Non-lawyers in court are living through real life stressful situations, including possible criminal convictions, jail time, divorce, child custody battles, child support payments, time away from their loved ones, large and small civil disputes, and more. These people’s blues can be much more than the “Mess of Blues,” recounted in the music of Elvis and Delbert McClinton.
Much has been said among bar associations and legal organizations about the need for (and benefits of) of civility between lawyers. With 90 per cent or more of the time spent handling a civil lawsuit being between lawyers, we know (or should know) the benefits of getting along with our fellow counsel, even in the midst of high stakes cases and real life consequences. I had the opportunity to be in trial last week at the Richland County Courthouse. In the hallways of our courthouses, you will see lawyers settling issues and cases, you will hear lawyers on their phones with clients and witnesses, you will see the stresses on the faces of the litigants, and even the jurors who are missing work. Most, if not all, of these these people would rather be someplace else!
Right now, politicians are likely regarded in public opinion polls lower than lawyers. As lawyers, we are often the subject of legitimate and also mis-placed criticisms. It occurred to me last week in the courthouse hallways that lawyers, as “officers of the court,” should seize this opportunity to be the face of the justice system. We can do this by showing the same courtesies to strangers in the hallways as we would to the Judge assigned to our case, to his or her law clerk, the court reporter, the Clerk of Court and his or her staff, opposing counsel, witnesses, and our clients. This is one simple way to show the citizens we represent who and what lawyers really are … hard working, conscientious, caring people who play just one of many roles in the administration of justice. By acknowledging it is not all about us, we show respect to all persons involved in the process and dignify all whose lives are being affected the most by our justice system.
Being in court can be stressful for many or all involved. As officers of the court, we should make a special attempt to humanize the administration of justice. This can be done without compromising our client’s positions when it comes time to advocate their positions.
The above is just one lawyer’s humble opinion after a few days in trial, a long football weekend, and my own blues for an end to the Atlanta Braves 2013 season. BTW, if you don’t know or like Delbert yet, you will get there, it can be an “Acquired Taste,” you can thank me later. I am grateful to a great musician rocker and brother-in-law, Steve Spivey, for putting me on Delbert McClinton.