Professionalism - it is not always the "other" lawyer's problem

July 2006
By Judge John Wittmayer, Multnomah County Circuit Court

We are all personally responsible for our own conduct. When a lawyer submits a memo to the court asserting that the position of the other lawyer is "absurd," it is not the "absurd" position of the other side that is unprofessional. The unprofessional conduct is in characterizing the other lawyer's position as "absurd." While you may justifiably feel that the other lawyer's position is "absurd," you should be satisfied to point out to the court why the position is simply wrong, without characterizing it in such a personal manner.

Lately I have been seeing an increased number of motions to compel production and motions for sanctions in civil cases. While occasionally these motions result from good faith disputes between the lawyers, too often they seem to result from what have become personality clashes between the lawyers. Lawyers should remember that the case is about the clients, not the lawyers. A lawyer who is concerned with professionalism always puts the interests of his/her client first, and ahead of his/her own feelings or ego. I know that is hard, but it is necessary.