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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

Raising the Bar: The Promise of Civility in Our Profession

Washington State Bar Association Bar News

In collaboation with the Washington State Bar Association, Robert's Fund produces articles on civility in the profession for the Bar News. The 2011 series, "Raising the Bar: the Promise of Civility in our Profession," were written by a variety of practicioners designed to further conversations about civility.  The 2012 series, "Rallying the Role Models," involves more feature-length articles to continue this conversation in greater depth.

Thursday
Dec012011

Igniting a Culture of Civility

Excerpts from the Article

By Paula Lustbader

...Robert’s Fund has joined with Bar News to publish a series of monthly columns to be written by some of the finest in our profession. In addition, in collaboration with other attorneys and with Seattle University School of Law, Robert’s Fund is developing curriculum for law schools and a series of CLE programs addressing civility within the profession...

...Why should we focus on lawyers? As a law professor, I am saddened when I hear about the growing disillusionment with the legal profession. However, I am gratified when I hear about former students making a positive difference. Lawyers exert a powerful influence within society. They play a significant and powerful role in governing this country...

About the Author

Paula Lustbader is a professor of law at Seattle University School of Law. She is the co-founder and director of the Law School’s Academic Resource Center, a 24-year-old program that provides the underrepresented access to law school and works to empower them to excel in the school and the profession. She is the president of Robert’s Fund.

Tuesday
Nov012011

Civility: Power Beyond Politeness

Excerpts from the Article

By Stella Rabaut

...In our law practice we may find ourselves being misquoted, misrepresented, or demeaned by colleagues. The challenge of responding with civility is a tough one. Ours is a profession that does little to emphasize or encourage patience or humility. Some argue that acting with civility is weak, bordering on “unethical,” not zealously pursuing the client’s interests.
I am increasingly curious about civility. At the heart of the art of practicing law is the skill of using language and presence with care and civility. By contrast, conversations with colleagues frequently end up with tales of egregious acts of incivility. Thus, I have read articles and books, tuning my antennae for positive stories from our work settings. Core themes are arising, and I have come to believe these three simple statements...

About the Author

Stella Rabaut practiced law for over 20 years as an oil and gas attorney, general counsel to a nonprofit organization, and solo practitioner. Her interest became sustaining the human spirit while practicing law, designing retreats for lawyers and judges. She has chaired the WSBA Professionalism Committee and is a life fellow of the State Bar of Texas. Stella consulted with the Fetzer Institute on their Law as a Healing  Profession Program. As adjunct faculty at Seattle University School of Law, she designed and taught a course entitled “Transforming the Legal Profession: Emerging Trends in the Practice of Law.”

Saturday
Oct012011

Civility: The Preservation of Access to Justice

Excerpts from the Article

By Ronald R. Ward

...There are myriad reasons that may spawn a barrier to access to justice: lack of education, unawareness of rights, inadequate economic means, inequality of economic resources, and, yes, the incivility at times found within the justice system itself...

...Public trust and confidence in our courts is critical to our nation’s civic health. Our courts must be fair, open, and protective of the rights of every individual, and they must be perceived by the public to be so. Sadly, this is increasingly not the case. Ongoing surveys indicate it is not just specific groups of people who see inequality. It is the public at large...

About the Author

Ronald L. (Ron) Ward is the president of the Washington State Bar Foundation, former president of the Washington State Bar Association, a member of the Advisory Council of the Washington Equal Justice Coalition for the provision and support of legal services to deprived citizens, and the founder of the nationally honored WSBA Leadership Institute.

Thursday
Sep012011

Civility Is Good for your Health

Excerpts from the Article

By Cynthia L. Alexander and G. Andrew H. Benjamin

...There is growing evidence that incivility is associated with a wide range of risks to both mental and physical health. It is no secret that the legal profession has more than its share of job dissatisfaction, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and divorce. Research suggests that the incivility that seems to pervade the profession plays a role.
Investigators have begun studying the prevalence and effects of general incivility in the workplace, and have found that it is associated with job dissatisfaction, psychological distress, poorer mental health, and poorer physical health, and that these negative outcomes cannot be explained solely by the presence of job stress...

