Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 31
with your intentions. If your intention is to engage
in a civil conversation and you are starting to namecall, that is a good indication you should stop."
Cho recommends using a phone app that forces
individuals to disengage on social media. For
example, Cho says, the app Freedom blocks access
to the Internet or to a personal list of distracting
social media sites while you are working or when
you need down time. Cho also suggests considering taking the time you are using on social media
to instead find ways to contribute other than
debating, such as volunteer work.
Bukar agrees, saying that she still pays attention
to the news, "but I now moderate what I absorb
because otherwise I would drive myself crazy."
Bukar also has found taking action, rather than
arguing on social media, to be a more productive
approach. When she feels frustrated about a particular political situation, Bukar says she gives to
particular candidates or causes.
"That makes me feel better," Bukar says.
There are a number of other ways to stay calm
and remain civil in the face of incivility, but they
require a certain amount of self-awareness,
Wendy S. Meadows, a family law practitioner whose
firm is based in Towson, Maryland, says she has
seen all kinds of bad behavior, especially from
"I've been hung up on," Meadows says. "I've been
yelled at by opposing counsel. I've been treated
in a condescending way."
Meadows says she used to get frustrated and
fire back when insulted by opposing counsel
or otherwise treated poorly. But over time, and
through "trial and error," she has learned that
getting angry in response is not necessarily helpful.
Now Meadows says she has learned to "remain
calm" and, when appropriate, to approach the
situation with a sense of humor. "I try to diffuse
the situation," Meadows says.
Sarah Mir, a family law practitioner in Montgomery
County, Maryland, says she concentrates on
stepping into the shoes of the other person.
"If I am facing ugly opposing counsel, I try to understand where they are coming from. Maybe they are
going through hardship in their lives," Mir says. "I try
to see everyone's human side no matter who they
are or what they are saying or doing."
"I survive by being professional, and no matter
what, carrying myself with professionalism. That's
how I keep my sanity," Mir says.
In the District of Columbia, lawyers and judges are
expected to make a commitment to adhere to
voluntary standards of civility and professionalism
in their dealings with one another and with others
in the legal process. In 1996 the D.C. Bar Board
of Governors adopted the D.C. Bar Voluntary
Standards of Civility in Professional Conduct to
guide lawyers in carrying out their responsibilities,
to promote civility in the practice of law, and to
protect the integrity of the justice system.
There are things law firms can and should do to
encourage civility among lawyers and staff, Porath
says. Law firm hiring personnel should recruit
and select employees who already know how
to behave with civility. Law firms should train
employees on how to engage in appropriate
and courteous dialogue. Further, law firms should
make civility part of their mission statement and
post it somewhere employees can see every day,
"Engage employees in an ongoing conversation,
defining precisely what civility means," Porath
says. "You will garner more support and empower
employees to hold one another accountable for
civil behavior by involving them in the process."
Anna Stolley Persky is a regular contributor to
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