Our Reputation Precedes Us
Robert W. Borr, Esq.
Professionalism Committee // The Briefs // February 2020, Vol. 88 No. 2
Do you ever look forward to hearing a friend’s fresh new lawyer joke? One way or another, you are probably going to hear it because it relates to lawyers. The same holds true for those outrageous horror stories of non-attorneys “dealing with a lawyer” in a non-legal scenario. These are not gripes about waiting for an agreement to be thoroughly read before signed; these are tales of evildoers who announce their affiliation with the practice of law as if holding a proverbial gun to the head of their victims.
Whether it is an adversarial nature, stress, or even good-faith fair disclosure, playing the lawyer card typically comes off as smug and unprofessional. These stories do not end with “I sure am glad that attorney helped me see the error of my ways.” Rather, these stories live on to muddle the difference between the behavior of a jerk and the behavior of an attorney.
Smart clients take these would-be legal threats seriously and often times report them to their own counsel. As shocking as it is to witness a fellow attorney verbally threaten another with their status as a member of the bar, it is simply astonishing to read the same in a seemingly thought-out letter or email. Unfortunately, many of these instances are rooted in an attorney attempting to get their way, as opposed to an actual legal cause of action.
The word professionalism itself is derived from Latin, meaning to profess one’s vows. In the Oath of Admission to The Florida Bar, attorneys swear to “abstain from all offensive personality,” and the universal principle of general good behavior is further
The public’s confidence in attorneys is integral to several aspects of the legal industry. Law is widely considered one of the oldest of all professions, and many law-related activities continue to shift to non-attorneys. Professionalism in an adversarial case justifies the high price for attorney representation, and it only takes one side to create those unprofessional antics that cost clients on both sides many unnecessary billable hours.
The general reputation of an attorney in the public’s eyes drives faith in the legal system. When common courtesy gives way to threatening beratement by an attorney within the context of an everyday, run-of-the-mill activity, such as signing up for a gym membership, every attorney suffers. Our reputation precedes us. If you use your bar card to intimidate members of the public, just like a bad lawyer joke, it is probably going to get back to your colleagues in the legal industry.
Creed of Professionalism
I revere the law, the judicial system, and the legal profession and will at all times in my professional and private lives uphold the dignity and esteem of each.
I will further my profession’s devotion to public service and to the public good.
I will strictly adhere to the spirit as well as the letter of my profession’s code of ethics, to the extent that the law permits and will at all times be guided by a fundamental sense of honor, integrity, and fair play.
I will not knowingly misstate, distort, or improperly exaggerate any fact or opinion and will not improperly permit my silence or inaction to mislead anyone.
I will conduct myself to assure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and resolution of every controversy.
I will abstain from all rude, disruptive, disrespectful, and abusive behavior and will at all times act with dignity, decency, and courtesy.
I will respect the time and commitments of others.
I will be diligent and punctual in communicating with others and in fulfilling commitments.
I will exercise independent judgement and will not be governed by a client’s ill will or deceit.
My word is my bond.
Robert W. Borr, Esq., has been a member of the OCBA since 2011. The Professionalism Committee meets for lunch the first Tuesday of the month of the OCBA.