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 

Speaker Bio

Justice Sharon Oden Johnson serves on the Illinois Appellate Court First District. Prior to her election to the Appellate Court, Justice Johnson served in the Circuit Court of Cook County Domestic Relations Division, where she initiated working relationships with the Illinois Department of Employment Security and the Cook County Works program to assist unemployed parents in paying family support.  

Earlier in her career, Justice Johnson owned a boutique law firm, worked for the Chicago Mayor’s Office of Employment and Training, and served as a law clerk for the New Jersey Superior Court.   

She is a member of the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Professional Responsibility, the CBA/CBF Task Force Subcommittee Working Group on the Sustainable Practice of Law, the Illinois Judges Association subcommittee: Restoring Confidence in the Legal System, the Cook County Bar Association, and many other legal associations.  

She has been a faculty member of the Judicial Education Conference since 2014 and is a former president of the Illinois Judicial Council.  

Justice Johnson received a J.D. from Howard University School of Law and a B.S. from Bradley University. 

She has served on the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism since 2022.