Letter from the President
Originally published in the printed bar journal, Communiqué (May 2018).
“Disagree Without Being Disagreeable” – More on Civility and Respect
By John P. Aldrich, Esq.
“Unfortunately civility is hard to codify or legislate, but you know it when you see it. It’s possible to disagree without being disagreeable.” – Sandra Day O’Connor
I always paid special attention to anything U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said. While I was in law school, I had the opportunity to meet Justice O’Connor. My wife had given birth to our second son the day before. Because my wife worked in the office of the President of the University, the President of the University brought Justice O’Connor and her husband, John O’Connor, across the room to congratulate me on the new addition to our family. After greeting me warmly, Justice O’Connor then continued greeting others around the room, while I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Connor for some time. Mr. O’Connor was an accomplished attorney in his own right, yet he took the time to talk with me in a room full of many important people. The O’Connors epitomized civility and respect – and I knew it when I saw it from them.
Courtesy and respect are synonyms of civility. In many instances, the practice of law is contentious. Parties are at odds; important issues hang in the balance. I have had clients demand that I promise to extend no courtesies to the other side. I flatly decline to take that approach unless there are serious extenuating circumstances. As attorneys, we must be courteous and respectful, and we must ensure that clients understand that we can be civil and still effectively represent their interests. We must be prepared to disagree without being disagreeable.
“Good Lawyers Doing Good”
This month’s “Good Lawyer Doing Good” is Judge Stephen Dahl (Ret.). Judge Dahl was a North Las Vegas Justice of the Peace for 18 years. He was President of the Clark County Bar Association in 2007, and published several articles in the Communiqué. Judge Dahl currently works as an attorney with the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada’s Children’s Attorney Project. He received its second Pro Bono Award of Judicial Excellence (after Justice Nancy Becker), and was instrumental in helping change the rules to allow judges to encourage pro bono work by attorneys. On multiple occasions Judge Dahl received the Judge of the Year award for the Clark County Law Foundation’s “Trial by Peers” program. And I should mention that Judge Dahl was very nice to me in the first year of my career when I appeared in front of him many times. A life dedicated to the public good — truly a “Good Lawyer Doing Good.”.
Note: This page is updated with the release of each edition of the printed bar journal, Communiqué.