They were also identified as having exhibited virtually all of the behaviors in
the civility codes. For example, 90% of
respondents moderately or strongly
agreed that the person they identified
conducted him/herself with dignity in
matters related to the case both in and
out of court, avoided making groundless objections, and was not rude or
disrespectful; and 89% moderately or
strongly agreed that the person showed
respect for the court, the legal profession and the litigation process in his/
her attire and demeanor.
In addition to gathering quantitative data, we asked survey participants
to describe the exceptionally effective
and civil opposing counsel by providing a short narrative response. Narratives were provided by 874 survey
respondents. There were several commonly cited characteristics of highly
effective and civil opposing counsel.
The most common words used when
listing these traits were honest (15%),
listens (12%), prepared (8%), sense
of humor (5%), responsive (5%), kind
(4%), and straight forward (3%).
The comments about opposing coun-
Experiences of civility
sel offer an impression of the practice
different than what is typically portrayed
in popular culture. But how common is
the behavior overall in the WSBA? To
begin to address this question, we asked
survey takers to identify how often they
experienced civil behavior in various
parts of their practice.
Overall, the results were encouraging.
Survey respondents experienced civility often or always over 50% of the
time in every practice category as opposed to less than 10% reporting never
or infrequently. The only exception to
this result was in the discovery process
where 11% reported experiencing civility never or infrequently.
Similarly, mode of communication
seemed to impact how frequently an
attorney experienced civility. Survey respondents indicated that email is a mode
of communication in which they are less
likely to encounter civility as compared
to face-to-face or phone communication.
Overall, the data gathered in this
study may be used to both understand
the climate of civility in our profession
and perhaps to give clues as to how to
improve. Future analysis of this survey
will look at the differences in percep-
tions of civility when we take factors
such as age, gender, and size of juris-
diction into account. Further analysis
will also focus on what respondents
thought should be done to increase
civility in the profession. NWL
Lisa Brodoff is the
director of the clinical
law program and an
at Seattle University
School of Law. She
teaches elder law, administrative law,
and estate and disability planning.
She can be reached at lbrodoff@
Tim Jaasko-Fisher is
the senior director for
curriculum and program
planning at Robert's
Fund’s Civility Center
for the Law at Seattle
University School of Law. He can be
reached at timothy.jaasko-fisher@
robertsfund.org. For more information
The authors would like to thank Professor Paula Lustbader for her work as a
co-investigator on the survey and for her
help in writing this article.
"Calm, communicates with clarity. Shows courtesy
to everyone, even under pressure. Speaks and acts
in a way that is inclusive of persons who do not share
the same characteristics (e.g., persons of different
racial or ethnic backgrounds, different physical
disabilities, persons who might not speak fluent
English, persons who are younger, older, etc.)."
"This attorney returns phone calls and emails
promptly, is pleasant to talk to, not in a hurry, not
egotistical or condescending, a gentleman, respectful, offers professional advice, wants younger attorneys to be successful, cares about the local
"The attorney is trustworthy, cordial, and cooperative. We respect one another, and I consider the
attorney to be a friend. When I need extra time or
a continuance on some matter, the attorney cooperates to find a better time. Depositions invariably
are scheduled and rescheduled by agreement. I
reciprocate when litigating with this attorney."
"The attorney understood both sides of the issues,
and when we completed the transaction, both of
our clients were happy… In fact, our clients have
gone on to do other transactions successfully and
"The other attorney was kind, courteous, and
sought to come to a resolution in the case. She was
a true pleasure to work with, and I never felt anxiety when her calls or emails came through. I also
knew I wasn’t going to be hit with any unexpected
or unnecessary surprises. She fought for her client
well but did so while maintaining respect for me
and my client’s position."
"They are cordial, accommodating, and friendly
regardless of the outcome of the hearing or trial
or how emotional the case may be for their clients.
They have high integrity and don’t attempt to
gain advantage by underhanded tactics."