Texas Bar Journal March 2023

The Texas Day of Civility in the Law

Encouraging an active engagement in civility

Written by Kathy S. Mills

The Texas Flag With a Gavel Laying On It

Has it been a while since you read the Texas Lawyer’s Creed? If so, go read it today. The creed is full of instruction on how, when, and to whom our civility must be extended. As you read the enumerated ways to engage in civility, you will find the important text contains substantially more of what we should do, and less of what we should not do, to maintain civility. More “do this” and less “do not do this.” The key message being civility requires action.

To highlight the imbalance between when civility requires action versus when it requires restraint, the creed contains enumerated lists of obligations broken down between those we owe to the legal system as a whole, to our clients, to other lawyers, and to judges. In total, it contains 34 active engagements required for civility, yet it only contains eight total suggestions of restraint. The creed clearly contains encouragement to be active in maintaining and promoting civility.

The creed’s overwhelmingly active approach highlights the fact that civility requires actual effort. For example, to be civil you show kindness and patience, listen actively, temper difficult conversations, concede when appropriate, and strive to find agreement. Of course, civility can also be achieved through some restraint, as it is achieved by resisting negative emotions, avoiding disagreement where possible, and eliminating personal attacks. No matter how it is achieved, civility is the cornerstone of every truly successful legal career.

True leaders exhibit and encourage active civility. This leadership may be seen by both the least and most experienced in the profession alike. It is truly one area where a newer attorney can win, whether in negotiations, in the courtroom, or with clients. Alternatively, an experienced attorney can demonstrate that a reputation of civility and years of active civil behavior can pay dividends in those same arenas and may be called upon to get out of a sticky situation. Age and experience do not matter when engaging in and leading civility.

To encourage and ensure civility in our profession, the Texas Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals have proclaimed April 14, 2023, to be the Texas Day of Civility in the Law. Additionally, the State Bar of Texas has adopted the day and local bars around Texas will host small events to inform, encourage, and educate attorneys to engage in consistent and regular civility. Whether you are attending an event or not, you are encouraged to reread the Texas Lawyer’s Creed on April 14. Celebrate the day through reflection, promotion, education, and involvement. Most importantly, be active in practicing civility daily.TBJ

Headshot of Kathy MillsKATHY S. MILLS serves as the clerk of the court for the 13th Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi. She is the vice chair for the State Bar of Texas Professionalism Committee and also serves as a board member of the Coastal Bend Women Lawyers Association (past president 2019-2020) and the Corpus Christi Bar Association.

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