"One of the most important responsibilities of all lawyers and
judges is to protect and promote the integrity and respectability
of the legal profession." These are the opening words of the
preamble to the Massachusetts Bar Association's new Civility andProfessionalism Guidelines, which have become the focus of a
series of statewide forums aimed at reaffirming the bar's
commitment to these important principles.
Created by the Massachusetts Bar Association's Committee on
Civility and Professionalism and the judiciary, the new guidelines
were first publicly unveiled in Springfield on Aug. 22, at an
MBA-hosted forum on civility and professionalism, which featured
Superior Court Chief Justice Judith Fabricant.
More recently, members of the bench and bar gathered at the
Worcester Courthouse on Oct. 24, to discuss the recently published
guidelines at a forum co-sponsored by the MBA and the Worcester
County Bar Association. The forum highlighted the collaborative
efforts of both attorneys and judges who worked together on the
committee to craft a formal document consisting of seven civility
The aim and purpose of the guidelines are addressed in the
"Our hope and expectation is that these guidelines will remind
practitioners and judges of the respect that our profession demands
of one another, and will ensure that we conduct ourselves at all
times with the utmost personal courtesy and professionalism. Our
hope is also to ensure that the public has confidence in the legal
profession and respect for lawyers, and to ensure the honorability
of our noble profession remains strong. Finally, it is also to make
practicing law more pleasurable."
While civility and professionalism have always been ideals of
the legal profession, lifestyle aspects, such as increasing
pressures, fewer personal interactions between attorneys in court
and daily use of email communication, have made them more
challenging to maintain.
"It's something you have to constantly rejuvenate and be mindful
of," said MBA President Jeffrey N. Catalano, in reference to the
timing of the new guidelines. "It's not just about how to be civil;
it's about how to be a true professional."
The forum in Worcester allowed both members of the bench and bar
to share their day-to-day experiences and challenges with civility
and professionalism, both inside and outside of the courtroom.
"The feedback was tremendous," said Superior Court Justice
Beverly J. Cannone, who chaired the committee. "Everybody wants to
see this happen and wants to maintain the professionalism of the
A common theme to the feedback was the misconception that
attorneys need to be overly aggressive in the courtroom environment
in order to be successful.
"You don't need to be a pit bull to be a great lawyer," remarked
Paul E. White, past chair of the MBA's Complex Commercial
Now that the guidelines have been published, the next phase of
the project is to get the word out to the legal community.
According to White, who is managing the outreach efforts,
orientation meetings will be conducted at both large and small law
firms and would ideally include question and answer sessions with
attorneys and judges.
Outreach is also planned for younger attorneys, especially law
students at all nine of the state's law schools. The MBA's new Law
Student Section Council will conduct outreach efforts to the law
schools, according to MBA member Damian J. Turco.
The Committee on Civility and Professionalism was formed as a
key initiative of immediate Past President Robert W. Harnais, who
noticed an overall lack of civility within the profession. Harnais
acknowledged that those in attendance at the Worcester forum are
the true advocates of the new guidelines and are vital in
communicating the importance of the guidelines to the rest of the
"We're actually speaking to the choir," said Harnais. "Now we
need this choir to go out there and sing our song."