Vol. 42, No. 10
In and Around the Bar
CBA President's Message to Members
by W. Terry Ruckriegle
In celebration of Professionalism Month, we at the Colorado Bar Association are dedicating this month’s issue of The Colorado Lawyer to the topic of Professionalism. During my visits to local bar associations around the state, professionalism has been a recurring issue raised by attorneys and judges alike. In fact, the matter seemed so pressing at one meeting that an attorney said, "You judges are the ones who need to take control of your courtrooms." I responded that we judges do need to be vigilant with enforcement, but I also pointed out that much of the unprofessional behavior takes place outside the courtroom.
In a 2002 American Bar Association survey on "Reputation of the Bar," the public response gave lawyers only a 15% confidence rating—below U.S. Congress but above the media. The 2008 Gallup Poll about honesty and ethical standards of professions rated lawyers at 18%—below bankers and building contractors.1
When speaking to diverse groups of Colorado attorneys around the state, I have urged them to reclaim the term "professional" as it relates to the practice of law. Let’s get past the media’s and the public’s supposed image of lawyers and get back to true professionalism. I believe that can be achieved by having personal integrity, being prepared for the legal task at hand and, most important, giving back to our communities. Let’s once again make the profession stand for justice and the Rule of Law.
Professionalism comes in many different forms and incarnations. Some attorneys believe that professionalism is best realized by invoking sanctions for misbehavior. Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs believes it is fostered by providing access to justice through Colorado Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1, which states that every lawyer has the professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. To Nate Alder, former president of the Utah Bar Association, professionalism is found through the development of professional relationships: "Good relationships make a big difference in our profession. . . . These professional relationships often lead to friendships that extend well beyond the closing of a file."2
Principles of Professionalism
In 1990, the CBA Board of Governors (BOG) adopted the eight-point Colorado Principles of Professionalism (Principles), which outline our pledges to the profession.3 In 2012, the BOG approved updated Principles, which comprise thirteen points. These updated Principles are printed is this issue starting on page 77. The Principles’ Preamble notes:
The hallmark of a civilized society is its ability to maintain a judicial system that is fair, effective and efficient. As lawyers, we have a predominant role in assuring that the judicial system fulfills these goals.
More than twenty-six years ago, the CBA Judiciary Section Council (does anyone remember that?) published an article through its chair, Arthur L. Fine, entitled "Bench–Bar Relations: A Structure for Improvement."4 It made recommendations to implement a statewide bench–bar program, and delineated three particular goals: (1) serve to diffuse conflicts between a judge and one or more attorneys before that conflict becomes serious enough to hamper the functioning of the court or the attorneys practicing before the court; (2) consider techniques to improve the ability of the courts to work with and serve the public through jury-selection programs, improved local rules (before eliminated by CRCP 121), pro bono work, and case-resolution methodology; and (3) periodically review and address any administrative or facility problems for the court locally. I continue to strongly encourage the use of such bar–bench committees to strengthen our professional bonds.
To these ends, I urge you all to read and reflect on the nine articles in this theme issue on Professionalism. They provide each of us an opportunity to identify one, two, or three approaches to which we can commit in the next year for the improvement of ourselves and our legal system. To paraphrase the medical reference in a Luke proverb: Counsel, heal thyself.
1. See American Bar Association Center for Professional Development, available at www.americanbar.org/groups/cle/about_us.html.
2. Alder, "Professional Relationships," 21 Utah Bar J. 8 (Sept./Oct. 2008), available at utahbar.org/barjournal/pdf/2008_sept_oct.pdf.
3. See Ruckriegle, "A Bench View of Civility and Professionalism: The Magic of Vignettes," 40 The Colorado Lawyer 95 (Jan. 2011).
4. Fine, "Bench–Bar Relations: A Structure for Improvement," 16 The Colorado Lawyer 1193 (July 1987).
Colorado Attorney Oath of Admission*
I DO SOLEMNLY SWEAR by the Everliving God (OR AFFIRM) that: I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Colorado; I will maintain the respect due to Courts and judicial officers; I will employ only such means as are consistent with truth and honor; I will treat all persons whom I encounter through my practice of law with fairness, courtesy, respect and honesty; I will use my knowledge of the law for the betterment of society and the improvement of the legal system; I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed; I will at all times faithfully and diligently adhere to the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct.
* The Colorado Attorney Oath of Admission is taken by all individuals at the time of their swearing-in and admission to the practice of law in Colorado.
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