Professional Development

Lawyers in Illinois experienced this type of incivility most often, new survey says

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Sarcasm, misrepresentations, inflammatory writings and hardball tactics were the most common type of incivility reported by Illinois lawyers surveyed in August and September.

Fifty-four percent of surveyed Illinois lawyers said they had experienced incivility in the last six months, according to a press release reporting the findings of the Survey on Professionalism: A Study of Illinois Lawyers 2021. That’s an improvement from a 2014 survey, when about 85% reported that they had experienced incivility in a six-month time period.

The 2021 survey was emailed to 20,000 lawyers in Illinois, and 1,508 responded. The survey was conducted by the National Center for Principled Leadership & Research Ethics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism.

Among the 815 respondents who said they had experienced incivility in the prior six months, the most frequently reported type of incivility was:

• A sarcastic or condescending attitude, reported by about 65% of those who experienced incivility in the last six months.

• Misrepresenting or stretching the facts or negotiating in bad faith, reported by about 63%.

• Inflammatory writings in correspondence, memos, briefs or motions, reported by about 51%.

• Playing hardball, such as not agreeing to reasonable requests for extensions, reported by about 46%.

• Indiscriminate or frivolous use of drafts, pleadings or motions, reported by about 46%.

• Inappropriate interruptions of others, such as clients, colleagues, counsels, judges and witnesses, reported by about 41%.

• Inappropriate language or comments in letters or email, reported by about 22%.

• Swearing, verbal abuse of belittling language, reported by about 19%.

• Inappropriate comments about age or experience, reported by about 17%.

• Sexist comments, reported by about 12%.

• Racially or culturally insensitive comments, reported by 6.5%.

Practice settings more prone to incivility were civil rights law, family law, criminal law and personal injury law.

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