Thursday, May 13, 2010

Professional Civility?

An article on the ABA website this morning left me shaking my head about my remaining years in this profession.  Sarah Allen wanted to go to law school.  Let's set aside the wisdom of that in the face of this economy; she wanted to go.  As with most people, she didn't have the money to pay for it and was worried about the debt she'd end up with.  She decided to solicit donations, not just for herself but to set up a general scholarship fund.

The response was predictable: The legal message boards lit up with the usual anonymous, infantile, Gen X vitriol that seems to make up half of Internet traffic.  Nasty stuff.  And so she's shut the whole thing down and is reconsidering going into law.

But the really disturbing thing has been the responses to her withdrawal.  No comments about her soon-to-be "colleagues" calling her ugly and saying she should raise money by becoming a prostitute.  No, everyone is saying she needs to have a thicker skin to be in law.  Anyone else apprehensive about what these guardians of justice are going to be like in court or around the negotiation table when there is actually something on the line?

We've made a lot of noise for a number of years about improving civility in the profession.  It isn't sinking in, and the shark tank is getting more savage by the day.  And unfortunately, this is the behavior everyone notices.  It should be small wonder that the public views us, not as guardians of justice, but as mercenaries who operate under the motto, "Lawyers: Bringin' the Hate Since the Dawn of Time."

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