A hunch and an experiment involving civility, health and professional success

I have a hunch that studying and trying to implement the principles described in Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct by P. M. Forni will lead to better emotional and physical health as well as improve my professional life as a lawyer.  Of course this is a wildly speculative and subjective experiment with perhaps no relevance to anyone else.  Nonetheless, I plan on conducting this “experiment” and reporting the results here from time to time.

The first stage is to read the book.  As I do, I will be wondering which, if any, of the twenty-five rules of considerate conduct seem to have direct application to my life as a lawyer and which, if any, of those rules seem inconsistent with lawyering as I understand it.

Incidentally, the author, P.M. Forni, has a new book out entitled The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude (Hardcover).  I was immediately drawn to Forni’s new book when I heard Diane Rehm interview him.  In my experience the vast majority of lawyers I have worked with have been trustworthy, considerate and reliable. But there are some who are invariably rude, aggressive and horrible to deal with.  Their negative impact emotionally, professionally and economically is far out of proportion to their number. (They should be required to deal only with each other. Judges should do more to make sure that the cost of such behavior is borne by the offending lawyer not by the opposing party.) And so it is understandable that professionally responsible lawyers, lawyers who are “civil” are forever looking for ways to deal with rather than retaliate against these miserable people.

Having been tempted to learn how to deal with rude people, I realized that I ought to start with taking a good look at my own conduct first.  I’m not at all sure this is going to be an entirely pleasant experience.

3 thoughts on “A hunch and an experiment involving civility, health and professional success

  1. Pingback: For Connecticut Lawyers » Blog Archive » Notes from the civility experiment: Forni v. Lord Brougham

  2. Pingback: For Connecticut Lawyers » Blog Archive » Notes from the experiment - Aug 26 2008

  3. Why I think this experiment involving the study and attempt to apply the 25 rules of considerate conduct is worth doing:

    It is no secret that many lawyers thoroughly dislike what they do. One explanation for what often may be fairly described as deep professional unhappiness / depression is the assumption – belief that professional stereotypes require a person to behave in a way that conflicts with her personality. Lawyers must provide “zealous representation.” Lawyers must be aggressive in achieving their client’s objectives. Litigation is war. Everything that is within the law is permitted.

    In most cases, those stereotypes are useless, counter-productive and costly. But, in the lawyering tradition, in the stories lawyers tell, those stereotypes are likely to be emphasized. There is not yet a collection of stores regularly told about the benefits of cooperation and collaboration or about the importance and benefits (especially to clients in terms of the cost of legal services) of mutual respect and consideration even in the most contentious, high stake circumstances.

    Another factor, closely related, is the stress of irreconcilable conflicts: the stress of billing enough hours v. the stress of not taking too long, of not building a cadillac when a volkswagon will do v. the stress of not being wrong, the stress of meeting multiple deadlines v. the need to be thoughtful, the stress of satisfying senior lawyers in the firm who believe THEIR matter deserves priority, the stress of “getting” new clients and, in some cases, of managing one’s practice or one’s firm, the stress of making a living as a lawyer at a time when it is obvious to anyone in the profession that there are too many lawyers in many communities.

    In the midst of this tsunami of stress, what to do? After years of reacting, reflexively, to it, I believe, finally, that we have choices. By studying and trying to implement the “rules” in Forni’s book, I hope to find out if “considerate conduct” is useful, productive, healthy choice.

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