Civility. Courtesy. Respect. Professionalism.
These are words that should be synonymous with “Advocate,” but in a world of high stakes, strong opinions, and a general societal decline in basic manners, how can attorneys fight the good fight while living up to these ideals – especially if the other side doesn’t? We set out to find examples of lawyers who model the way while providing excellent representation.
Getting Along is Not Wrong, an initiative of the IndyBar Standing Committee on Professionalism, is the impressive collection of such positive and compelling behavior. Other entries can be found in the blog archives.
Daniel W. Kiehl, Law Office of Deborah M. Agard -
I recently had the privilege of participating in a three-day guardianship trial with three other attorneys. The case involved two sets of grandparents who asked the trial court to award them custody of a little boy whose parents were killed in a bus crash. There was great animosity between the parties, and at the time of the trial, there was very little- if any- trust between both sets of grandparents. However, the attorneys respectfully advocated their client’s positions without shouting at or using derogatory terms toward opposing counsel or their clients. The communication and respect between the attorneys never became hostile, and each attorney showed respect towards the court and toward each other at all times.
Specifically, there was a piece of evidence that was hotly contested by both parties. My co-counsel tried through three separate witnesses to have this evidence admitted, and the court ruled it was inadmissible. On the fourth attempt (through a different witness), the evidence was admitted. Opposing counsel could have easily begun shouting and using other sorts of antics to show their frustration with my co-counsel’s continued attempts at putting this document into evidence, but they remained professional and continued to voice their objections in a manner that was both strong and professional. Additionally, after a lunch break, my co-counsel was able to have the court exclude nearly half of the opposing counsel’s witnesses because the witnesses violated a separation of witnesses order by speaking with each other about their testimony during the lunch break. Again, opposing counsel could have easily lost their temper, but they remained calm and carried on with their case in a professional and ethical manner.
This trial was a great example of attorneys who are fierce advocates for their clients but also respectful toward the court and toward opposing counsel no matter how litigious the case becomes. Not only does the court appreciate this because it helps move the trial along without undue delays or frivolous motions and hearings, but it also instills confidence and trust with the public. It shows others that attorneys can be fierce advocates without having to shout, name-call or lie in the course of the attorney’s representation of the client.