Civility has no chance to succeed!

Civility is the new mantra for bar associations across the country. In California, last year, the then president of the State Bar created a task force to study the issue and develop a set of guidelines.

But, the legal profession merely reflects society at large. I just came across a 2007 book titled The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t written by Robert I. Sutton, a Stanford professor. Great title!

How about these statistics:

  • The number of homicides in the workplace is up
  • "Boss-icide" has doubled in 10 the last 10 years
  • Workers murder 3 to 4 supervisors each month, double the number of 10 years ago
  • "Going postal" is more than the post office violence
  • "Desk rage" is a new term
  • 27% of workers experienced on-the-job mistreatment, according to a 2000 study
  • One in 6 report persistent psychological abuse
  • 36% of employees reported persistent hostility from coworkers and supervisors, according to a 2002 US Department of Veterans Affairs study
  • 91% of nurses experienced verbal abuse that left t hem feeling attacked, devalued or humiliated, according to a 2003 study.

One factor that seldom is discussed is the "second-hand" impact of tolerating jerks on the rest of the organization. Jerks in any organization need not … and should not … be tolerated. The costs are very high. Those law firms that have been sued, and lost, can attest to one level of cost. But there are many levels, including low morale, lost productivity and high turnover.

If our society is facing these issues, how can we expect lawyers to be more "civil" than others?

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