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Respect in Law

There’s a phenomena I’ve observed in my 11 years of practice that continues to disappoint me. It’s a lack of respect in the practice of law and within law firms, courtrooms, and even at the mediation table. I first observed disrespect in the office space. In my first job, it was customary for the lawyers to eat together while the paralegals and staff had lunch, separately. The lawyers never invited the staff when they went to lunch, and to be frank, I’m not sure the thought even crossed their minds. There was an unwritten rule that the people with J.D.’s did not socialize with the people without. 

As an associate attorney, I noticed disrespect from law partners to their associates within my offices and those of my friends. There was an expectation that the associates would stay very late or come in on weekends to finish projects. That everyone had to “pay their dues” as a young lawyer. More than that, there were very few conversations about the associates’ life and wellbeing. It was all work, all the time. As if associate attorneys are robots. 

Of course I regularly see disrespect and a lack of professionalism between colleagues (yes, all lawyers at the end of the day are colleagues). Whether it’s a refusal to extend a deadline when no prejudice will affect a client or scheduling things without clearing dates, it boils down to a lack of respect over the opposing side’s calendar and life. There are, of course, times when kindness has been extended enough but in my experience, a lot of lawyers have a very short fuse. 

I, unfortunately, even see a level of disrespect in a lot of courtrooms by both the judiciary and lawyers. There are lawyers that seem to have no regard for the esteemed position of judge and also judges that seem to have no regard that lawyers also have a life out of law. I’ve seen judges assign trial dates or move hearings without ensuring that the lawyers or their clients are available. It increases the cost of ligation and leaves young lawyers feeling defeated. 

The message I want to spread is that we, from the receptionist to the judge, are all the same. We have lives, friends, loved ones, hobbies, and plans outside of work. Every single one of us deserves respect in our personal lives and work lives. Not one person in the legal profession is better than another. Not one person’s schedule is superior. 

I encourage you to consider our shared humanity before you make rash decisions or quick judgments about others. Practice with respect and your clients, your colleagues, your judges, and your employees will appreciate you so much more. We can make this profession more appealing and more pleasant if we work together to be respectful, patient, and kind.