Professionalism—What Exactly Does it Mean? - IndyBar Blog

IndyBar Blog

Posted on: Jul 28, 2016

Professionalism—it can mean something different to everyone. Luckily, a recent IndyBar program—“Can’t We All Get Along?”—shed light on this topic and was the first IndyBar CLE program to be aired on Facebook Live. Watch for more programs to air live on Facebook each month at

Miss it? Speaker Shaunestte Terrell of the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office shares her top 10 takeaways for achieving professionalism below. The program can also be purchased for online CLE credit at

10. Know the rules. Read through them as a refresher. Most of them are common sense, but some may surprise you. If all lawyers were familiar with and followed the rules, the system would function much more efficiently.

9. Always act honorably. This means inside and outside the courtroom. As a member of the legal profession, we are all representatives of the legal system and have a special responsibility for the quality of justice. Take that seriously.

8. Be guided by your personal conscience and the approbation of professional peers. The Rules of Professional Conduct are a good starting point for professionalism. But trust your gut, too. We all know right from wrong and don’t want to lose sight of that.

7. Be professional, courteous and civil. This means toward all persons in the legal system. Act professionally toward opposing counsel, parties, court staff, judicial officers, law enforcement officers. Everyone you come into contact with must be treated with respect.

6. Be on time. While this may seem like it’s just a professional courtesy and generally a good practice, it is actually prescribed in the rules.

5. Be real with clients. You don’t do yourself, your client, or anyone else any favors when you aren’t honest, forthright, and realistic with them. Always keep them in the loop and make sure they are clear on your professional opinions of their case.

4. Be prepared. Always. For everything–client meetings, hearings, meetings with opposing counsel. Everything.

3. Be candid. Don’t hide the ball. Be upfront. It will earn you respect and a solid reputation. As a lawyer, your reputation is all you have. Make sure you earn a good one.

2. Don’t lie. Ever.

1. Don’t be a jerk. You can zealously advocate for you client or cause without acting like a jerk.

Do you know an attorney or judge who exemplifies these qualities? Nominate them to receive the 2016 Professionalism of Silver Gavel Award at Recipients will be honored at the Professionalism Luncheon on September 27.


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