Attorneys in Illinois probably behave no worse than lawyers anywhere else. The state Supreme Court, though, thinks that they still could afford to learn some manners.
The court recently set up a special committee on lawyer civility. This group of 18 lawyers is expected to make recommendations in as many months on teaching members of the bar how to behave. Every jurisdiction in the state, it seems, is home to stories about lawyers interrupting one another, getting into loud arguments and, more rarely, into fistfights.
"The general public wants, because they've been watching TV too much, the meanest junkyard dog that they can get," says David Rolewick, chairman of the committee. "If a client wants a mean lawyer, he'll get a mean lawyer."
The Illinois project was sparked by the death of Roger O'Reilly, a Wheaton lawyer who friends say exemplified the gentlemanly aspects of his profession, and a civility symposium organized in his honor by Rolewick and O'Reilly's family.
Rolewick's committee has only met once but it is expected to make several recommendations, including offering guidelines to bar associations and mentoring of nascent lawyers while they're still in school. The committee also will produce a video that will feature "civility tips" from more than a hundred prominent members of the legal profession.
A similar commission looked into the matter at the federal level and found that it was easier to promote civility than to enforce it.