About the Authors

Cynthia L. Alexander was a trial attorney with the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., from 1993 to 2010, where she represented the United States in a wide variety of civil cases. She had the opportunity there to learn firsthand why many consider “civil litigation” an oxymoron. She is completing the requirements for her Ph.D. in clinical psychology with a year-long internship at the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System, Seattle Division, and has a particular interest in integrating her training in law and psychology to improve access to health care in this country and in the developing world.

G. Andrew H. Benjamin was named “Professional of the Year” by the WSBA Family Law Section while working with families engaged in high-conflict litigation and lawyers suffering from various mental health problems and substance abuse. He was elected president of the Washington State Psychological Association, and his colleagues there created an Association award named after him for “outstanding and tireless contributions.” He was honored by the Puyallup Indian Nation’s Health Authority for being a “modern-day warrior fighting the mental illnesses [and] drug-alcohol addictions” of the people served by the Nation’s program. Dr. Benjamin has published 57 peer-reviewed articles in psychology, law, and psychiatry journals. He is the author of three books published by APA: “Law and Mental Health Professionals” (1995,1998), “Family Evaluation in Custody Litigation: Reducing Risks of Ethical Infractions and Malpractice” (2003), and “The Duty to Protect: Ethical, Legal, and Professional Considerations for Mental Health Professionals” (2009).

Monday
Aug012011

Civility in Our Conversations About Race and Culture

Excerpts from the Article

By Judge Mary I. Yu

...The practice of civility permits us to listen with our hearts to the experiences of others; to comprehend the feeling of alienation and of being an outsider. Civility calls us to step outside of our own lived experience and to engage in a sincere exploration of another through the simple art of listening before speaking. Civility  challenges us to reflect and ponder upon what we have heard before making a judgment. 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...

About the Author

Judge Mary I. Yu has been on the King County Superior Court since 2000. She is the Washington State  Superior Court Judges’ Association representative to the Judicial Division of the American Bar Association, a member of the Superior Court Judges’ Association Civil Law and Procedure Committee (for which she was chair from 2005 to 2008), and past-president of the Judge Dwyer American Inn of Court, Seattle Chapter.

Friday
Jul012011

Civility is Good Business

Excerpts from the Article

By Mark G. Honeywell

...Civility towards your opponent should be a primary goal in your practice. Some clients may erroneously believe that they need a “junk-yard dog” for a lawyer, and that a spirit of cooperation and professionalism is a sign of weakness. Lawyers should educate those clients that applying the golden rule of litigation is not equivalent to weakness, and can, in fact, be more effective...

About the Author

Mark Honeywell received his juris doctor degree from the University of Washington School of Law in 1968, where he served on the Law Review. He clerked for the Washington Supreme Court for a year before joining the firm now known as Gordon Thomas Honeywell, where he was a partner for over 40 years. Mr. Honeywell was the recipient of the Washington State Bar Association’s 1993 Professionalism Award and co-author of the Professional Responsibility and Professional and Civil Litigation section of the 1992 Washington Civil Procedure Desk Book. He has recently terminated his litigation practice and partnership in the law firm to devote full time to mediating and arbitrating civil cases.

Wednesday
Jun012011

Civility in Practice

Excerpts from the Article

By Joseph Shaub

If there is one driving force behind this movement within our midst, it is the recognition that law should not be an instrument for inflicting avoidable personal (and interpersonal) damage in the service of reaching specific “legal” objectives. Indeed, one theme these approaches share is that when we lower the heat generated by  adversarial conflict, we can arrive at more satisfying solutions for our clients. It is about the ascendancy of civility in how we conduct our affairs — not just to be “nice” but to achieve effective results.

About the Author

Joseph Shaub is a collaborative family lawyer, mediator, and licensed marriage and family therapist with offices in Seattle and Bellevue. He is a frequent speaker at the Washington State Bar Association Family Law Midyear and has been an adjunct instructor at the University of Washington School of Law. Readers are invited to visit his website and blog for further discussions on lawyers’ well-being at www.josephshaub.com.

Sunday
May012011

The Value of Civility in the Legal Profession

Excerpts from the Article

By Judge Harry McCarthy

The daily pressures of increased billings and the “bottom line” have become the paramount concerns. However, despite the unfortunate recent trend of uncivil behavior, a law office’s profitability is more likely to be enhanced by the habitual practice of civility. The civil, professional approach is not just politeness — it can be, and most often is, the best business practice.

