“Attorney Professionalism” Defined
Attorney Professionalism refers to those qualities and attributes of a lawyer reflecting honor, integrity, civility, and commitment in the practice of law. These qualities notably elevate the profession from simply a means to earn a living. An attorney demonstrates professionalism by striving above career success, in pursuit of goals that meaningfully enhance the pursuit of justice and the rule of law for the betterment of our society. Those goals include increasing the representation of the unrepresented and endeavoring to strengthen the public perception that our legal system functions effectively, impartially, and fairly. Professionalism naturally carries with it the awareness that the law, and thus the manner in which lawyers conduct their practices, has a broad impact on people’s lives and on society itself.
Beyond thorough compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct and the skillful application of knowledge, resourcefulness, and perseverance in the performance of service, attorney professionalism involves a dignified pursuit of a higher calling that can enrich our society. Professionalism requires poise, honesty, maturity, and reasoned judgment and embodies a heightened sense of responsibility and fair play, as well as a respect for others ─ even when zealously advocating on behalf of the client. As attorneys pursue excellence, they should also look to apply their hard-earned skills and experience to serve, assist, and mentor within the profession.
The New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Attorney Professionalism confers the “Professionalism Award” on those attorneys who most markedly demonstrate these values and wholeheartedly embody these ideals.
An attorney reflects the values and ideals of professionalism by:
- Engaging in exemplary ethical conduct while fulfilling the spirit, as well as the requirements, of the Rules of Professional Conduct;
- Attaining the highest skills level in a specific field, as demonstrated by pursuing efforts to improve skills above the required continuing legal education and by keeping abreast of the latest developments in the attorney’s areas of expertise;
- Paving the way for the enhanced future of the profession, especially by mentoring younger attorneys;
- Exercising distinguished judgment while providing client service at the highest levels, and formulating and implementing views and advice based on knowledge and experience;
- Acting with dignity and integrity as exhibited by soundness of character, honesty in practice, undivided loyalty, confidentiality, and agreeing to disagree without being disagreeable; and
- Demonstrating civility and always endeavoring to behave responsibly and to exhibit appropriate courtesy and respect of others, in the highest aspirational spirit of the profession.