The second in a series of essays on respect and civility.
In today’s world, it sometimes seems there is a constant struggle to never give in, to fight at each and every turn, merely to fight, as opposed to working together despite differing opinions to reach a common good. Many times the struggle is to see who can be the most strident voice, as if volume level equates to making a good point or being on the right side of an issue.
I’ve seen this play out at times during my short career practicing law. However, what I’ve witnessed more of, day in and day out, are opposing lawyers working together to resolve a case so the parties can move forward. When I began practicing law, the competiveness of the legal arena was easy to recognize. In Buncombe County, what was just as easy to see were competing lawyers able to litigate aggressively on behalf of their clients all the while maintaining the utmost civility and respect for their opposition.
I was fortunate enough to practice down the hall from Roy Davis, who epitomized professionalism and civility. The lessons learned from Mr. Davis, and the countless other mentors I’ve had along the way, including Perry Fisher and Judge Gary Cash, are priceless. I encourage any new lawyer, or any lawyer for that matter, to lean on other lawyers in the Bar for guidance on issues of professionalism and collegiality. Our Bar does a fantastic job of incorporating new lawyers into the standards set by those that came before us. The Bar’s mentoring program is a great resource and tremendous avenue for passing on the traditions of civility. Further, most members of this Bar are more than happy to discuss issues with other attorneys. It never ceases to amaze me that lawyers are available and willing to share their thoughts, opinions and experiences with each other despite this sometimes being against their best interest. For example, numerous lawyers have shared trial strategies and techniques with me knowing full well we may one day be on opposite sides of each other in the courtroom. This is a large part of what makes practicing in Buncombe County so great.
In addition to helping our clients reach a resolution more efficiently, professionalism and civility make the practice of law much more enjoyable. The stresses of a legal practice are reduced when opposing lawyers show respect for each other and behave accordingly. With large numbers of new lawyers entering the field, and many setting up shop on their own, it remains vital that we each do our best to lend support to these lawyers (and each other) to ensure the traditions of civility and professionalism of this Bar are carried forward.
In Otober, we will welcome a new crop of attorneys to the Bar. I encourage everyone to attend the swearing-in ceremony or reach out to these lawyers and let them know you are available for guidance and discussion on the issues they will certainly encounter. With your help, this Bar will continue to be known as one of the most professional in the State.
Bar President, 205-2016