Generally (again, not always), that's a big sign that you are dealing with lawyers who are "playing" either you or their own clients. Or are lazy.

Let's get clients into the game.

How many serious clients and GCs buy into the Faggy Cult of Professionalism? Time to re-define it. Around clients. We doubt professionalism is a big topic GC-VPs at board of directors meetings. If it is, they need not hire us.

Posted by: Holden Oliver at September 20, 2008 12:31 PM

I really like your points here. Especially number 2. Personal relationships should never interfere with business if you ask me.

Posted by: Young and Young at December 21, 2010 02:48 PM

What About Paris?: SLM No. 8: Is "Professionalism" Just A Lawyer-Centric Ruse? is an extraordinary share. Thanks a lot for this article.

Posted by: JOCURI CU BILE pe JocuricuBile.eu at January 3, 2012 05:25 PM

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