This article were originally published as the Editor's page in The Beverly Hills Bar Journal, during Mr. Shacter's tenure.


Professionalism is very much like the weather: everyone talks about it, but no one does anything about it. Well, that's not exactly true... at least at the Beverly Hills Bar Association.

Earlier this year, a committee on professionalism was appointed, and I had the pleasure of serving on that committee. It was very enlightening. We probed various situations and debated the possible solutions to each type of dilemma.

The result was a set of Guidelines for Professional Courtesy which was adopted by our Board of Governors in May, 1989, and is now being disseminated. Hopefully, these guidelines will serve the legal community and the public well. They are reprinted here.

Guidelines For Professional Courtesy


As a lawyer I am entrusted by the American public with supporting and advancing our justice system. To meet that responsibility, and to ensure the system functions fairly and efficiently, I will not only abide by the Code of Professional Responsibility but I will also conduct myself in accordance with the follow professional guidelines which apply to my dealings with clients, other parties and their counsel, the courts and the public at large.

A.  My Client :

1. I will be loyal to my client, but excessive locality will not undermine my ability to follow these guidelines or to provide my client with objective and independent advice.

2. I will try to achieve a desirable result for my client as expeditiously and inexpensively as possible.

3. I will, when appropriate, advise my client about mediation, arbitration, and other methods of dispute resolution, including traditional litigation.

4. I will advise my client that I will not engage in tactics intended to delay unreasonably the resolution of the matter or to harass, abuse or drain the other party's financial resources.

5. I will advise my client that civility and courtesy are my professional obligations and that a willingness to engage in settlement discussions is generally desirable and not a sign of weakness.

6. I will communicate regularly with my client and will respond promptly and courteously to my client's communications.

B.   Other Parties And Their Counsel:

1. I will be guided by a fundamental sense of integrity and fair play in my dealings with other lawyers.

2. I will keep my promises.

3. I will strive to be courteous and civil. I recognize that ill feelings between clients should not affect my dealings with opposing counsel and that ill feelings between counsel should not affect my client's cause.

4. I will agree to reasonable extensions of time in litigation if the extensions will not materially adversely affect my client or unduly delay the court process and will cooperate in scheduling depositions, hearings, and other matters.

5. I will not use litigation, any components of litigation, or other conduct, to harass or abuse the opposing party, counsel or other persons.

6. I will not use unmeritorious, deceptive or unreasonable delaying tactics.

7. I will conduct myself with dignity in depositions, negotiations and other matters, and will not take groundless positions or engage in acts of harassment, rudeness or disrespect.

8. I will not send motions or other papers at a time or in a manner which will unfairly limit the other party's opportunity to respond or will unfairly prejudice its rights.

9. I will make a diligent effort to clearly identify for other counsel or parties, all changes I make in documents submitted to me for review.

10. I will stipulate to undisputed facts in civil matters upon proper request, consistent with the legitimate interests of my client.

11. I will respond promptly to communications from opposing counsel, consistent with the legitimate interests of my client.

12. I will not unnecessarily disparage my opposing counsel and will not request sanctions as a routine matter.

C.  Courts And Other Tribunals:

1. I will be a vigorous advocate, while paying heed to the concept of common courtesy. I recognize that excessive zeal is injurious to my client's interests and the proper functioning of our system of justice.

2. I will communicate with opposing counsel in an effort to avoid litigation and to resolve existing litigation.

3. I will not file frivolous motions or other proceedings.

4. I will try to agree with other counsel, as early as possible, on a voluntary exchange of information and a discovery plan.

5. I will stipulate to matters if no genuine objection exists, and I will attempt to resolve by agreement, my objections to my opponent's pleadings and discovery requests.

6. I will be punctual in attending hearings and depositions, but if I expect to be late or must cancel, I will try to notify opposing counsel, and if appropriate, the Court as early as possible.

7. I will try to verify key participants' and witnesses' availability before dates for hearings or trials are set, or as soon thereafter is possible so that I can promptly notify the Count and counsel of any likely problems.

8. I will at all times be candid with the Court.

D.  The Public And Our Justice System:

1. I will try to keep current in my practice areas and, when necessary will associate with, or refer my clients to, counsel knowledgeable in other practice areas.

2. I will support my profession's efforts, as a self-regulating profession, to enforce its disciplinary rules.

3. I will uphold the legal profession's image in the eyes of the public.

4. I will be mindful of the concept, "equality of rights under the law," and of the need to keep the legal system free from discrimination.

5. I will be mindful of the legal profession's tradition of providing service to the public without the necessity of remuneration.