Voluntary Standards for Civility

D.C. Bar Voluntary Standards of Civility: Preamble

Civility in professional conduct is the responsibility of every lawyer. While lawyers have an obligation to represent clients zealously, we must also be mindful of our obligations to the administration of justice. Incivility to opposing counsel, adverse parties, judges, court personnel, and other participants in the legal process demeans the legal profession, undermines the administration of justice, and diminishes respect for both the legal process and the results of our system of justice.

Our judicial system is a truth-seeking process designed to resolve human and societal problems in a rational, peaceful, and efficient manner and designed to be perceived as producing fair and just results. We must be careful to avoid actions or statements which undermine the system or the public's confidence in it.

The organized bar and the judiciary, in partnership with each other, have a responsibility to promote civility in the practice of law and the administration of justice. Uncivil conduct of lawyers or judges impedes the fundamental goal of resolving disputes rationally, peacefully and efficiently. Such conduct may delay or deny justice and diminish the respect for law, which is a cornerstone of our society and our profession.

Civility and professionalism are hallmarks of a learned profession dedicated to public service. These standards are designed to encourage us, as lawyers and judges, to meet our obligations of civility and professionalism, to each other, to litigants, and to the system of justice. The goal is to ensure that lawyers and judges will conduct themselves at all times, in both litigated and nonlitigated matters, with personal courtesy and professionalism in the fullest sense of those terms.

While these standards are voluntary and are not intended by the D.C. Bar Board of Governors to be used as a basis for litigation or sanctions, we expect that lawyers and judges in the District of Columbia will make a commitment to adhere to these standards in all aspects of their dealings with one another and with other participants in the legal process.

Finally, we believe these standards should be incorporated as an integral component of the teaching of professionalism to law students and practicing lawyers alike. We therefore believe that it is important for law schools in our community to incorporate these standards in their curricula and for the District of Columbia Bar, the voluntary bar associations, law firms, government agencies, and other legal institutions in our community to teach and promote these standards as part of their continuing legal education programs.

Adopted by the D.C. Bar Board of Governors
June 18, 1996; Amended March 11, 1997