Professionalism: Rekindled, Reconsidered or Reformulated?

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It is increasingly commonplace for bar officials and others to decry what they see as a decline in "professionalism" among lawyers in recent years. For example, in 1984, former Chief Justice Warren Burger gave a speech to an ABA meeting in Las Vegas in which he chastised some members of the profession for taking their freedom to advertise as a "release from all professional restraints," as they use the "same modes of advertising as other commodities from mustard, cosmetics and laxatives to used cars.' 1 Catchy phrases, attractive well-dressed lawyers, and special rates on lossleader items are but some of the techniques of Madison Avenue advertising decried by Burger and others.

A favorite target of more recent years is the "Rambo" or "hardball" style of litigation currently in vogue.2 For example, the Antitrust Litigation Committee of the ABA Section of Litigation recently presented a panel of experts on "dealing with the S.O.B. litigator."3 In a similar vein, Professional Responsibility teachers show their classes a clip from the movie "The Verdict," in which James Mason, playing a big firm litigator, explains to a young associate how lawyers are not paid to do their best--they're paid "to win." 4 To combat this "hardball" style of litigation, many bar associations are enacting voluntary codes of professional courtesy.5

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