American Bar Association
Civility in Legal Practice: Why it Matters
Practicing law can be inherently adversarial. Attorneys are confronted with uncivil behavior from opposing counsel, clients, colleagues, and even judges. The question is, how should we respond? And what impact might these uncivil behaviors have on our practice and the justice system itself?
In this session, panelists will explore the practical and public implications of incivility in the legal profession from the perspective of the judiciary and practicing attorneys. The discussion will include:
- How civility impacts the legal system
- Examples of how the pandemic affected incivility in legal practice and the courtroom (e.g., remote proceedings)
- The impact of incivility on the outcome of cases and a lawyer’s reputation among the bench and bar
- How incivility undermines confidence in the justice system
- What constitutes client advocacy vs. being overly aggressive
- A lawyer’s responsibility to exemplify civility as a representative of clients, an officer of the court, and a public citizen having a special responsibility for the quality of justice
- The benefits of disagreeing agreeably
Deborah Enix-Ross, a senior adviser to the International Dispute Resolution Group of Debevoise & Plimpton in New York City, is president of the American Bar Association, the world’s largest voluntary association of lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals.
Enix-Ross served as chair of the ABA’s policymaking House of Delegates and as chair of the ABA Center for Human Rights. As chair of the ABA International Law Section, she co-founded the Women’s Interest Network and worked with the International Bar Association to create its Women’s Interest Group. She also led an international legal exchange delegation to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Ghana, where she delivered an address commemorating the country’s 50th anniversary of independence.
Enix-Ross is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation and has served as vice president of the World Justice Project, chair of the ABA Section Officers Conference, vice chair of the International Bar Association’s Bar Issues Commission, and ABA representative to the IBA. She is a member of the American Law Institute.
Enix-Ross joined Debevoise & Plimpton in 2002. Previously, she served as senior legal officer with the World Intellectual Property Organization Arbitration and Mediation Center in Geneva, Switzerland. She also was a director of international litigation with Price Waterhouse and the American representative to the International Chamber of Commerce International Court of Arbitration. She started her legal career with MFY Legal Services in New York City.
Enix-Ross was appointed by the U.S. Departments of Commerce and State as one of the original eight U.S. members of the trilateral NAFTA Advisory Committee on Private Commercial Disputes. She is a member of the Advisory Committee of the New York Law School Alternative Dispute Resolution Skills Program. She is also a former member of the advisory board of the Institute for Transnational Arbitration, the ADR Advisory Board of the International Law Institute, and the Board of Directors of the American Arbitration Association.
Enix-Ross earned a B.A. in broadcast journalism from the University of Miami and J.D. from the University of Miami School of Law. She also received a diploma in comparative law from the Parker School of Foreign and Comparative Law of Columbia University and a certificate in international law from the London School of Economics.