Jacksonville Bar Association

Professionalism Guidelines

iStock_000016027852MediumIn its continuing effort to promote professionalism, The Jacksonville Bar Association adopted in 1996 the Guidelines for Professional Conduct promulgated by the Trial Lawyers Section of The Florida Bar. These Guidelines have been given to every Circuit and County Court Judge in Florida and have received the endorsement of the Florida Conference of Circuit Judges. They are not intended to be mandatory, but rather represent the standards to which members of The Jacksonville Bar Association expect their members to adhere. While the Guidelines should simply reflect the current practice of most members of the Association, their adoption by the Association in 1996 represented an effort to improve the already high level  of professionalism among all of the Association’s members. They also serve as a benchmark for trial attorneys and judges to gauge the conduct of practicing attorneys. The Guidelines were adopted in April 1996 under the leadership of Jacksonville Bar Association President Marc Mayo and Professionalism Committee Chair Tim Corrigan. The current Professionalism Committee is pleased to have them published now in the new Professional Directory.  In addition to the Guidelines for Trial Lawyers, the Association has prepared and endorsed separate Guidelines for Professional Conduct for business and transactional lawyers, which are also published in this Professional Directory. These Guidelines are intended to emphasize standards which are applicable to all professional contacts among attorneys, but with particular emphasis on those attorneys engaged in transactional law.

Foreword

In 1993 the Executive Council of the Trial Lawyers Section of The Florida Bar (which represents over 6,000 trial lawyers in Florida) formed a professionalism committee to prepare practical guidelines on professional conduct for trial lawyers. After reviewing the numerous aspirational and model guidelines from  Florida and around the country, the professionalism committee determined that, with minor modifications, the guidelines that  had been prepared by the Hillsborough County Bar Association were the best model for the entire state. Therefore, in 1994, at the request of the professionalism committee, the Executive Council of the Trial Lawyers Section unanimously approved the Guidelines for Professional Conduct. The Trial Lawyers Section then sought the endorsement of the Guidelines from the Florida Conference of Circuit Court Judges; at its meeting held in September 1995, the Conference approved the Guidelines.  In so doing, the Conference asserted  that the Guidelines do not have the force of law and that trial judges still have the right and obligation to consider issues raised by the Guidelines on a case-by-case basis issues raised by the Guidelines.  Since their endorsement by the Conference, the Guidelines have been followed by lawyers throughout the state and have been endorsed by administrative order in many circuits.

Beginning in 1999, the Trial Lawyers Section undertook to rewrite the Guidelines to clarify certain provisions, to make certain provisions consistent with current law, and to eliminate certain provisions considered unnecessary because they were redundant of either a rule of civil procedure or a rule of professional conduct, which lawyers are expected to follow as minimum standards of professionalism.  The 2001 edition of the Guidelines is the result of that effort.  These revised Guidelines are promulgated jointly by the Conference of Circuit Court Judges, the Conference of County Court Judges, and the Trial Lawyers Section of The Florida Bar.  It is hoped that dissemination of these Guidelines will give direction to both lawyers and judges concerning how lawyers should conduct themselves in all

phases of trial practice.  The adoption of the Guidelines by the Trial Lawyers Section also is intended to express support for trial judges who require that lawyers conduct themselves professionally.

For most lawyers, these Guidelines simply will reflect their current practice.  However, it is hoped that the use of these Guidelines will continue to increase the level of professionalism in trial practice in Florida.

This 2001 edition supercedes the previous edition of the Guidelines.

Preamble

The effective administration of justice requires the interaction of many professionals and disciplines, but none is more critical than the role of the lawyer. In fulfilling that role, a lawyer performs many tasks, few of which are easy, most of which are exacting. In the final analysis, a lawyer’s duty is always to the client. In striving to fulfill that duty, a lawyer always must be ever conscious of his or her broader duty to the judicial system that serves both attorney and client. To the judiciary, a lawyer owes candor, diligence and utmost respect. To the administration of justice, a lawyer unquestionably owes the fundamental duties of personal dignity and professional integrity. Coupled with those duties,  is a lawyer’s duty of courtesy and cooperation with fellow professionals for the efficient administration of our system of justice and the respect of the public it serves.

In furtherance of these fundamental concepts, the following Guidelines for Professional conduct are adopted.  It is recognized that these Guidelines must be applied in keeping with the advocacy of the interests of one’s client and the long tradition of professionalism among and between members of the Trial Lawyers Section of The Florida Bar.  These Guidelines are subject to the Florida and Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct, and the specific requirements of any standing or administrative order, local court rule, or order entered in a specific case.  Although we do not expect every lawyer to agree with every guideline, these standards reflect our best effort  to encourage decency and courtesy in our professional lives without intruding unreasonably on each lawyer’s choice of style or tactics.

  1. A lawyer is both an officer of the court and an advocate.  As such, the lawyer always should strive to uphold the honor and dignity of the profession, avoid disorder and disruption in the courtroom, and maintain a respectful attitude toward the court.
  2. A lawyer’s word should be his or her bond.
  3. A lawyer should adhere strictly to all express promises and agreements with other counsel, whether oral or in writing.
  4. A lawyer should be courteous and civil in all professional dealings with other persons.  Lawyers should act in a civil manner regardless of the ill feelings that their clients may have toward others.  Lawyers can disagree without being disagreeable.  Effective representation does not require antagonistic or acrimonious behavior.  Whether orally or in writing, lawyers should avoid vulgar language, disparaging personal remarks, or acrimony toward other counsel, parties, or witnesses.
  5. Lawyers should require that persons under their supervision conduct themselves with courtesy and civility.
  6. When consistent with their clients’ interests, lawyers should cooperate with opposing counsel to avoid litigation and to resolve litigation that already has commenced.
  7. A lawyer should not use any aspect of the litigation process, including discovery and motion practice, as a means of harassment or to unnecessarily prolong litigation or increase litigation expenses.

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