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In an era too often marked by acts of incivility, Robert’s Fund aims to elevate the way we treat one another in the legal profession and to inspire acts of courtesy, kindness, and compassion among members of the profession. Increased civility demonstrably improves outcomes for legal professionals and the people that they serve. And because legal professionals profoundly influence society, even outside their formal work, their behavior often sets the tenor of corporate, political, and social interactions. View information about who we are and what we do

Civility Speaks: Articles & Essays

Resources and media on civility

Robert’s Fund has created a resource bank of abstracts, essays, articles, and other media on civility from thoughtful leaders and eminent thinkers from across the country.

View the articles below, or search by clicking a category tag:

Civility Center ArticlesCharacteristics of CivilityCosts of Incivility Pillars of CivilityStrategies to Foster CivilityEthics and CivilityAll Articles

 


Thursday
Apr092015

Listening from the Bench Fosters Civility and Promotes Justice

Paula Lustbader, Listening from the Bench Fosters Civility and Promotes Justice, Seattle Journal for Social Justice: Vol. 13: Iss. 3, Article 13. Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/sjsj/vol13/iss3/13

Thursday
Apr092015

An Expectation of Empathy

Steve Leben, An Expectation of Empathy, Washburn L.J., Fall 2011, at 49, 50, 53, available at http://contentdm.washburnlaw.edu/utils/getfile/collection/wlj/id/5910/filename/5911.pdf

Thursday
Apr092015

Learning to Listen, Learning to Be Heard

Donna F. Howard, Learning to Listen, Learning to Be Heard, GPSolo Magazine (Apr.-May 2006).
View the full article.

Summary

Ms. Howard argues that “good listening” is achieved through the strengthening of interpersonal skills. She emphasizes that lawyers need to focus on what makes each client unique, no matter how many similar cases he or she may have heard over the course of their career. Good listening, Ms. Howard posits, happens when a person is tuned into his or her own feelings and circumstances. This attunement better allows a lawyer to understand how he or she responds to clients. Ms. Howard also argues that for lawyers in particular, it is important that good listening is supplemented with clear communication, including confirmation that the lawyer’s and client’s understanding of the communication is the same. Clear communication requires a lawyer to pay attention to verbal and nonverbal cues, and helps ensure that the client is being treated with professional care as well as sensitivity.

Thursday
Apr092015

Isolation in the Judicial Career

Isaiah M. Zimmerman, Isolation in the Judicial Career, 36 CT. REV. 4 (2000)
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Summary

Dr. Zimmerman writes that in his twenty years of working as a consultant or psychotherapist with state and federal judges, approximately 70% of judges that he has interviewed spontaneously have expressed that they feel isolation. The demanding workload contributes significantly to this isolation, as the average judge works evenings and weekends. They have limited time for family, friends, community service, and engaging in other interests. In addition, the Code of Judicial Conduct requirement to maintain an appearance of fairness contributes to the isolation. Judges explain they keep their distance at social and professional gatherings and are careful about their comments. The role of judge itself contributes to the isolation, as well. Once one becomes a judge, “former lawyer colleagues immediately begin to show deference,” and this barrier between judges and lawyers is reinforced by the formalities of the courtroom and wearing of robes. Over time, judges can experience greater difficulty shedding their “robes” even in close personal settings. Another result is a reduction in “honest and robust dialogue” that furthers the isolation. These systemic factors that contribute to isolation are exacerbated by the fact that a majority of judges tend toward introversion, thus making it even a greater challenge to avoid isolation. All of this combines to create greater interpersonal isolation, resulting in a “withdrawal from intellectual and community involvement.”

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Thursday
Apr092015

Nice Guys Finish First

David Brooks, Nice Guys Finish First, N.Y. Times (May 16, 2011)
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Summary

Mr. Brooks questions the validity of the prevailing notion that humans are innately selfish, competitive, and motivated only to maximize their own benefit. He summarizes several recent articles and books that discuss the intrinsic human motivation to work in teams and the inherent value of cooperation. “These are books about sympathy, empathy, cooperation and collaboration, written by scientists, evolutionary psychologists, neuroscientists and others. It seems there’s been a shift among those who study this ground, yielding a more nuanced, and often gentler picture of our nature.”

“[W]e often have an incentive to repay kindness with kindness, so others will do us favors when we’re in need. We have an incentive to establish a reputation for niceness, so people will want to work with us. We have an incentive to work in teams, even against our short-term self-interest because cohesive groups thrive. Cooperation is as central to evolution as mutation and selection.”

One study “found that the act of helping another person triggers activity in the caudate nucleus and anterior cingulate cortex regions of the brain, the parts involved in pleasure and reward. That is, serving others may produce the same sort of pleasure as gratifying a personal desire.”

