Professionalism And The Practice Of Law

John P. Paone, Jr., Esq.

By: John P. Paone, Jr.

Professionalism and the practice of law are united as one. Indeed, attorneys are the embodiment of professionalism. The practice of law, after all, is a profession not a business. Attorneys adhere to a much higher standard than the ethics of the marketplace. Lawyers hold the special title of “officers of the court.” That is because attorneys are charged with the high calling of assisting members of our society in resolving their disputes civilly and in prosecuting and defending persons charged with crimes and misdemeanors.

Professionalism is doing the right thing, even when you don’t have to, and even when no one is watching. It is giving your best whenever you are called upon, even when that means working off hours and on weekends. It is striving to resolve problems for clients without litigation and being tireless in the pursuit of amicable resolution and settlement. It is being honest with the tribunal even when honesty works to the detriment of your case.

It is treating adversaries with respect and courtesy and understanding that they are not the enemy (indeed there is no enemy). It is treating the other party with respect and dignity and refraining from conduct which would add to the tension between the litigants. It means telling clients the truth even when it’s bad news; even when they don’t want to hear it; and even when it means that you will likely be fired or not hired. It means refusing to pursue meritless claims or frivolous actions. It means donating time and services to the administration of justice. It means working for free if necessary on behalf of those persons who cannot afford legal services. It means treating with special care the weak, the uneducated, the disabled, the elderly and those who are unable to fend for themselves.

It means having respect for the Court and our judiciary system, even when you strongly disagree with an action or the outcome of your case. It means being fair and transparent with clients regarding billing and the costs of litigation. It means protecting the property of others with which you have been entrusted. It means attempting to be punctual in and out of court. It means avoiding conflicts of interest and even the appearance of a conflict. It means continuing the pursuit of legal education to remain on the cutting edge of your practice. It means avoiding sharp practices and hardball tactics. It means living up to the axiom that an attorney’s word is as good as gold.

In short, members of the bar display professionalism every day in how they dress, how they speak and write and how they act. There is no other occupation that has higher standards or higher expectations of its members. We are attorneys. We are professionals. This is who we are. This is what we do.

John P. Paone, Jr. is the 2011-12 President of the Middlesex County Bar Association. He was the 1995-96 Chair of the New Jersey State Bar Association Family Law Section. He is the 2011-12 President-elect of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers New Jersey Chapter. He practices family law with the Law Offices of Paone, Zaleski & Brown in Woodbridge and Red Bank.

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