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Dear Lawyers: Order In The &*%# Court!

Posted: January 31, 2013

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Some attorneys have gotten nasty and others want it to stop. In New York, a group has decided to tackle the decrease in civility through song.

Remember the scene in the 1979 movie ... And Justice For All where Al Pacino, who is playing an attorney, loses it in court?

Well, according to The Wall Street Journal, some lawyers took that scene to heart and over the years civility has sharply diminished among legal professionals.

Reporter Jennifer Smith writes:

"Take, for instance, lawyer Marvin Gerstein of Illinois, who has been disciplined three times for his profane epistolary style, according to the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission of the Illinois Supreme Court.

"Over the years, Mr. Gerstein has sent letters to legal adversaries calling them, variously, a 'fool,' 'idiot,' 'slimeball,' and other names unfit for publication. He has also suggested opponents have their heads inserted so far into an unpleasant place that they 'think it's a rose garden,' language that an expert witness for Mr. Gerstein said served a business purpose by vividly demonstrating the point."

So, what's the solution, you ask? Well, for some it involves creating a video and implementing civility training, but in New York, it's a show!

In December, the New York Inn of Court — a group that promotes excellence, professionalism and ethical behavior among lawyers and judges — put on "A Civility Seder."

The group's website described it as:

"An entertaining and informative examination of appropriate conduct in the profession. The Musical Team recognizes that December is not a typical time for a Seder; however, this timeless tale of a band of lawyers' exodus from the bondage of bad behavior into the Land of Civility is appropriate any time of the year. You don't have to be courteous to attend."

Will any of this work? We will have to wait and see, but per the Journal, at least one firm has resisted the urge to be nasty.

" 'I tell all the lawyers in my firm, you're not a fighter, you're a lover,' said Stephen Susman, a founding partner at litigation boutique Susman Godfrey LLP, which has a tradition of inviting opposing counsel to its holiday party. 'You will get more results with sugar than with vinegar.' "

Indeed.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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