About the Author

Judge Harry J. McCarthy has served on the King County Superior Court since 2002. As chair of the Washington State Bar Association Professionalism Committee in 2001, he was the primary author of the Creed of Professionalism. He wrote articles and traveled throughout the state to speak with lawyers and judges to obtain their input regarding civility in general, and the creed in particular. Judge McCarthy served for many years as an assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle, the last four years as criminal division chief. He has served as a mentor for many young attorneys during his career.

Friday
Apr012011

Legal Education and Civility

Excerpts from the Article

By Dean Mark C. Niles

It is critically important that faculty and staff create this positive atmosphere in law school because of the important role that students play in their own education and that of their colleagues. Students learn at least as much from each other as they learn from their law professors during their three years. And much of what is most important to civility in the profession — cooperation, courtesy, consensus-building, and respect for others — is learned (or not) outside faculty classes and office hours.

About the Author

Mark C. Niles is dean of Seattle University School of Law. He was the associate dean at American University Washington College of Law, and has taught civil procedure, administrative law, constitutional law, governmental liability, and law and literature. Earlier in his career, he served as a clerk for the Hon. Francis Murnaghan Jr., of the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. He was an associate at the D.C. firm of Hogan and Hartson, and an attorney on the civil appellate staff of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Tuesday
Mar012011

From the Cotton Fields to the Courtroom

Excerpts from the Article

By Ernest Radillo

When I first began working with him, my father taught me some simple rules: show up on time, treat people with respect, put in an honest day’s work, and your word is your bond. These four basic tenets, which virtually all parents try to instill in their children, served me well in the cotton fields and have shaped how I now practice law.

About the Author

Ernest Radillo is an associate attorney at Ogden Murphy Wallace, P.L.L.C.’s Wenatchee office. Prior to joining Ogden Murphy Wallace, he worked at Columbia Legal Services, where he focused on employment, class actions, and civil litigation. Radillo is a former recipient of the national Goldmark Equal Justice Internship and other awards including the American Red Cross Certificate of Merit Award, the WSBA Courageous Award, and Seattle University School of Law’s Spirit of Service Award. He is a former president of the Chelan-Douglas County Young Lawyers Division, and serves on numerous boards.

Tuesday
Feb012011

A Changing Legal Profession Calls for Civility

Excerpts from the Article

By Dan Ballbach

Incivility is a direct threat to effective thinking. Over and over, I am struck by how we lawyers can sometimes be uncivil, disrespectful, and unable to engage effectively with our colleagues on tough internal topics. I had a “losing my civility” experience when a colleague said, “Dan, I understand that sometimes you need to use a two-by-four to get our attention, but does it need to have a nail in it?” When there is a “nail” in a communication from one partner to another, what happens to the dialogue? Analysis stalls and issues fester as we make the same points again and again, louder and louder, with clever stinging words. 

About the Author

Dan Ballbach practiced law for 24 years before embarking on a second career. Since 1996, he has served in executive and consultant roles with organizations facing major change or strategic uncertainty. In 2007 he earned a master’s degree in organizational change leadership from HEC Paris. He can be reached at danballbach@ascent-leadership.com.

Saturday
Jan012011

Civility and Effectiveness

Excerpts from the Article

By Andrea Brenneke

Some roll their eyes and dismiss civility as superficial politeness; an unimportant manners exhortation; trivial in the face of urgent needs, injustice, violation, and ongoing crises and conflict. I invite you to consider civility as a portal to an even deeper exploration, not just of right action and doing, but of being. Perhaps civility evokes the very essence of humanity, the capacity and longing for deep and meaningful connection, the fundamental foundation of each and every human relationship that is the glue of civilization itself. The practice of civility in the face of conflict is, then, an essential practice.

About the Author

Andrea Brenneke’s passion for justice drives her employment law, civil rights, sexual harassment, and violence against women practice at MacDonald Hoague & Bayless. She facilitates restorative circles and supports communities in developing compassionate justice systems that both engage conflict and deepen connections among their members. She is also a certified LR 39.1 mediator. Brenneke was honored by her peers as one of “Seattle’s Top 152 Lawyers,” Seattle magazine, January 2005. She has been recognized as a “Super Lawyer” in Washington Law and Politics.