Civility in the Legal Profession Isn't Just Good Manners. It's Now Essential for Career Advancement

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Do "nice guys" really finish last? The stereotype of the screaming law firm partner would lead us to believe that the legal profession rewards incivility. But we're living through a shift in senior leadership style as more and more law firms and other legal employers are realizing that attorneys' incivility now is bad leadership and bad business. "I believe that civility and professionalism are critical to success," says James Sandman, a former managing partner at Arnold & Porter, who is now president of the Legal Services Corporation and chair of the D.C. Circuit Judicial Conference Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services.

"There is no inconsistency between strong personal character — goodness — and professional success. The first promotes the second," Sandman says in "The Hallmarks of an Effective Leader." Civility isn't just about good manners; it's also about professionalism and about advancing individual legal careers. Three aspects of civility that are particularly important for lawyers, and that actually help lawyers advance in law firms and other settings, are "integrity, treating others with respect, and valuing diversity in the broadest sense of that term," says Sandman. Build those three ideas into your leadership style and you'll quickly see that it's good people who finish first.

Read James Sandman's "The Hallmarks of an Effective Leader" in the D.C. Bar Association's Washington Lawyer magazine.