“[N]atural selection takes place not only when individuals compete with other individuals, but also when groups compete with other groups. Both competitions are examples of the survival of the fittest, but when groups compete, it’s the cohesive, cooperative, internally altruistic groups that win and pass on their genes….[H]umans developed moral minds that help them and their groups succeed. Humans build moral communities out of shared norms, habits, emotions and gods, and then will fight and even sometimes die to defend their communities.” 

Thursday
Apr092015

Fostering Civility Within the Legal Profession: Expanding the Inns of Court Model of Communal Dining. 

Celeste F. Bremer, Fostering Civility Within the Legal Profession: Expanding the Inns of Court Model of Communal Dining.
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Summary

Judge Bremer writes that in addition to good manners and respect, civility also includes “concern for the public good.” Further, she explains that ethics and professionalism are analytically distinct from civility: Professionalism defines “what a lawyer ‘should’ do”; ethics are the “minimums by which a lawyer must act….” She suggests the civility requires lawyers to “go one step further.”

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Thursday
Apr092015

Staying connected to friends and family, not necessarily your PDA, helps keep stress at bay

A.B.A., Staying connected to friends and family, not necessarily your PDA, helps keep stress at bay (Sept. 2011)
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Summary

Experts on stress reduction at an ABA meeting in Toronto in 2011 suggested 5 steps to balance one’s professional and personal life:

  1. Stay true to your values.
  2. Don’t demonize the other side.
  3. Maintain connections with friends and family.
  4. Set boundaries around clients contacting you.
  5. Be careful and monitor the impact of electronic-communications technology.
Saturday
Mar282015

Inter-Cultural Dynamics in Peacemaking: The Arab-Israeli Case in Point, Practice: Skills for Conflict Transformation

David Kreider, Inter-Cultural Dynamics in Peacemaking: The Arab-Israeli Case in Point, Practice: Skills for Conflict Transformation, (2007)
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Summary

In this essay, David Kreider (not to be confused with international arbitrator David L. Kreider, whom we previously and erroneously attributed to this post) offers an analysis of the role of mediators and different mediation styles and applies his findings to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Drawing upon the work of many scholars who have written about mediation, conflict, and Israel-Palestine, Mr. Kreider compares and contrasts a Western, individualist approach to conflict with a non-Western, collectivist approach. Using scholar Walter Wright’s definitions of “individualist” and “collectivist,” Mr. Kreider writes, “Individualists tend to place a higher value on the preferences, needs, rights, freedoms, opportunities, and goals of the individual, and in the process, relationships are often relegated to a secondary consideration. Collectivists, on the other hand, place a premium on the interests, norms, and values of the group and on maintaining relationships of respect, cooperation, and harmony within the community often at the expense of individual liberties, needs, and interests.” A key difference described by Mr. Kreider between the two approaches is that individualists tend to view conflict as necessary for change, while collectivists most often view conflict as a failure to respect the traditions and values of a group. Another key difference described by Mr. Kreider is that during conflict, individualists tend to favor direct communication and confrontation, while collectivists tend to be less direct about the problems causing the conflict and more focused on maintaining relationships, harmony, and interdependence.

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Friday
Mar202015

Civility in Our Conversations about Race and Culture

Mary I. Yu, Civility in Our Conversations about Race and Culture, 66 Wash Bar News 5, (May 2011)
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Summary

Judge Yu proposes that civility should be used both within and outside the legal profession to start important and necessary conversations about race. “Civility calls us to a state of compassion and empathy. An active and civil engagement about a difficult topic such as race would also permit us to reveal our own biases, share our unfamiliarity of traditions and practices, and expose our ignorance of certain facts without causing personal pain to another. And when we inadvertently cause pain to another, civility requires an apology and a request to rewind and start over. At the same time, the practice of civility also requires vulnerability; it means that some of us must take the risk of sharing the pain of being on the receiving end of bigotry, both real and perceived, with the hope that the listener might better understand its impact.”

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Friday
Mar202015

Looking at the World Through Other People's Eyes

Jeff Tolman, Looking at the World Through Other People’s Eyes, 66 Wash. Bar News 3, (Mar. 2011)
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Summary

Lawyers must be able to see from variety of perspectives including those of the judge, the client, the opponent, the witness, and Father Time. They must consider the case through the judge’s perspective and ensure that the argument is legally sound, makes sense, and furthers the cause of justice.

Lawyers must not only be able to understand clients, but they must also be able to tell clients’ stories in a human, personal way in order to “bring life to their argument.” Mr. Tolman writes about a colleague who had a client who was in a nursing home. To better understand his client’s situation and to better convey the client’s story, this colleague spent two days in bed in the nursing home next to his client’s bed.

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