Posted Jan 01, 2004 08:55 am CST
I recently had the privilege of meeting with some of the past presidents of the American Bar Association. They shared with me their views on the challenges and successes of the legal profession, as well as their hopes for the future. Our conversation made me think, as we begin a new year, about making resolutions. Let me share with you some resolutions that each of us may consider.
We might resolve that every lawyer will take time for a pro bono case and get involved in his or her respective community. Lawyers are the ultimate volunteers and public servants. We are intimately involved in every chamber of commerce, battered women’s shelter, symphony orchestra, boys and girls club, church, synagogue, temple, mosque and nonprofit organization in this country.
Lawyers who work with nonprofit community groups that offer assistance to the underserved in our society–or who engage in educating young people about the justice system–benefit not only those they serve but also society as a whole. We lawyers should feel good about our work, as we stay connected to the reason we went to school to become lawyers: making life better for people.
We might resolve to have a world in which we are all equal–not only in the eyes of the law but in each other’s eyes. We might resolve that lawyers will respect diversity; that we will respect each other’s gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disabilities; that we will live in a world in which our corporations’ boards of directors will elect more women and minority members.
We might resolve that as lawyers we will become more respectful of each other and protect the independence of the judiciary. Our acts of kindness and civility will become rampant throughout our profession. As lawyers we should treat every person we encounter, from the janitor to the judge, with equal regard and respect.
In the daily task of effectively representing our clients, we should resolve to recall that we are members of a very honorable profession. Lawyers take on issues that are not always popular and clients who may be scorned by society.
Please remember why we were drawn to our profession–because it is a noble profession; because we wish to help others; because we believe lawyers are the guardians of justice, freedom and democracy. Simply, we each accept and embrace a calling.
As long as we honestly and courageously accept responsibility for our actions and conduct ourselves as the ministers of justice that we are, we will preserve the spirit of the law and promote the rule of law.
Finally, we might resolve to live by a few simple rules:
• Practice ethical law. Ethics are not just rules. Ethics are values, a mind-set and a responsibility that must remain present in our consciousness.
• Get malpractice insurance. Protect your clients and your business.
• Be accessible and fair to clients.
• Promptly return calls and messages. This actually decreases your workload in the long run and increases the goodwill of your colleagues, clients and friends.
• Give back to your school. As alumni, we can help those who come after us. Assist your law school in providing students the same opportunities that you experienced or better ones.
• Take time to smell the roses. Do not let the billable hours expectations weigh you down. Remember to connect with your family, loved ones and friends. A lawyer with a balanced life is a better lawyer and a better human being.
I look forward to a bright, productive year and hope that my resolutions–and yours–are realized.