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LawBiz® TIPS – Week of June 24, 2014

LawBiz(r) newsletter

Was the coach's assessment that the U.S. soccer team could not win the World Cup realistic or depressing? He certainly received much criticism in the media for his comment. We, as Americans, seem to need to believe that we can win at everything. Sometimes, honesty is the best policy ... and then hard work under a capable and watchful eye (which this coach possesses) may surprise us. We may just win.

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Civility: New Addition to California Oath

"I solemnly swear (or affirm) . . ."

These same words still begin the oath that every lawyer takes when being admitted to legal practice in California. However, that oath now ends with newly added language: "As an officer of the court, I will strive to conduct myself at all times with dignity, courtesy, and integrity."

On May 1, 2014, the California Supreme Court adopted Rule 9.4 of the California Rules of Court. The rule, which modified the lawyer's oath of office, applies only to lawyers sworn in subsequent to June 2014. The other approximately 175,000 lawyers in California may or may not be governed by this rule; certainly, they did not swear to it as part of their original oath, and no subsequent oath is required.

Regardless, the rule is a court rule, not a rule of professional conduct, and, there do not seem to be any consequences for a violation of the new oath. As it stands now, the dignity, courtesy, and integrity language seems to be a subjective standard and does not increase the power of the court to impose sanctions on any lawyer activity.

Nonetheless, it is a rule that will, hopefully, have some punch. As my mother (like many other mothers, I am sure), used to say, "one can get more with honey than with vinegar." This is certainly true in terms of clients and also usually true in terms of adversaries.

Furthermore, how we treat our adversaries affects how our clients perceive us. Although some lawyers seem to think that others have a "romantic" sort of idea that a virulent lawyer is effective and revered, that belief is misguided. The fact is that clients tend to disrespect lawyers who are not civil.

Thus, Rule 9.4, whether or not it is "enforceable," is a good reminder of the type of behavior that will make a lawyer successful.

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Civility: New Addition to California Oath

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