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

Essays on Civility

Reflections, articles, and personal observations on civility in the legal profession, and in life at large.


Enhancing Civility and Maintaining Privacy for Your Clients

Carol Bailey-Medwell, Enhancing Civility and Maintaining Privacy for Your Clients, Washington Family Law Deskbook (2d. ed.) 2000 plus 2012 supplement, Chapter 6.  
Posted with permission from Carol Bailey-Medwell.

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Dealing with the Most Difficult Clients

Joseph Shaub, Dealing with the Most Difficult Clients, High Conflict Personalities-Understanding and Resolving Their Costly Disputes, Wash. Bar News (May 2005).

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Lawyers: Leading with Integrity

Stella Rabaut, Lawyers: Leading with Integrity Bar News, Washington State Bar Association, October 2013

Lawyers have significant opportunities to take a leadership role in specific ways:

  • In the “way we are present and hold ourselves and define our profession”;
  • In the “way we form a relationship with each client”; and
  • In the “way we approach other parties in the conflict.”

We can encourage, nurture, and develop lawyer leadership, beginning with inner personal work that helps the legal profession evolve into a more conscious, creative and collaborative practice:

  • Consciousness — undertaking mindfulness exercises helps lawyers feel and perform better, derive and deliver more satisfaction, and relieve suffering in themselves and others.
  • Creativity — viewing law as a healing profession turns adversaries into healers, provocateurs into peacemakers, entrepreneurs into service providers.
  • Collaboration — shifting from an adversarial and competitive stance to one of collaboration and problem-solving for their clients can achieve more satisfying results.

To lead effectively in uncertain and turbulent times, lawyers must integrate the rational and logical skills of the head with the reflective, imaginative, and relational skills of the heart. Practical behaviors to engender this integration include

  • Establishing time for reflection;
  • Pursuing clarity about underlying values;
  • Constantly reassessing one’s actions and deeper purpose;
  • Taking greater risks and making greater sacrifices;
  • Collaborating and connecting more; and
  • Being less isolated.

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Ethics & The Law: The Ethics of Incivility

Barrie Althoff, Ethics & The Law: The Ethics of Incivility, Wash. Bar News (July 1999).


Former WSBA Chief Disciplinary Counsel, Mr. Barrie Althoff states that “civility and professionalism relate to the basic level of trust and respect accorded by one person to another, of the level of confidence a lawyer or a judge can have in the word of another lawyer or a judge. Civility and professionalism form a framework for common expectations of mutual trust, of being treated with dignity, and ultimately set the stage for justice to be done.” After reviewing concerns over incivility in the profession and its causes, including some clients’ expectations of uncivil behavior, he discusses Rules of Professional Conduct that relate to civility. Mr. Althoff also provides several examples of lawyers’ behavior that resulted in disciplinary action or court sanctions. He concludes with a series of provocative questions including who should set standards of behavior, who should police and regulate said behavior, and whether such codes of conduct are effective ways to ensure justice is done. The legal profession “is a noble profession … because the profession's overriding goal is to make the promise of justice a reality…. If lawyers truly are guardians of law, then they more than others need to embody in their practices and lives … respect for the dignity of the individual. Lawyers need to treat one another with dignity and respect because the very purpose of law, and thus the very reason for the legal profession's existence, is to attain respect and protection for the dignity of the individual. Modeling civility and professionalism is an important way for each lawyer and judge to express gratitude to other legal professionals, to honor the innate dignity of one another, and to celebrate the cacophony of justice that is attained through the legal process.”

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Listening from the Bench Fosters Civility and Promotes Justice

Paula Lustbader, J.D.
Seattle University School of Law

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