Civility & Professionalism
To The Practice Of Law
By Teddy Parker, Esq.
I was lucky enough to start my career with one of the largest and most reputable Nevada firms in the early 1990s: Beckley, Singleton, DeLanoy, Jemison, and List. I was mentored by some of Las Vegas’ best lawyers, including Drake DeLanoy, Rex Jemison, Mitch Cobeaga, Robert Eglet, Judge “Betsy” Gonzalez, and Daniel Polsenberg. These lawyers showed me that it was possible to aggressively represent clients while maintaining civility with opposing counsel. These lawyers also demonstrated that successful results can be obtained without sandbagging and personal attacks, and instead, through professional courtesies. These professional courtesies included but were not limited to extensions of discovery, continuances of hearings and/or the use of stipulations in lieu of heavy motion practice. Informal agreements regularly sufficed, even absent confirming letters, because these lawyers knew and respected each other.
I took the values I learned at Beckley Singleton to heart and have always maintained civility and respect with opposing counsel. I understand that lawyers are subject to significant stress that requires them to make great compromises and sacrifices in their lives. With that understanding, I believe lawyers should still strive to maintain professionalism amongst each other. Although the demands of this career path are sometimes overwhelming, we should promote cooperation and respect in our professional lives. A good lawyer knows there is no positive correlation between obtaining the most favorable outcome for one’s client and the number of character assassinations you have fired at your opposing counsel. Indeed, more often than not, a lawyer’s failure to maintain professionalism ends up costing a client more money as additional time is spent filing unnecessary motions with issues that could be easily resolved through a stipulation or discovery extension. Often, judges are noticeably frustrated with lawyers who take valuable time and resources from the court because they choose to argue more about the conduct of their opposing counsel than the facts or law relevant to their cases.
However, a greater cost of failing to grant professional courtesies is that you will inevitably need one in return some day.
To be a good lawyer means to be a good person. A trite but relevant expression is, “A good person treats others the way they prefer to be treated.” The path to a more civilized and cooperative legal community requires each of us to extend professional courtesies, grant continuances, and make attempts to amicably resolve disputes before filing potentially unnecessary motions. This will undoubtedly result in a more collegial atmosphere.
Confirming letters are not required when litigating in any firm. Our word is good and we extend professional courtesies. I challenge all Southern Nevada lawyers to raise the bar on professional courtesies.
Theodore “Teddy” Parker is a founding partner of Parker & Nelson Assoc. in Las Vegas, Nev., where he specializes in administrative law, banking law, business litigation, corporate law and structuring, construction contract and defect, employment and labor law, insurance defense, municipal law, medical malpractice, personal injury, premises liability, products liability, real estate law, and regulatory compliance. Learn more about him and his practice’s work at http://www.pnalaw.net.