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July 20, 2022

Rediscovering the Lost Art of Civility

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Dallas Senior Counsel Katherine Handy was published in the ABA Products Liability Litigation Committee's Practice Points with her article on the dynamics surrounding civility in the legal profession. 

When I first began practicing law, I remember a senior attorney once told me, “You need to be the bully, Katherine. Don’t be the ‘kind one.’ Be the ‘mad one.’” At the time, the notion seemed so foreign to me, but unfortunately this sentiment is one that is too often shared throughout our profession. It seems many practitioners believe that a world simply cannot exist in which you are both an effective advocate for your client and a compassionate human being.

I’m sure it’s not lost on any of us that our profession is known for being a bit…ruthless. I do think it’s worth recognizing that we—as a legal community—have a long way to go towards changing the bully dynamic that has plagued our profession for far too long. Indeed, I think the issue is not that we are simply attracting all the grown-up playground bullies from our youth. Rather, we are a profession perpetuating an archaic narrative that you must become a bully to achieve success. That, of course, could not be further from the truth.

After all, there is great strength in knowing that you can be both an outstanding lawyer and an outstanding human being. And, to the new lawyers, I’ll give you a piece of advice I wish I’d heard when I first started practicing—in a world full of bullies, it’s okay to be the kind lawyer.

To continue reading "Changing the Narrative: Appreciating the Importance of Civility Throughout Our Profession" on the ABA's website click here.


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